Living up to its title, a racially and physically diverse game company of ten male performers really are nude throughout Camp Morning Wood: A Very Naked Musical. It succeeds as a joyous flesh parade but disappoints as an actual theater piece. What might have been an engaging encounter group-style exploration depicting facets of the gay male experience is instead labored with a flatly comical cornball plot that’s dragged out to two hours with an intermission.
Anthony Logan Cole, Courtney Dease, Alex Gagné, Tim Garnham, Ethan Gwynn, Jeffrey Johns, Bryan Songy, Sean Stephens, Brady Vigness, and Michael Witkes are the stalwart cast who all bare their bodies while broadly exhibiting their comedic, dramatic and musical theater talents
Jay Falzone’s book is structurally solid and does offer eloquent insights into contemporary New York City gay life but grows tiresome with the rote antics of its stock characters. Topical references such as Grinder and Scruff, fixations on race and body types and insightfully analyzing relationships are conjoined with the stale narrative tangent of Right wing hypocrisy. That’s depicted in the guise of the nefarious handsome closet case Republican Senator Dick Snatch who has instigated the impending destruction of the Catskills nudist camp and replacing it with a megachurch. This detour is wan camp and mildly amusing at best.
Mr. Falzone’s lyrics though rudimentary do display a modicum of craft but each song is cluttered with repetition. The mostly 1980’s-style synthesizer driven melodies of composers Derrick Byars, Bobby Cronin, James Dobinson, Matt Gumley and Will Shishmanian suitably match the lyrics but the score rarely rises beyond the level of filler. A black PhD’s memorable sung ode to his distinctive appendage is entitled “BBC” and gets a lot of mileage as it’s repeated a few times.
Conceiver and director Marc Eardley energetic staging maintains a fine pace and moderate visual interest. With a lot of jumping up and down and arm waving, Ian Coulter-Buford and Falzone’s basic choreography has simplistic charm. There’s some lively fan dancing too.
Scenic designer David McQuillen Robertson’s spare stylized bucolic and metropolitan settings are smartly atmospheric. Green and brown accessories aid in actors portrayals of trees and are clever elements of Izzy Fields’ neat costume design. Angel wings, a harness and other totemic garments are also integral. Zach Pizza’s lighting design is proficient, but Kimberly S. O’Loughlin’s sound design is rather muddy.
Oh yes, there’s a story. Hell’s Kitchen couple Gabe and Randy’s open relationship has become strained after having a threesome. Gabe is a gym bunny in his 30’s whose acting career is stalled. Doughy 40ish Randy is a Columbia University professor of Queer Colonial Studies who is feeling the angst of middle-age. They’re driving to Upstate New York for a reparative rustic getaway at the behest of their couples counselor. Their car breaks down and they wind up at the gay nudist colony Camp Morning Wood and given the Britney Spears cabin. The retreat is run by the flamboyantly French Jacques who is from Poughkeepsie . There they encounter a variety of gay males as well as Jacques’ physically flawless but morally dubious boyfriend Kincaid who is the odious embodiment of every “A-list” gay male stereotype. Oh, he was the participant in Gabe and Randy’s traumatic three way. Inane complications ensue.
Camp Morning Wood: A Very Naked Musical is in the tradition of minor gay male nudie extravaganzas usually presented during Gay Pride month in June. Other than the wholesome prurience, there’s not much else of note in it.
Camp Morning Wood: A Very Naked Musical (through July 7, 2019)
Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 416 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212- 279-4200 or visit http://www.ticketcentral.com
Running time: two hours including one intermission