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Theater review: Mope reveals the dark side of a male porn actor

Theater review: Mope reveals the dark side of a male porn actor
Photograph: Jody Christopherson

 

 

 

No one emerges unscathed from Paul Cameron Hardy’s insightful new play—including the audience. What starts as a raunchy comedy about a pair of low-level porn-industry pals escalates into something darker and poignant: a searing portrait of an alt-righter as a youngish man.

Trevor (Eric T. Miller, painfully convincing) is the quintessential straight, clueless white dude, a no-name adult-film performer prone to casual racist and sexist behavior who pretends to be a party boy but deep down knows he’s tanking. His ambitious African-American roommate and coworker, Shawn (the charming RJ Brown), is constantly chilling with their new Asian neighbor, Alice (Jennifer Tsay, pitch-perfect). Trevor got Shawn into the biz, and they have a longtime codependent bromance, but as the latter moves up and on, his buddy unravels.

Effectively staged by RJ Tolan and produced by EST’s emerging-writers collective Youngblood, Hardy’s sly one-act seduces with raucous laughs, then slowly shifts as tension builds within this sad, scary man. Politics are never mentioned, and yet, in the shadow of our catastrophic election, we know Trevor shouldn’t be dismissed as harmless. Mope’s sex talk and nudity aren’t what shock; the way it exposes our society’s just-below-the-surface fury is what truly jolts.

Ensemble Studio Theatre (Off Broadway). By Paul Cameron Hardy. Directed by RJ Tolan. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 45mins. No intermission. Through Feb 19. Click here for full ticket and venue information.

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