10 NAKED MEN by Ronnie Larsen, directed by Preston Lee Britton, with Matthew Rush, Britton, Michael Bach, Stephan Blizzard, Adam Bloch, Isaac Brantner, Kave Shoman and Iain Campbell. Presented by Jay H. Harris, LLC and Caryn Horwitz at the Berkeley Theatre Upstairs (26 Berkeley). Runs to July 18, Thursday-Friday 8 pm, Saturday 7 and 10 pm, Sunday 3 and 7 pm. $35-$45. 416-368-3110. Rating: NN Rating: NN
You don't go to a show called 10 Naked Men expecting subtlety, and sure enough, shortly after the lights go down, all 10 actors - including porn star Matthew Rush - walk out baring their assets. As the guys salivating in their front-row seats will attest, you can't accuse the show of false advertising.
Penned by Ronnie Larsen (Making Porn), the king of low-brow voyeurism for urban gay guys, Naked Guys shows what happens when aspiring Shakespearean actor Robert ( Preston Lee Britton ) moves from Denver to West Hollywood to "make it." Moving in with his old college friend Kenny ( Isaac Brantner ), who's just met a hunky new boyfriend (Rush) who claims he's a model but is really a hustler, Robert soon discovers that there are various levels of prostitution in the entertainment biz. Big surprise.
That's pretty much the story. Oh, it's punctuated with titillating scenes of paid-for sex - including water sports and prison rape simulations - and there's another wannabe actor named Richard ( Kave Shoman ) who tries a slightly different path to fame. But the show's essentially Valley Of The Gays.
As a script, Naked Men is more nuanced than Making Porn, and there's a fluidity to the production that makes the two-plus hours go by briskly. Larsen's got a way with one-liners, yet also delivers some tender scenes in the second act that hint at the complexity of contemporary gay life.
As for the acting, I liked Stephan Blizzard 's whiny producer and Michael Bach 's barking, tattooed ex-con. Ironically, the bulked-up Rush underplays his part so he becomes quite vulnerable, while Britton's nervous, twitchy Robert is unconvincing as a Shakespeare-trained actor.
There are some slight inconsistencies in the script - a 25-year-old near-illiterate guy claims he knows the (1974) film Earthquake.
But I don't think the guys in the front row minded.