HOMME FATALE: THE JOEY STEFANO STORY, Bailiwick Repertory. Prolific Australian playwright Barry Lowe neither glamorizes nor demonizes porn star Joey Stefano's brief life. He just lets us watch him burn out. Similarly, Brian Kirst's staging, part of Bailiwick's "Pride '99" series, and Joe Waterman's performance carry no moral message, just the sense of loss and pathos when someone dies at 26 of a drug overdose.
It's a familiar story, and except for its end, a buoyant survival epic like that of porn star Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. Born in 1968 in Chester, Pennsylvania, Nicholas Anthony Iacona Jr. knew his calling at the age of nine, when he first saw his dad's porn tapes. He also endured sexual abuse from his father and condemnation from his mother after she saw him on the covers of gay magazines. Often nude and progressively in demand, the self-christened Joey traveled from New York to LA, acquiring patrons and tricks along the way and learning the trade as he played the submissive partner in countless hard-core fantasies. But this kind of career always has a short shelf life, and after being financially exploited by Madonna, Joey lost his fame and control over his life, contracted HIV, and turned to the needle.
The cocky Waterman plays Joey with the inexhaustible energy of youth and hopes high enough to pass for innocence. His boundless charm and confidence onstage echo the ease of the film star's self-exposure. After so much athletic resilience, Joey's disintegration seems almost a crime against nature. --Lawrence Bommer