Joe Joseph and Oleg Dubson star in Laboratory Theater's Genet Porno, directed by Yvan Greenberg, at HERE.
Joe Joseph and Oleg Dubson star in Laboratory Theater's Genet Porno, directed by Yvan Greenberg, at HERE.
(© Paula Court)

What do a French author from the last century and a working gay porn actor have in common? Yvan Greenberg and Laboratory Theater will show you in Genet Porno, now making its world premiere at HERE. This wild and unruly synthesis of Jean Genet's debut novel, Our Lady of the Flowers, and Treasure Island Media star Damon Dogg's video blog feels like an acid trip with a professor of French literature. By the end, you won't be able to distinguish the individual elements, all of which represent the work of kindred spirits.

The ultimate literary rebel, Genet wrote Our Lady of the Flowers in prison. The free-flowing plot revolves around figures from the Paris underworld, a society the self-described thief and prostitute knew well. Dogg's extensive canon features a similarly rough edge, leading us to conclude that the two worlds are not entirely disparate.

To pull us immediately into this world of porn and prostitutes, Greenberg (who also directs and designs) enters the stage completely nude and informs us he'll be playing the role of Damon. He introduces us to transvestite Divine (Oleg Dubson) and pimp Darling Daintyfoot (Joe Joseph, simultaneously alluring and sleazy), both of whom are main characters in Genet's novel. Divine and Darling carry on a tragic love affair, interrupted by the arrival of cruel man-stealer Our Lady of the Flowers (also played by Greenberg). That story weaves through Damon's day-to-day life driving through L.A. and setting up public sex videos. He's pretty blasé about it, which makes Divine's operatic despair seem all the more pronounced.

Dubson devastates us as Divine. We share her jealousy and her loss: Hers is the searing pain of being cast aside in favor of someone younger and more insipid. Greenberg is both of those things as the repugnant Our Lady. Her feigned coolness barely masks sharp elbows and a will to conquer. This differs radically from Greenberg's portrayal of Damon, a chill West Coaster who legitimately seems at peace with the world (and kind of bored). He speaks of sex like an actuary analyzing a spreadsheet. This is just a job to Damon, but to Divine it's everything — the stakes are life and death.

The muscular sound design reinforces Divine's version of events. Greenberg underscores the entire show with lush Impressionist music: Divine carries a wilted flower across stage to the sound of Claude Debussy. She and Darling move rhythmically to the beat of Ravel's "Bolero." There's a beautiful madness to Greenberg's vision, furthered by the balletic quality with which he blocks the actors and conventionalizes sex.

And there's a lot of sex in this show, much of it taking the form of highly stylized and explicit dance. Without giving away too much about the ingenious DIY design, I will say that it firmly thrusts the mise-en-scène into the realm of anatomically heightened reality (where so much porn lives).

Obviously, Genet Porno isn't for everyone. Those with an aversion to thinking about, discussing, or seeing sex will want to stay away. Everyone else will be pleasantly surprised by this hilarious and often heartbreaking modern riff on an old classic.