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‘Phallusies’ funny but feels unfocused

I left Las Vegas Little Theatre’s "Phallusies" with a confused reaction.

On one hand, this "male version" of "The Vagina Monologues" proves that Paul Atreides (better known locally as director Paul Thornton) can certainly write. The vignettes, dealing with the lifelong changes in man’s relationship to his genitals, offer a generous supply of laughs.

A guy named Richard bemoans the fact that everyone calls him "Dick." A clergyman gives a lecture on people’s misguided notion of lewdness . An old man and a young man speak in alternating dialogue about the very different behavioral problems of their anatomy. Atreides has an instinctive knowledge of stage rhythms. With a six-member cast, he creates an effective blend of monologues, trios, duets and ensemble pieces.

On the other hand, the material strikes me as old hat and unfocused. It alternates between having characters and simply having an actor address the audience as a generic male. One moment the play is joking about circumcision, the next, a man is crying because he was once raped by two women. Then there are skits with more jokes, and then another man is crying because cancer has claimed his mother. The weeping is embarrassing because it’s melodramatic and unfelt. Later, we get what sounds like a public service announcement with an adult urging men to get checked for testicular cancer. Seems the guy lost his 19-year old son to the disease. I felt evil for waiting for jokes that never came.

Thornton as director does not serve his play well. If there’s one thing you’ve got to have in a show that has actors addressing the audience, it’s a strong sense of performers making up their lines on the spot. Here, too many sound rehearsed. (Two notable exceptions: Richard Behrens and Joel Wayman, in a variety of roles.)

I’d like to see what another director could bring out in the material. But, considering his talent, it might be wise for Atreides to move on and get a second script up and running, preferably one with a more original idea and fresher observations.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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