There is a good entertainment somewhere in “Big Bright Star,” probably about halfway through the solo show now running through Aug. 6 at Andrews Living Arts Studio in Fort Lauderdale.
The performance follows the bumps and grinds of burlesque beefcake Chris Harder, who goes from Barbie-loving boy in North Dakota to gay porn superstar in New York. His hopscotch journey allows him to zip through a half dozen or so characters, a meandering path that gets increasingly intriguing the further we follow him in the 80-minute, intermission-free show.
It’s the start that nearly trips him up. When he bounds onstage with his megawatt personality dialed up to 10 and beaming you-must-love-me vibes throughout the intimate black box theater, it’s a bit off-putting, not unlike someone being all chummy and intimate with you before you’ve even been introduced. He’s trying to lay down one of his themes about always moving forward and pushing to get what you want. Harder is much more charming, funny and, later on, theatrically effective, when he’s not trying so, um, hard.
About that surname, Harder insists it’s real: “See? I was born for porn,” he says.
He spends much of “Big Bright Star” proving that to be so. Be forewarned that the language is decidedly for mature audiences and that there is brief full-frontal nudity. He relays a surprising amount of information along the way in his search for the sex-industry spotlight: the importance of Cetaphil skin care products on the set of adult films; the casting couch is still very much a thing; and today’s popular pornsters are all about aggressive social-media campaigns (“porn is like Instagram — if they don’t see it, it didn’t happen.”)
“Big Bright Star” could use more about his work on the burlesque stage and his time as a go-go boy in Manhattan gay nightclubs, experiences that his quick wit could make much of. But through voices of varying successfulness, Harder does talk about his foray into children’s theater (yup, that happened) and even faith and religion (“I want to be like Jesus, wear a loin cloth and hang out with hookers”).
The transitions from one character to another may make more sense in Harder’s head than they do in actuality, but things eventually begin to sync, especially when he channels his mother uncomfortably reaching out through the telephone and a porn rival unleashing a hurricane of hashtags during a live stream. That’s when the show has something truly new to say.
The ending is a bit pat, which is endemic of one-person shows. There’s always that instinct to bring it back to the beginning of the piece, and Harder makes two or three attempts. It’s really not necessary. What may yield better results is thinking about remixing the order of sketches, moving some of the softer and sweeter moments up and changing the pacing a bit. Big stars don’t have to burn so bright right away.
“Big Bright Star” is running through Aug. 6 at Andrews Living Arts Studio, 23 NW Fifth St., in Fort Lauderdale (in FAT Village). Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets cost $35-$45. To order, go to RonnieLarsen.com.