7 Blowjobs

by Jim Duncan

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday March 25, 2008

Some members of the cast of Theatre on Fire’s production of "7 Blowjobs."
Some members of the cast of Theatre on Fire’s production of "7 Blowjobs."  

I got an uneasy feeling as I sat in my seat waiting for Mac Wellman's 7 Blowjobs to begin at the Charlestown Working Theater, but it wasn't the blowjobs that had me worried - it was the set. Although the entire play takes place in a senator's office, the tacky unfinished office furniture and candy cane colored columns didn't evoke political prestige so much as Santa's Village at Woolworth's.

Still, if a play is any good one can easily overlook the shabbiness of a fledgling community theater's production design, like the shows the Gold Dust Orphans once performed at The Dollhouse Theater in the South End. The hokey sets made those shows even funnier. Not so in this case.

A satire about the hypocrisy inherent in right wing American politics, "7 Blowjobs" was written in the early 1990s as a response to senator Jesse Helms's attack against the National Endowment for the Arts, when he accused the NEA of funding artists whose work he deemed obscene. With so many homophobic and anti-sex politicians scandalized in recent months, it's no surprise that Theatre on Fire's artistic director Darren Evans decided to revive the show. What's surprising is that he imagined Boston audiences would find Wellman's facile portrait of social conservatives entertaining.

There are no actual blowjobs in this play, but when a package containing a series of ambiguous x-rated photographs is delivered to Red State senator Bob's office, his staff of conservative aides is thrown into a sex panic. Their collective sex jitters as they spend most of the play trying to decode the political and sexual meaning of the salacious photos might have been funnier, if the verbal jabs of Wellman's insipid stereotypes were able rise above the level of playground polemics. Unfortunately, his dialogue merely sounds like a string of childish partisan text comments posted on You Tube.

The premise that there's a pack of horny Chihuahuas humping underneath the rhetoric of anti-sex campaigns is tempting if hackneyed, but the jokes are so bad you'll end up feeling cheated and embarrassed for the cast, as I did. In the words of two insightful Edge readers I had the pleasure of sitting next to during the show: "This show is an utter waste of time... we were not amused."

Through April 5 at the Charlestown Working Theatre, 442 Bunker Hill Street, Charlestown, MA. For more details visit Theatre on Fire’s website.