Expect to find a “play” at Stripped the Play? You’d have better odds shopping for a G-string at a Disney store.
Once male strippers take off their clothes, one wonders why they’d put on a plot, unless it provided genuine insight into the lives of dudes who shed their duds, à la the movie Magic Mike. True, Stripped the Play—imported from New York as the newly opened midnight entry at Planet Hollywood’s Saxe Theater—debuted off-Broadway in April, two months before Magic Mike’s strapping stallions (led by Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey) peeled it off onscreen.
First, in this instance, isn’t best. Or even passable.
Based on the experiences of star/writer Steve Stanulis, Stripped recalls his double-life-leading story as a New York cop moonlighting as a stripper, until he committed full-time to professional undressing in 2002 after aggravating an injury at ground zero. Now engaged, his character is splitting the strip scene. On his final night, his stripper brethren and the club’s sleazy owner conspire to get their top money-maker/shaker to stay—attempting to seduce his in-the-house fiancée with their bumpy-grindy moves or sour her on marriage with their personal tales of love gone wrong.
You’re meant to admire the symmetry of men baring their souls as they bare their bods. You won’t.
Where to begin? Crass writing? (One stripper says, “I’m like a pussy up here—dripping wet.”) No discernible characters? (They’re not quite as deep as the Village People, from whom they seem descended, at least visually.) Correction—one discernible character. (Jerry, the leering, obnoxious owner, clad in tiger-print jacket and shoes, whom you’d like to slap unconscious.) Painful acting? (There’s the Colombian who came here as a sexual plaything to an American woman, over-emoting shamelessly. There’s the cowboy who rambles on about that lifestyle to no point. There’s the black stripper bemoaning his affair with a white lover in Mississippi, equating acting with interminable pauses and long stares into space.) Silly staging? (An actress playing the fiancée is flanked onstage at a club table by two women plucked from the audience, looking nonplussed as this inanity unfolds.) Awkward dance choreography? (Every guy’s gyrating ends in an abrupt fadeout. All that’s missing is an old-style vaudeville hook.)
Or perhaps a star who’s barely onstage? (After his opening strip-and-swivel, Stanulis just pops in occasionally to get pissed at his stripper brothers.)
Designed as part-male strip show, part-drama, this inept hybrid isn’t much of either. Most egregiously, it’s the one thing it can’t be to lure panting patrons to a late-night skin show—unsexy. Apologies to their rippled pecs and glutes, but Stripped the Play is actually Gypped the Play.
STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Back in November, this column made a case for comedian Bill Maher to move on from the Orleans Showroom to a more prominent Strip property, given his relevance to both the comedy and political worlds. Last week, the Palms announced that Maher will land at the Pearl, with dates in March, June, September and November. Not the Strip—but close enough, prominence-wise.
That’s Maher like it. (Yes, I know … Groooooan.)