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A funny thing happened on the way to the porn palace

Hanging out with the peeps at "All-Male Peep Show" at Empire Stage

They show. We peep.

That's pretty much how it goes with the gay-riffic comedy "All-Male Peep Show," through April 12 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.

Written and directed by Ronnie Larsen ("Making Porn"), the story is told, much like a peep show, in a series of flashes. Vignettes occasionally overlap sequences of dialogue and keep the scales of humor and drama balanced. The play is a fleet 75 minutes, plus a 15-minute intermission.

But let's not overintellectualize this. "All-Male Peep Show" is all about luridly lit hotties as they go about their day in a Times Square pleasure palace in the years before Mayor Rudy Giuliani swept the porn shops from midtown Manhattan. Larsen, who also appears in the play, has adeptly layered in a story that easily entertains but never gets in the way of the full-frontal nudity, which is frequent and eye-popping.

The plot follows Mike (Andy Herrmann), who is addicted to going to peep shows, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering partner, Kevin (Sean Dorazio), but with the encouragement of his buddy Bradley (Larsen).

"It's like a Broadway show without all the boring parts," snaps Bradley, defending the allure.

Newbie Steven (Ben Perez) applies for a job with the peep show's manager, Ameer (Larry Buzzeo), and soon joins the dancers Greg (Yankiel Mompeller) and Brian (Jair Bula). Even though all the clientele is waiting to see the performance of porn superstar Osiris Blade (played by local adult film star Osiris Blade, literally an up-and-comer), Brian has attracted obsessive follower Shane (David R. Gordon).

The acting skills vary widely here, but in the intimate space of Empire Stage, the audience is close to all the action. There's nowhere to hide the inexperience of the less seasoned performers. But if you look into their eyes — hey pal, their eyes are up there — you won't find fear, just calibration. One or two monologues work precisely because of their simple delivery, stripped of sophistication and theatricality.

"I worked my way up the corporate ladder, and here I am," Greg explains.

You'll see the same calculating calm when the go-go dancers snake their way throughout the black box space, bumping and grinding against somewhat startled audience members.

Exuberant and exculpatory, "All-Male Peep Show" is worth dropping some tokens to see.

"All-Male Peep Show" will run through April 12 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets cost $30. To order, call 954-678-1496 or go to EmpireStage.com.

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