April 14, 1998, Tuesday
THE ARTS/CULTURAL DESK
THEATER REVIEW; So What's A Nice Guy Like You . . .
By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER
Like those XXX-designated movies that wrap their feverish quest for titillation in the cool veneer of sociology, ''Ronnie Larsen's Peep Show'' mingles raunch and research.
And thanks to its flawless cast and the smooth direction of Mr. Larsen, his 90-minute intermissionless excursion behind the scenes of peep parlors that beckon in places like midtown Manhattan adds up to a good time. The characters in the show at Actors' Playhouse are engaging; the humor is winning; the conflicts are genuine, and the music lively. Partial nudity, uninhibited language and sexual scenes, simulated and sanitized to a degree but leaving little to the imagination, seem unlikely to please the blue-nosed as ''Peep Show'' goes behind the brightly lighted signs to introduce its audience to the women who work behind the glass partitions of the 25-cent booths, the manager of the place and the dark-suited businessmen who patronize it.
In introducing the attractive, loving wives of two of the businessmen, ''Peep Show'' asks why men like Mike (Josh Aaron McCabe) and his colleague and pal, Bradley (Mark T. Leneker), repeatedly patronize the place. But the true focus of the evening is the women who work the peep show, and its expatriate Pakistani manager, Ameer (Steve Hunneshagen). The willing workers are Rhonda (Deborah Berman), a good-humored fleshy lesbian who attracts sadomasochists; Sherry (Pia Glenn), a black woman succumbing to her craving for heroin, and Jennifer (Joanna Keylock), a pretty young woman who got pregnant at 14 and is happy that her earnings enable her to support her 8-year-old son.
Along the way, the audience meets Deidre (Eliza Pryor Nagel), the Alice in Wonderland innocent who begins work at the peep show; Katherine (Laura Frenzer) and Susan (Cloud Michaels), the wives of Mike and Bradley, and three of the businessmen who are peep-show regulars. Under their suits, one is a cross-dresser; another, a tough guy who favors chains and pierced nipples, and the third a boyish fellow who prefers vinyl and boasts of his sexual conquests.
As writer and director, Mr. Larsen, whose previous work includes ''Making Porn,'' a 1996 comedy about the gay porn film industry, is ably abetted by the scenic design of Gerard MacMillan, the lighting of Brian Aldous and the costumes of Bosco DuChamp. All bring to their work a sensitivity to reality and an air of wit and style that matches the playwright's.
As its characters go about their work and play out their fantasies, ''Peep Show'' is without a dull moment until Ameer tidies up the place and closes it down for the night.
RONNIE LARSEN'S PEEP SHOW
Written and directed by Ronnie Larsen; assistant director, Toni Marie Davis; sets by Gerard MacMillan; lighting by Brian Aldous; costumes by Bosco DuChamp. Presented by Caryn Horwitz. At the Actors' Playhouse, 100 Seventh Avenue South, off Sheridan Square, Greenwich Village.
WITH: Deborah Berman (Rhonda), Laura Frenzer (Katherine), Pia Glenn (Sherry), Steve Hunneshagen (Ameer), Joanna Keylock (Jennifer), Mark T. Leneker (Bradley), Josh Aaron McCabe (Mike), Cloud Michaels (Susan) and Eliza Pryor Nagel (Deidre).
Published: 04 - 14 - 1998 , Late Edition - Final , Section E , Column 1 , Page 5