You can't fault a title so vague yet filled with promise. I wondered if I would be seeing a sort of inverted Vagina Monologues (but that would be talking about dicks, I suppose), or a whiz-bang bit of meat puppetry involving bantering genitalia and, with luck, swordplay. The reality, though you mayn't believe it, was even odder. Lending credence to my firm belief that there is nothing you cannot talk an actor into doing in this town, five naked men covering 18 characters actually are dicks. Talking. It gets better.
Although it is a universally acknowledged truth that men's dicks do have ideas of their own, these naughty rascals have gone well beyond impetuous behavior and are positively mired in existential anomie. Some even have utterly different sexual identities from the brains they're (admittedly remotely) attached to. But wait. These are not your run-of-the-mill organs. Mais non. These merry love prods can see and taste and smell, deliver asides, dream. One of them, dressed for action, even takes time out to deliver a personal history. While you would think these monologues—and the show is primarily monologues—would be delivered primarily from within the confines of a pair of tidy whities, these orating organs appear to survey the world with a sweeping gaze. Whether this was because of a cleverly concealed periscope or because, for the sake of the show, the little darlings had been moved and were jauntily perched on their owners' shoulders, I could not determine. The conventions of this genre have yet to be thoroughly delineated.
Playwright/director Dan Gregory has also failed to deal with another uncomfortable reality. If a man in a penis costume (or any costume, for that matter) announces he's a 12-inch specimen, we must believe him. When a naked man announces the same thing, we can only write the effort off as one of the more brazen lies we've heard on the subject. In another instance a circumcised actor is sent out wearing a foreskin even though there is, in fact, an actor in the cast in possession of a real one. The casting might be ascribed to performance skills, but these brave lads are barely past the stage at which the lines could even be called memorized. Not that I don't appreciate the difficulty of sounding believable when you're trying to make a point with your clothes off.
Don't get me wrong. This thing is classically, bone-crushingly horrible. But even odder than the fact that someone could get performers involved in such a project was the disturbing discovery that after intermission—following a first act that played to an utterly dead house—the entire audience returned. We have only ourselves to blame.
"Talking Dicks," presented by and at the Hudson Avenue Theatre, 1110 N. Hudson Ave., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. June 15-July 22. $20. (818) 759-1690.