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Virtual Memory

Debauchery trumps self-realization in this charming autobiography.

Ben Strothmann in a scene from “Virtual Memory” (Photo credit: Steven Fontas)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

Debauchery trumps self-realization—always.  This is a lesson that Ben Strothmann has clearly learned in writing his Virtual Memory, performed by Strothmann at Dixon Place.   Even though his many tales of sexual indulgence, told in explicit detail, lead to a hard won self-acceptance, the play spends most of its time deliciously showing off his sexual prowess—including self-fellatio—and many lovers, some who paid for his services and upbeat personality.

Knowing he was gay from early childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his first crushes were on two cartoon characters, Foghorn Leghorn and the Pink Panther (for reasons only Strothmann could explain), although he did snatch a real kiss from a real fellow first grader.

He’s nearly outed by a fellow student when he doodles flirtatious messages on the blackboard during recess and, though he doesn’t particularly like phys-ed classes, he perfected a way of stretching out his stay in the locker room to purvey the non-gym equipment, becoming “an eleven-year old letch.”

Strothmann was lucky that his desires were so focused and that, after discovering his near Olympic talent for masturbation, his path to New York City and a career as a sex object, was totally fated.   After failing at several jobs, a new love interest brings up the subject of being an “escort.”

Ben Strothmann in a scene from “Virtual Memory” (Photo credit: Steven Fontas)

Strothmann insinuates himself into the profession, finding new, exciting facets to his personality, not to mention a large, under-the-table income and many new “friends.”  He gets involved in drugs and a particularly heartbreaking relationship, but ends up, as we, the audience can see, a still fine-looking, charismatic young man who has definitely taken all his life lessons seriously.

A running theme through the play is Strothmann’s often embarrassing bed-wetting which becomes a metaphor for his life.

Slides helped illustrate the play, including photos of Strothmann at different ages and the afore-mentioned cartoon characters.  Well-chosen music snippets—“I’m Too Sexy,” etc.—wittily help illuminate the story.

Mark Finley, the director, knew enough to keep the play charmingly low-key with just enough animated physicality to illustrate the story.  Finley clearly understood all of Strothmann’s best qualities as a storyteller and how to keep him on his toes as an actor and memoirist.

Virtual Memory (August 4, 2017)

Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.OvationTix.com or http://www.DixonPlace.org

Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (229 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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