Mr. Chatterbox

By staff May 1, 2008

I have no problem with nudity in the theater. In fact, I seek it out. And it doesn’t even have to be tasteful. Or relevant to the plot. It just has to be well lit.

So when I heard that Hair and Equus were opening on the same night, you can imagine my feelings. Both plays are famous for their nude scenes. Which should I chose? Hair has more variety, but it’s fleeting. With Equus you get a better look, but the nude pool is much smaller. Then I heard that Annie Morrison (director of Hair) had used all 50- and 60-year-old actors, which sounds fascinating concept-wise but maybe not such a smart move nudity-wise, so the decision was made for me. I called the Asolo and booked a ticket for the first performance of Equus, and as far down front as possible, please.

Warning: There is no nudity in the first act. Still, it manages to hold your interest. It seems that some crazy teen has blinded six horses and is now undergoing court-ordered therapy. Maybe I’ve been working with the Humane Society too long, but my first reaction was—what happened to the horses? Did they receive proper medical attention? Have they been placed in foster homes? Do they have any vision left? Equus refuses to deal with these questions, and that, more than anything, dates the play. If Equus were written today it would be all about the horses.

Anyway, I attended the play with Matt Orr. You know Matt. He’s the guy who dreamt up He’s the new Diane McFarlin—young, smart, and hot. He commented on how excited I seemed during intermission, and I was. Because if there was no nudity in the first act, that meant it had to be in the second!

Well, the play starts again. Everybody in town is there, by the way. Ulla Searing. Virginia Toulmin. Jay Handelman. The Millmans. Eva Slane. So the lights come up and we have to listen to some more stuff about the teenager’s parents (it’s all their fault, surprise, surprise) and then it turns out the psychiatrist has problems, too. His wife doesn’t understand him and he has the hots for a female judge who keeps dropping by for no apparent reason. You start thinking, is he going to take off his clothes, too?

Then finally the crazy kid (Juan Javier Cardenas) heads for the stable with some girl he met and they take off their clothes. To be perfectly honest, I had totally forgotten there was even a girl in the play, but at this point, the more the merrier. Anyway, they chase each other around and you think, yes, yes, this is what nudity in the theater is all about. Bravo!

Jessi Blue Gormezano did a wonderful job playing the girl, but I have to tell you—male nudity is much stronger on stage than female. There’s more of a “reveal” factor, and it’s laden with suspense. You’re never quite sure how things are going to go.

There was no nudity at the Asolo’s 50th anniversary gala, which took place the following evening—no, I lie. There was. Michelangelo’s David towered over the crowd in the Ringling Museum courtyard and set the tone for much of the evening’s humor. At our table, attorney David Denton was ribbed mercilessly by everyone who dropped by, and Ron Sharpe prefaced his song set by saying, “I see they brought my statue along.”

But in reality it was a big night for clothes. People went all out. Ina Schnell wore green silk pajamas, Margaret Wise was in her signature diaphanous pink, Diane Roskamp terrific in turquoise, Deborah Blue looked cute in vintage Givenchy, and Eileen Curd wore a 16-year-old Emanuel Ungaro that still fit perfectly. Our lovely arts editor, Kay Kipling, was a veritable man-magnet in fire-engine red cut so low she kept herself wrapped in a shawl all evening, selfishly keeping her décolletage hidden, unless we really begged her for a quick “flash.”

Aside from Kay’s neckline, the highlight of the evening had to be Ron Sharpe and Barbra Russell, who performed a medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber-type songs. What voices! Why, they could star on Broadway. In fact, they have—and for so long that they got sick of it and decided they needed another mountain to climb, so they’re producing A Tale of Two Cities opening at the Hirschfeld in September. Oh—and they’re married and have two young kids. When they sang that old Shirley Bassey song “I Hate You, Then I Love You,” you could see all the old married couples in the audience smile ruefully at each other and then take each other’s hand and squeeze real hard, sometimes painfully so.

It was a lovely evening, with perfect weather and glorious moonlight and Cliff Roles’ voice drifting out over the crowd, down to the bay, over to Longboat, then across the Gulf to Tampico. Cliff did his usual fabulous job with the auction items, including yet another luncheon with Vern Buchanan in the Congressional Dining Room. Vern is so generous with these luncheons (they go from $1,500 to $3,000) that it’s only a matter of time before the lobbyists figure this out and start bidding on them—or do they already?

Any flaws? Just one. The statue of David wasn’t lit properly. You really couldn’t see anything. Hardly in the spirit of the weekend, I must say.

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