Let's not mince words. Any man who devotes a show to the subject of his own penis has way too much time on his hands. Puppetry of the Penis would be Exhibit A were this theory ever to be tested in a court of law. The commercial success of a show in which lunatic Australians twist their scrotums and related parts into sculptures for general amusement only underscores this point. To think, they could be reading Jane Austen instead (though, come to think of it, they could probably do both). Some nations invent rocket ships and computer systems. Genital origami is the best Australia can come up with?
Antonio Sacre is a Cuban-American, Los Angeles–based storyteller and solo performer. His show, My Penis — In and Out of Trouble, has been performed in Fringe theater festivals in Chicago, New York and, most recently, in Hollywood. Theatre Asylum is hosting an extended run of his reflections upon where his penis has landed him in life.
To get him off the hook for a moment, Sacre's show is not really about his penis. He doesn't show it, let alone contort it. The show is really about the contortions of storytelling, his profession. His penis is the tool — literary tool — by which he addresses his story about storytelling, because his penis is probably among his closest living relatives, at least, closest to his heart.
The latest version of My Penis, firmly directed by Paul Stein, is a story about performing a story about his penis. Sacre fully expected it to destroy his career as a children's storyteller, which funded what he describes as a meager existence. It was one of those decisions made by some Dostoyevskian character bent on self-destruction. That's how he sets it up, before he crawls onto a floor filled with photographs from his childhood.
"My penis at age 1." Sacre's Cuban grandmother tries to rub oil on his privates — a tradition, he says, to bestow largesse on the organ upon its coming of age. His mother howls in protest, but his father defends Grandma for doing exactly what his grandmother did to him as an infant.
And so, with photographic evidence, Sacre rolls through the years: a preadolescent episode with a neighbor-friend in which the boys wound up kissing and holding each other naked. A first ejaculation, which led to Mother banning said friend from the house. His first bewildered glimpse of a nude girl, a school friend who posed for him in a game of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
Eventually comes rejection by a soon-to-be female fashion model, because of his multiple premature ejaculations.
With amiable, confident delivery, Sacre reports, as though from a diary: "I marry the first woman I like who I can make come repeatedly." The marriage, not surprisingly, soon dissolves.
He's convinced that the show's rave reviews in New York will lead to the dissolution of his career telling stories to kids, but there are no dire consequences. "I have it both ways," he proclaims.
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This is true, until he appears on a panel in Boulder High School, in Colorado, as part of a Conference on World Affairs, on "Sex, Teens and Drugs," in which Sacre quips about how awkward a condom can be for arousal. This, along with other remarks by other panelists, is picked up by Bill O'Reilly and, according to Sacre, twisted into the panel's hyperbolic condoning of sex and drugs. O'Reilly doesn't let it go, and soon Dennis Miller joins the Fox News host in a bash-fest, to continue what appears to have been entirely faked outrage.
This "debate," based on quotes removed from context, lingers on the Internet, a kind of speech that's become one of the contortions of our culture, matched by our inability to engage in a serious conversation about much of anything in a spirit of honest inquiry. This is the crisis of our storytelling alluded to by Sacre. A story is part of a conversation. How can you have a conversation in a culture that has scant interest in listening?
Sacre's show is reflexive and reflective in the same breath, candid without being exploitative, a work that strangely, through the treatment of its ideas, reveals the virtues of narcissism — if the look inward is actually part of a search for something beyond one's own groin.
MY PENIS — IN AND OUT OF TROUBLE | Written and performed by ANTONIO SACRE | THEATRE ASYLUM, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. | Sat., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 28 | (800) 838-3006