Alex Tratt (left) goes in for the close-up on Jill and Byron (on the couch)

Alex Tratt (left) goes in for the close-up on Jill and Byron (on the couch)

Mom and Pop porn film operation

Cranbrook Community Theatre’s ‘Skin Flick’ opens Friday, May 1, at the Studio Stage Door.

Barry Coulter

What happens when you, your wife and your best friend suddenly find yourselves unemployed?

Don’t despair. There are always alternatives. Sometimes they just pop out at you.

“Skin Flick,” Cranbrook Community Theatre’s ribald new comedy, which opens tonight, commences in the middle of the story, with a cast of characters already engaged in the enterprise that will turn their lives around. But almost immediately, our narrator, Rollie Waters (played by Patrick Baranowski), stops the action and brings us back to the beginning. He has a sense of order and propriety, after all.

Rollie — who works in the costume industry — has a fabulous collection of bowties and a “Honey, I’m Home” nature from another era, like a gentle father from a 50s TV sitcom. As a narrator, he is omnipotent, speaking to the audience directly and even editing the speech of his fellow characters, to their perplexity.

Rollie is married to Daphne (Tracy McGuire), who has a strong, determined streak, and comes across as the alpha in their relationship. And then there’s Rollie’s best friend Alex (Bob Wakulich), a leering, coarse, somewhat sleazy TV cameraman who is as unlike Rollie as chalk to cheese. And all at once, they’re all jobless — Rollie given his notice, Daphne turned down for a new job, and Alex fired. They are facing  immense monetary pressures. What to do?

A mistake in a movie rental reminds Alex — who should know — of how lucrative pornographic films can be — low initial investment, hot profits. This awakens Daphne’s entrepreneurial spirit, and the die is cast.

Here we have a whole new outlook on the erotica industry — pornography as a Mom and Pop operation. And what an innuendo-filled delight it is.

First off, actors are needed — actors who are prepared to lay it all on the line. Chance brings to the Waters’ door one Jill (Lisa Aasebo), singing telegram girl and an unemployed actress prepared for whatever comes up. She signs on (for significant money and percentage points in movie sales). So far, so good.

Now all this crew needs is a John Holmes. Who will the big man be?

By accident, it turns out to be the hapless Byron Hobbs (Jerrod Bondy), who seems as unsuited to the role of a porn stud as he is to running the family bookie business. Nonetheless, he ends up being Jill’s choice for leading man. Let this blue movie get underway.

Rollie continues the narration, though he is a little apart from the cinematography. He still has a few days of work left to complete, after all. In the meantime, Daphne is taking to her role as porn director with unexpected enthusiasm, Alex serves as the experienced guide into porn trade, and Jill and Byron — well, the talent has a lot a surprises up their sleeves.

The whole literature, for want of a better word, of the porn industry lends itself to the comedy. Imagine the infinite series of puns that comprise porn titles, and you can bet that in “Skin Flick,” the puns and double entendres come thick and fast, with non-stop tumbling hilarity.

There is a subtext — and Rollie as narrator is good enough to stop the action and explain it to us, the audience. Porn, of course, is sex mythologized, with everyone well endowed and satisfaction guaranteed. The reality is that everyday sex can be awkward, unfulfilling and a chore even married couples must work at — the pressures to perform, and all that. What a relief to talk about it, finally!

But Rollie cuts all that short, and heads back to the movie-making. After all, there’s money to be made, and interesting new undercurrents are coming up in the characters’ relationships.

“Skin Flick,” by Norm Foster, is directed by Bob McCue and produced by Kristy Quinn. It is a raucous, hilarious romp, so leave the kids at home and head to the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook. “Skin Flick” opens tonight, Friday, May 1, and runs Saturday May 2, then May 6-9, and May 13-16. Tickets are available at Lotus Books.

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