Among the myriad indignities borne by gay men in America, few are more disconcerting than the bachelorette party invitation.
In certain circles that I have avoided up to this point, it is customary for women to invite their gay friends to such events. For some reason, we are considered both one of the girls and a key part of the entertainment, counted on to dispense cutting quips and succinct wisdom on matters of the heart. As we are wont to do.
But this streak came to a screeching end Wednesday night in the Shea's Smith Theatre, where a touring production of the politely raunchy "play" called "Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man" opened a five-day run.
Almost nothing about it is printable.
Here's what I can tell you: It stars Jacklyn Collier as a tightly wound college professor who has eyes for her newly hired assistant Stefan (Marshall Taylor Thurman), whose main skill is that he exudes an animal sexuality and seems to have learned his Russian accent from Kate McKinnon. Then there is the gay man (Sean Hankinson) whose execution of the irreverent gay stereotype is so accurate he may be a new model of gay robot from central casting.
Here's what else I can tell you: The crowd loved every second of it, taking every opportunity to engage in highly risque audience participation.
The actors are able enough and the writing is predictably dismal. You should adjust your expectations: What they are executing is little more than a lightly theatricalized version of the bachelorette party phenomenon, where the anatomy of the stripper is usually more important than any other element. Though I hesitate to objectify any performer, given the theme, Thurman makes up in that department for what he may lack elsewhere.
Anthropologically, the American bachelorette party stands as a fascinating example of a bipolar bourgeois attitude toward sexuality. It's a curious ritual, wherein normally risque subject matter becomes all too cliché, where phallic implements of various sizes and textures are passed around as casually as napkins and paper plates. Some inscrutable impulse drives people to mold cakes into appalling shapes.
The whole industry is a confusing wonderment, but its manifestations boil down to one thing: A concentration of long-repressed sexual desire into a strange ritual that fuses ancient hormones with contemporary commerce. Thus there are inflatable body parts, winky comparisons to curved fruit, simulated activities and an absurd outer-space-themed strip tease Thurman executes at the end.
If you have attended and enjoyed this kind of spectacle in the past, you will have a great time at this show. If the prospect of attending a bachelorette party has you shriveling into a ball, stay far away.
"Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man"
2.5 stars (out of four)
Runs through Feb. 4 in Shea's Smith Theatre. Tickets are $29 to $39. Call 847-0850 or visit sheas.org.