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BroadwayGirlNYC: The Performers

By the time you read this it may be too late.  By Monday morning it will be over.  All that will remain is the memory of what once was…  I only pray you receive this message in time.

The Performers – starring Cheyenne Jackson, Henry Winkler, Alicia Silverstone, Ari Graynor, Daniel Breaker, and Jenni Barber – will close on Sunday night, November 18, after 23 previews and only seven regular performances.

Despite great buzz during early previews (including my own glowing tweets after seeing the first performance), the show's momentum was apparently stopped short as a result of Hurricane Sandy, when all of Broadway was shut down.  When performances resumed, the momentum apparently didn't, and this morning the show's press reps announced that the show had been "halted by the insurmountable after effects of Hurricane Sandy: lack of transportation, power outages and gas shortages chief among them."

It's always sad when a show closes, but exponentially more so when it never really got a fair shot.  This isn't the first time I've mourned such a closing; last year the shuttering of Bonnie & Clyde broke my heart, and back in 2007 I fell deeply for a grand-scale play called Coram Boy that was open for less than a month.

The best thing about theatre is also the worst: it doesn't last forever.  Theatre is not just live but living, which means that the life-cycle of any play must someday close.

You may have heard that The Performers, a play about four porn stars and their two "civilian" friends, is crude – and I certainly won't argue that point.  It's a show in which the characters, who do very dirty things for a living, have lost sight of the raunch because to them it's so mundane.  They're essentially like anyone working in a competitive profession – theirs just happens to involve massive implants, rubber torture masks, and threesomes ("and foursomes, and moresomes"). 

As an audience member, I found the cavalier raunch hilarious – but dirty jokes are not enough to sustain any show on their own.  It is actually the characters' humanity that makes The Performers a brilliant show.  The first third of the show establishes that yes, the script pulls no punches with blueness.  The remaining hour is all about Mandrew's (Jackson) sincerity, Peeps' (Graynor) insecurity, and relatable conflict between engaged and straight-laced Lee & Sara (Breaker, Silverstone), who are overwhelmed by the adult entertainment world into which they've been, ahem, thrust – and also see elements of their freewheeling friends that they ultimately envy.

Had this show been cast with less-than-stellar actors, it could have come across just as cheap as the DVDs their characters produce.  But the performers in The Performers are all first-class (don't be surprised when Ari Graynor gets nominated for Best Actress in a play, despite the fact that she plays a character whose full name is P***y Boots)!  All six actors endow (sorry) their characters with as much earnestness as if they were performing Shakespeare.  The content is light and the dialogue most certainly dirty, but the people are relatable and the theme is universal.  I liked The Performers so much I saw it twice in its measly month-long life.

All is not lost.  As of this writing, The Performers still has five performances left.  Please, find a way to get to the Longacre Theatre to see this hilarious piece of theatre.  After Sunday, it will be too late.

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