10 Naked Men | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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10 Naked Men, Theatre Building Chicago. According to writer-director Ronnie Larsen, Hollywood is a homosexual whorehouse where physical, artistic, and ethical prostitution is the norm. This sexploitation farce focuses on an effeminate, no-talent actor attempting to find employment in the movie biz and erotic gratification in the adult-services ads of gay magazines. Here the entertainment industry is a place where naive young actors and "escorts" spend all their time eluding the predations of sleazy, power-abusing producers, like billy goats fending off trolls. Delivering the male nudity its title promises, 10 Naked Men is replete with demeaning stereotypes--dizzy queen, muscle-brained bodybuilder, mercenary self-hating Jew--and a thoroughly distasteful vision of gay life as the grubby, endless pursuit of sex for hire. Clumsily juxtaposing facile cynicism and soapy sentimentality, it undermines whatever credibility it might have had as social satire.

Yet Larsen's coarse caricatures are redeemed by surprisingly honest, even sensitive performances, for which as director he must share credit with a cast that's far superior to the material. Preston Lee Britton, a veteran of the play's regional productions, is especially good as the starstruck sissy who finds unexpected romance with a hustler. Britton and his fellow players--mostly entry-level off-Loop actors--seem to be living rather than acting their roles, conveying an earnest amateurishness belied by crisp timing.

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