'Shooting Porn' makes it from the screen to the stage

You know that old maxim: If you like sausage, don’t visit a sausage factory.

That’s the case with “Shooting Porn! Live on Stage!” now at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale through March 12. This behind-the-scenes look at the gay pornography industry deflates the last vestiges of titillation from man-on-man erotica. It turns out that there’s very little that’s sexy about manufacturing sex movies.

On the plus side, you will come out with a working knowledge of such inside-the-biz stuff as: gay for pay; helicoptering; Hitler mustache manscaping, turkey-baster remedies and — in not one, but two disquieting passages — the importance of douching.

This explicit-to-the-point-of-smutty play is a dramatization of a 1997 documentary produced and directed by playwright Ronnie Larsen, perhaps best known for his off-Broadway hit “Making Porn.”

It was during a Los Angeles run of that show, with its narrative set in the 1980s porn scene, that Larsen was approached by real-life adult film stars in the audience to visit the sets and take a look at the real thing. Those stories that the crew, critics and performers shared with Larsen became the film and, eventually, the stage play.

That vérité gimmick often works better than it should. The play can be very funny in a flush-faced kind of way. But there are also some stretches that come off tiresome and turgid onstage. The biggest problem with “Shooting Porn” is that it suffers from doc block. What works in a filmic medium needs to be reshaped and retranslated for a live performance, and this production doesn’t always seem to want to take the care to do so.

The cast is solid enough. Adam Davenport, Terry Lee Hicks and Jonathon Horton play the porn stars (Horton can really land a joke). Kyle Garcia is relaxed as a documentarian.

Real-life adult-film personas from the movie are portrayed by David Gordon (as Gino Colbert, a director) and Larsen (as Chi Chi LaRue, a director and drag queen). Gordon and Larsen are the most confident, lending a much needed aura of professionalism to the proceedings as the play breaks down over 90 intermission-free minutes the mechanics of porn producing, makeshift technical fixes, the marketing, strip shows, drugs, hustling and the obligatory award show.

There is an attempt to give the whole shebang, or in this case “hebang,” some sort of sense of contextual meaning, something about a connection for isolated gay men. But then, like the documentary, the play tags on a funny coda listing of some of the successful products, which include titles such as “21 Hump Street."

Perhaps a more insightful comment on the industry would be more “theat-uh” like, but the titles are comedy gold.

“Shooting Porn! Live on Stage!” runs through March 12 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 7 p.m. Sundays; 4 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are general admission $35 and premium $50 (includes front-row center seating and a DVD of the documentary “Shooting Porn”). To order, go to RonnieLarsen.com.

rhagwood@southflorida.com

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