“The Naked Eye” – Nearly Naked Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ November 28, 2011


Nearly Naked Theatre, The Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Paul Rudnick’s “The Naked Eye” starts out with several interesting ideas about politicians, corruption, censorship, and contemporary artists, all presented around funny situations and biting one-liners.  But after the intermission, “The Naked Eye” gets predictable and solving the various issues gets too convoluted.  So, by the end, it sputters to a finish that is well telescoped in the first act.  Surprises, unusual resolutions, or clever solutions would make the play stronger and potentially funnier.

Nearly Naked Theatre’s solid production features the stellar Johanna Carlisle as Nan, the wife of corrupt Senator Bemiss who is having an expected affair.  Nan’s loyal, relishes the status of her husband’s position, and adores his money.  She loves traveling in New York City’s social circle.  She tolerates her husband’s frailties and accepts his wondering eye.

Carlisle is a master at any role she undertakes.  The range and diversity of her portrayals amazes.  She conveys character subtleties and her acting shading makes her interpretations fascinating to watch.

Unfortunately, Carlisle is such a gifted actor that she unwittingly overshadows the rest of the competent cast.  They all work hard, create believable characters but never approach Carlisle’s insights or acting acumen.

“The Naked Eye” focuses on photo artist Alex DelFlavio who is obsessed with nudity, his own and everyone around him.  Nan loves his work and causes so she adores her contact with the gay artist.  She never feels threatened but relishes his fawning adulation and the constant attention he pays to her so he can associate with her socially elite friends.

For a photo exhibition that Nan sponsors, she feels the need to censor three of Alex’s most graphic pictures because they may hurt her husband’s re-election chances.  Alex won’t accept her censorship so she relents until her husband can’t tolerate the photos either.  The ultimate resolution of the debate is never resolved, one of many frustrations with the script.

Beyond Carlisle’s stellar performance, B. Connor Verhoeven’s Alex works, Andrea Morales’ Sissy Bemiss Darnley, Nan and the Senator’s snotty lesbian daughter, plus David Weiss’ Senator all play their characters’ stupidities for the laughs.  Other cast members try hard but leave no real impression.

Damon Dering’s direction keeps things moving along as the staging attempts, with success, to make the supporting players’ over-the-top silly and ridiculous.  Like many of Nearly Naked Theatre’s productions, “The Naked Eye” is peppered generously with male and female nudity. 

“The Naked Eye” is silly fun but don’t go expecting logical resolutions to the wacky and zany plot the playwright sets up.  “The Naked Eye” continues through December 10.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.nearlynakedtheatre.org.

Grade: C