Adult Entertainment

Presented by Julian Schlossberg, Roy Furman, Ben Sprecher, Jim Fantaci, Bill Rollnick & Nancy Ellison, Ted Lachowicz, in association with Aaron Levy, casting by Howard/Schecter/Meltzer, at the Variety Arts Theatre, 110 Third Ave., NYC. Opened Dec. 11 for an open run.

What a disappointment! With all the proven high-powered talent going into "Adult Entertainment," the audience was crackling with anticipation, primed to laugh its head off. But the laughter soon fizzled out for this flat play full of overworked comic ideas, a surprise in view of it having been written by the great Elaine May and directed by Stanley Donen ("Singin' in the Rain," among other classics).

Danny Aiello is the best thing about the production. His comic presence, stance, and timing shone. Even mundane lines were funny when he delivered them, and he brought scenes alive that might otherwise have gasped for breath.

The plot consists of a group of porn stars that often gathers on Heidi-the-Ho's (Linda Halaska) television show—an initially amusing takeoff on "The Robin Byrd Show," a real-life Manhattan cable fixture. The group is mourning the death of a porn director and friend. Aiello plays Guy Akens, said director's brother, and himself a regional theatre director (hard to buy, but that's a minor point). Heidi, Frosty Moons (Jeannie Berlin), Vixen Fox (Mary Birdsong), and Jimbo J. (Eric Elice) decide, along with Akens, to do their own productions, rather than continue to work for others.

When Akens' script doesn't work, the group turns for help to Heidi's cameraman, Gerry DiMarco (Brandon Demery), who does a creditable and credible job portraying a Yale graduate filmmaker wannabe. After the initial Heidi show scene (overly repeated), Gerry's efforts to teach the bimbo-ish troupe real acting skills—giving them classic novels, poems, and plays to read, discussing motivation, setting up improv sessions—provide the funniest moments.

DiMarco's lessons sink in, and the porn stars begin to grow up, with Elice in particular conveying real poignancy. The other actors each have similar moments. Still, there are not nearly enough moments, comic or poignant, to add up to a satisfying show.