"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.
By FRANK VIGORITO
(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?"
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 DOES DALLAS|
|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
| RELATED ARTICLES|
Fringe Festival 2001|
21 Dog Years
Debbie Does Dallas
The Elephant Man: The Musical
Fuck You or Dead Pee Holes
Gene de Tueur
L'Hiver Sous la Table
Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries
A Piece of My Heart
Two Girls from Vermont
Break the Floor
Other Fringe Festivals
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|
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Reader comments on Debbie Does Dallas:
oh yah from harry johnson, Feb 27, 2004
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