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Watching Porn

This playwright's got balls, and it shows

Paul Mendoza's got balls. He not only writes a play about the taboo topic of pornography and how it affects a man's relationship with women, but he takes a seemingly X-rated topic and fashions it into a story that's at once familiar and embarrassing. While most confessional theater tends to be masturbatory, Mendoza (who also directs) manages some intriguing insight and staging that bring this production to the next level.

Details

Through April 21. Tickets are $15; call 359-0880.
Phoenix II Theater, 655 Geary (near Leavenworth), S.F.

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In the play, Richard "I'm a pornoholic" Montoya (Matt Chavez) just broke up with his girlfriend of four years, and he's guilt-ridden about his addiction. The script leaves little mystery as to the source: His older brother (played by Mendoza) exposed him to sexy photos when he was 4, and his current friend Mark (Milo Young), a confessed womanizer, spouts gross generalizations ("Women are sex objects and they know it"). The play gets more complex with the arrival of Jacquelyn (Gwen Lindsay), whom Richard tries unsuccessfully to pick up in a bar, but who later arrives at his apartment as the escort he called for. Chavez finds Richard's depth, transitioning from a sympathetic and surprisingly self-aware narrator to a closed-off, defensive man in the presence of a live female. Lindsay plays Jacquelyn's potentially stereotypical "call girl with a heart of gold" with the right mix of believable sexuality and honesty. The characters avoid flat stereotypes due in part to Mendoza's quick scene transitions. In one particularly well-crafted moment, Richard partakes of Jacqueline's services, then the action jumps to a scene with his older brother showing him magazines and warning him not to tell their mom or dad, which reinforces Richard's cycle of guilt. Unfortunately, it's a cycle that remains unsatisfyingly continuous, leaving us to wonder if we're merely voyeurs, asking -- as Richard does -- "How close can we get?"

 
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