If not for the inclusion of songs like “Squirting 101” or “Waiting For Wood”, The Civilians’ new documusical Pretty Filthy–playing at NYC’s Abrons Arts Center through March 1–would almost be as harmless as Lerner & Loewe. In fact, the innuendo-cursed “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” (soon to be heard on Broadway again in the upcoming revival of Gigi) might fit right in, especially as it uses a fictional, naïve young girl named Becky (Alyse Alan Louis) as its conduit, a chirpy blonde who rechristens herself Taylor St. Ives (“like the face scrub”, she helpfully adds), and becomes the freshest face in the San Fernando Valley.
Compiled with the aid of dozens of interviews as part of the theater company’s typical mission statement, this new show-composed by longtime Civilian Michael Friedman, with book by Bess Wohl–is surprisingly upbeat and good-natured considering the oft-seedy milieu, and cast with first-rate types in a clever mirror of how the adult entertainment industry also views its participants. We meet some veterans, including a middle-aged woman finding relief in MILF/cougar movies, a married duo that literally live for their work, and the usual airheads and dreamers who party and spend too much while thinking too little. (The funnymen loom the largest here, though, with the Jon Lovitz-like Steve Rosen and master deadpan clown John Behlmann utterly delightful in a variety of male roles.)
But as anyone with even a passing acquaintance with adult cinema knows, this industry is far from peachy, and when you consider that the creators do not even touch upon many of the most pertinent dangers of the industry–drug abuse, disease outbreaks, suicides, and the constant strong-arm of government jurisdiction, to name but a few–the cuteness starts to give a one a bit of a toothache. No matter how entertainingly it has been assembled, Pretty Filthy ends up an evening in which the sex is perhaps just a little too safe. B-
Pretty Filthy: EW review