While they often presented themselves as bodybuilders’ publications, their chuckle-prompting titles — Torso, Adonis, Honcho, Mandate — didn’t lie. Gay men’s magazines of decades past were bought by gay men who wanted to look at the erotic illustrations of well- built male bodies therein. Because any- one known to possess such material in the homophobic 1950s and 1960s could experience serious consequences, men hid the magazines under their mat- tresses. These illustrations have now inspired a traveling exhibition, Stroke: From Under the Mattress to the Museum Wall. Curated by notable erotic artist Robert W. Richards and orig- inating at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the popular show contains 24 original illustrations that ap- peared in gay magazines from the 1950s to the 1990s. It also looks at how gay men, forced into the closet during those decades, used these pictures to explore their sexuality intimately. It additionally serves as a showcase for the artists in- volved. On view are works by two dozen top artists of the times, including Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland), Antonio Lopez (Antonio), and David Martin.More
Eastenders' rotating festival of one-acts revives political theater from (mostly) the 20th century. "Series B," which alternates with "Series A" and "Series C," consists of '70s-era plays by Athol Fugard and Vaclav Havel. Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act is a searing but overlong piece about a white South African woman and her black lover, who get arrested midcoitus by government goons with flashlights and dogs. I love Fugard, but this play doesn't hold up in a time and place where cross-racial sex is legal. Too much of the script relies on the context of apartheid for its power; in spite of strong performances from Reg Clay and Craig Souza, the speeches are in dire need of editing. Audience, by Havel, is better. It's one of his famous "Vanek" plays, about a Havel alter ego, who in this case has lost his official (communist) position as a playwright. He has to work in a brewery, and the cranky lager-lout who calls himself Vanek's boss isn't sure what to say to an underling with such elegant and beautiful actress friends. So he resorts to offering a) advice, b) loud commonplaces, c) a lot of beer, and d) loutish tips on playwriting. Souza is a fine, blank-faced Vanek and John Hutchinson is hilariously deadpan as the unstable Brewmaster. Robert A. Zick Jr. has directed the piece with a clean sense of absurdist timing. All the one-acts feel long for the festival format, but I should mention that "Series C," which we can't review because of timing, includes an up-to-date monologue by Naomi Wallace -- narrated by an Iraqi who fought in the first Gulf War.