Getting inside the skin game

The All-Nude College-Girl Review

By Lisa Faith Phillips
Directed by Todd Stuart Phillips
The Tennessee Project
Samuel Beckett Theatre
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

The All-Nude College-Girl Revue was the beneficiary of $10 million worth of free publicity when it had its New York premiere in 1995, because it coincided with the release of the movie Showgirls. But playwright Lisa Faith Phillips and her brother, director Todd Stuart Phillips, were on their own when they decided to remount the play this year. Since All-Nude's successful run at Synchronicity Space last year, both Showgirls and Demi Moore's similarly overhyped Striptease had bombed, indicating that the market for stories about strippers was merely skin-deep, and that the public didn't buy all that tripe about how stripping empowers women.

Phillips's script refrains from romanticizing the profession, although Annie, the coed-turned-stripper, does flirt with ideas of empowerment before the line between empowerment and exploitation blurs. The play's take on the subject was more intellectual that Hollywood's, as Annie is an MIT economics major who applies Marxist theory to the job. The play also proved superior to the films by minimizing the sleaze as well as the sentimentality about stripping. Annie may be temporarily enthralled with her new career, but for her co-workers it's just one more unseemly element in lives ravaged by drug addiction, prostitution, and domestic violence.

The grittiness was compromised somewhat by the actors' wholesome looks and by a corny denouement in which the strippers must go their separate ways after the club is shut down by police. The nostalgia was so overwrought in the scene, the gals could have broken into a chorus of ``Anatevka.''

Phillips based All-Nude on her actual experience as a stripper while in graduate school, and she was eager to cram as many memories as possible into the script. The play started to drag toward the end. In the role of Annie, Sara Knight nicely interpolated the character's brainy doormat tendencies with her growing fondness for bimbohood and didn't play either extreme as a caricature. Knight's co-stars -- particularly Yvonne Lewis and Allison Hope -- did justice to the mostly stock personalities they portrayed. As a hapless stripper named Ginger, Ingrid Rifler buoyed a confessional scene with her strong emotional range but gave her performance an irritating edge by overemphasizing Ginger's gawkiness.

The set and costumes in The All-Nude College-Girl Revue were terrific. Director/set designer Todd Stuart Phillips's rendering of a dressing room had all sorts of clever details, while the strippers' costumes entailed an eye-catching array of negligees, bustiers, mini-dresses and themed outfits.

(Also featuring Dory Binyon, Pam Wilterdink, Melissa McGovern and Guelmari Oppenheimer. Costumes, Annie Rainford, Lisa Faith Phillips, and Pam Wilterdink; lighting, David Comstock; sound, Flip Productions and Philip Goetz.)

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2
Copyright 1996 Adrienne Onofri

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