Hard news: Pied Pipers do not go half-cocked

Photograph: Derek Ahonen

Photograph: Derek Ahonen The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side

Now it can be revealed!

When the Amoralists'The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side opened a few months ago, reviewers generally alluded to some kind of radical nudity, but most didn't specify the nature of the naturism in question. So here's what the fuss is all about: In the first act of the play, after two female costars have preceded him in the buff, Matthew Pilieci ups the ante by entering with a full, bobbing erection.

Male nudity is hardly a rarity on stage these days, but it is highly unusual for cast members to appear at full mast; this is the first such instance, in fact, that we can remember seeing. Clearly, it is newsworthy stuff—especially now that the production has transferred to Theatre 80 through at least Oct 5. (Click here to learn more, or click here for tickets.) is returning to 9th Space for a one-week run from August 28 through September 2, 2012. (Click here for information.) So we caught up with Pilieci recently to ask him about his backstage...process. Our exclusive interview is after the jump.

TONY: Who came up with the idea for this particular nude scene?
Matthew Pilieci:
The company works very organically, and the directors are very open to suggestions from the actors. It wasn't written in there, but I went up to [writer-director Derek Ahonen] and I was like, "What do you think about Wyatt coming out with an erection?" And he was like, "Yeah, go ahead, do it." And that was really it, man. It just worked after that. We were like, "Oh, it's a lot funnier: The erection is funny, the flaccid penis...not so funny."

Is that even legal?
I don't think we're doing anything that could be considered triple X. So I think we're all right. And hey, if I get arrested, it's good for the show, right?The press! So I'm down. I'd spend a couple nights in jail for the show.

Do you ever suffer from performance anxiety?
It has just become second nature. I mean, my timing is a no-fail at this point. I have my own little alcove backstage where nobody goes. I go back there and I have a computer—I'm with the standard old Porn Hub, just an Internet site with random videos—and I basically, you know, masturbate. And then I wait until about five seconds before I come on, and then I let it go and come on.

See, that's surprising to me. Wouldn't it last longer if you didn't finish before your entrance?
You would think so, but—I don't know what it is. I've always just...gone. I never even thought about not going; it never even crossed my mind. Plus, I gave myself really bad blue balls one time this last production—my computer crashed on me that day—and that wasn't fun.

So you get no help from the cast or crew?
No one's offered! Well, actually, our stage manager offered the first time—in a very playful manner—but I told her I didn't need her, and so now we have a running bet going: If I ever come on not erect, I owe her 20 bucks. I owed her 20 bucks the first time we did it, in the dress rehearsal, but that's the only time I've ever had to pay her.

The scene has gotten a fair amount of attention, but the play itself is actually surprisingly ambitious and serious.
Exactly. The play isn't about nudity. Even in that scene: Most of the time, I hear, people aren't even looking at it—they're just watching [costar Nick Lawson's] reaction. Derek says that I come out, and it's like, Wow, but then they look right at Nick. So I guess it has shock value for some people, but I think more than anything it's the humor of it all. It's the only time I ever want anyone laughing at my penis.