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    Debbie Does Dallas

    Blown opportunity

    "Debbie Does Dallas," based on the same script as the infamous '70s porn classic, is an experiment that didn't work, resulting in a play that shows what's left when you take the sex out of a porn film.


    (Originally reviewed at the 2001 New York Fringe Festival)

    What would happen if a classic porn film were stripped of its hardcore sex scenes and turned into an off-off-Broadway play? My local neighborhood pornographer could answer that easily enough: "No sex? What's the point?"

    Directed by: Brock Enright.
    Produced by: Susan L. Schwartz.
    Cast: Susan L. Schwartz, Tonya Canada, Jonathan Hyland, Marian Heller, Renata Hinrichs, Theodore Bouloukos II, Tim Beemer, Matthew Armstrong, Gary Widlund, Theresa Young, Bryant MacMillan, Adam Chandler, Ross Steeves, Jill Madeo, Ariel Sheldon..

    Related links: Official site
    Jane Street Theater
    113 Jane St.
    Oct. 9, 2002 - Feb. 15, 2003

    Fringe Festival 2001

    • Overview
    • Show listings

    • 21 Dog Years
    • Debbie Does Dallas
    • Doing Justice
    • Einstein's Dreams
    • The Elephant Man: The Musical
    • Equal Protection
    • Fifty Minutes
    • Fuck You or Dead Pee Holes
    • Gene de Tueur
    • L'Hiver Sous la Table
    • Imperative Flight
    • Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries
    • Loader #26
    • A Piece of My Heart
    • Sic
    • Snapshot
    • Take
    • Two Girls from Vermont
    • Woosh
    • Zoo

    • Absolutely Abreast
    • Break the Floor
    • I Dance

    • Studio

    Other Fringe Festivals
    • Fringe 2000
    The sold-out crowd at "Debbie Does Dallas" this Friday, opening night of the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival, was hoping the question would lead to a more interesting set of issues. Irony, for example. Perhaps, a very tongue-in-cheek look at the banality of porn scripts? Perhaps something humorous and titillating? All of these could have been expected, given the sensational and highly talked-about concept of the play, but the resulting performance leaves me wondering if the idea ever had a chance.

    Debbie's plot and script are word-for-word faithful to the original 1978 film starring Bambi Woods. A little pleasant research also shows that some of the actors in the stage play physically resembled and acted exactly like the characters from the movie (Debbie, Lisa, and Mr. Greenfield most notably). But that's where the similarities ended, so it seems a careful re-creation was not what the producer and conceptualist, Susan L. Schwartz, had in mind.

    Entertaining theater must not have been a priority either, because what makes the film version at all bearable, is of course, the sex scenes, which occupy the largest proportion of screen time. In the stage play, the actors take great pains to reveal no, I repeat, no nudity, and the simulated sex on stage is about as stimulating as taking a Dramamine. One wonders if the no-nudity rule was extended to exclude enjoyment of sex on stage altogether; the opening to Sondheim's "Passion" was more erotic than anything in this show.

    Eliminating the drawn-out sex scenes from the stage play also creates a timing problem. Scene changes, complete with the exchange of painted flats and props brought in by stage hands, seemingly occur about every 30 seconds. To try and make up for the gaps, staged musical interludes were used to introduce a few scenes, but no matter how catchy the tunes (and the soundtrack was very good), these moments come across as pure filler. Essentially, the play moves from one pointless scene of dialogue to the next, with the audience left waiting for something to look forward to, but that moment never arrives, unless you consider the final curtain.

    Its not unusual to see racy simulated sex scenes on the off-Broadway stage these days, so it would seem that Debbie Does Dallas could have used the freedom afforded by a Downtown New York crowd to make the play something more than undead porn plot. While my neighborhood pornographer and I rarely agree on the higher arts of theater and film, his blind analysis on this production was right on target. No point.

    AUGUST 14, 2001

    Reader comments on Debbie Does Dallas:

  • See more of Marian Heller!   from Webmaster, Jul 29, 2002
  • Great fun!   from Joe Wilson, Jan 28, 2003
  • oh yah   from harry johnson, Feb 27, 2004
  • help   from matthew, Nov 24, 2004
  • See More!   from Rick, Mar 20, 2005

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