Malcolm Madera and Lori Gardner
in The Deep Throat Sex Scandal
(© Carol Rosegg)
Malcolm Madera and Lori Gardner
in The Deep Throat Sex Scandal
(© Carol Rosegg)
David Bertolino's The Deep Throat Sex Scandal, now at the Bleecker Street Theatre, charts both the making of the iconic pornographic film as well as the subsequent obscenity trials against star Harry Reems (Malcolm Madera) and director Gerard Damiano (John-Charles Kelly). If the piece's more serious elements -- especially towards the show's end -- end up falling flat, there are some very entertaining moments. Moreover, both Bertolino and director Jerry Douglas deserve credit for not sensationalizing the adult film industry.

The show begins with Reems upsetting a fake audience member who storms out of the theater because she thought the show would be about Watergate. The bit feels very forced, as does a lot of Reems' narration about his suburban Jewish upbringing and desire to move to New York and become an actor.

The momentum builds nicely, though, as the scenes unfold from Reems' first off-off-Broadway play to when the actor meets Damiano, a straight hairdresser from Queens who moonlights as an adult filmmaker. (He hates the term "pornographic".) They hit it off and head down to Florida to shoot a film with newcomer Linda Lovelace (Lori Gardner). When Damiano's leading man winds up back in prison, Reems gets promoted from grip to star.

Unfortunately, Lovelace's abusive boyfriend and manager, Chuck (Zach Wegner), is always near, and it's clear that he makes her very uncomfortable. She stays with him because of low self-esteem, and Gardner plays this scenario compellingly.

There's also a great contrast between Lovelace's painfully shy persona and her sexual openness that fuels a lot of the show. And since Lovelace clearly enjoys being on screen as long as Chuck isn't watching, Damiano sends him on an "urgent" errand out-of-town in order to make his star comfortable. (The real Lovelace later became a crusader against pornography.)

One of the show's best moments is an exchange on the set between Reems and Lovelace after their big scene, where it becomes clear that a connection is forming between the two. Reems tells Lovelace that she doesn't need Chuck, and as they talk, it's easy to forget that they just shot a porno film. In fact, theatergoers may even be surprised how the show's frequent nudity even begins to feel normal.