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
New Conservatory Theater Center, 25
Van Ness (near Market), S.F
Through Oct. 20
Award-winning playwright Bill C. Davis explores the consequences of making both vows and avowals in this comedy, which premiered off-Broadway last year and which Davis is now adapting for Showtime/Paramount. The story centers on Brian (Scott Cox) and Tom (Bill Smartt), a gay Catholic couple who want Father Raymond (Bruno Kanter) to bless their vows. Brian's sister Irene (Donna Trousdale Berry) is pregnant as a result of an affair with a married man; she wants to give her baby to Brian and Tom because of her demanding concert pianist career. The arrangement seems workable until Father Raymond first refuses to acknowledge Brian and Tom's vows out of obedience to the church, then falls in love with Irene. If the play stopped there, it would have all the trappings of a soap opera, with each character playing a subscribed type (how believable are priests in soap operas anyway?) and delivering trite lines. For example, Irene asks Father Raymond, "Why do you want to blow it? Isn't your membership waning big time?" Later, Brian and Irene's mother, Rose (Sherry Al-Mufti), says to the two of them, "So here I am with my gay son and my pregnant, unmarried daughter." Thankfully, this shallowness is short-lived, and the actors begin to flesh out their roles with compelling monologues and scenes. Cox and Smartt create a heart-wrenching breakup scene, after Tom experiments with celibacy (making him a "minority within a minority"). Berry's nuanced, sympathetic speech about feeling responsible for her lover's wife nicely parallels Father Raymond's responsibility for Brian and Tom's split, and Kanter has a perfectly timed moment in his struggle with his vows ("I want to know if I'm falling in love"). Though not always intellectually rewarding, the characters' journeys of compassion are amusing and emotionally appealing.