THE PORNOGRAPHER’ DAUGHTER at lives up to its name. Liberty Bradford Mitchell is the real thing: daughter of Artie Mitchell, who with his brother won the Cannes Film Festival Award for the ground-breaking “Behind the Green Door,” and who ran the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Street theatre that earned a “must see” in Playboy Magazine back in the day.
Liberty is the survivor of a crazy-ass childhood, viewing porn when she was in grade school, in a world of reefer and coke and free love and loony people all around.
Her mismatched parents—her mom the black sheep of a Eastern Establishment family who ran away to the Summer of Love, and her infamous dad, the son of a Okie poker player—lead off her story of her upbringing in a wildly contradictory, counterculture universe.
The climax is the events and trial of the murder of Artie by her brother Jim. Her story is not unlike a distaff Hamlet, and invokes the lines, “I, the son of a dear father murder'd, / Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, / Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words, /And fall a-cursing, like a very drab, / A scullion!
Video by Skye Borgman is used expertly in a blend of her childhood photos with her family and clips of X-rated movies including the famous one with the with Marilyn Chambers-- the girl on the Ivory Snow box turned porn star
Producer/designer Jeff set has just enough to evoke the mood and for practical movement including the brilliant touch of a scarlet/purple plush seat encircling a round pillar onstage; stage right there a looming and provocative Green Door. His lights are the greatest. They follow her expertly, and transport you to the interior of that famous place at the corner of O’Farrell & Larkin—with which this reviewer was all-too-familiar in his younger days.
The band is named “The Fluffers” and the joke was not lost on the rowdy bourgeois/bohemian crowd (if you don’t know what a “fluffer” is, maybe this show isn’t for you—or maybe you need to see it to round out your cultural education—anyway): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluffer They were perfect accompanists, getting the crowd in the mood, and providing emphasis for Liberty, and backing her on the one song she sang with a trained, talented, and heartbreaking voice.
Our star is a very pretty and wholesome 43-year old blonde mom who looks younger with sparkling blue eyes and rounded features. She is a graceful, compelling and sexy dancer, and we keep hoping for the next time she takes a turn. When she sings the one song, we hear a soulful and talented voice.
But she’s not an actress. If this wasn’t her show, you wouldn’t want to see her up there. In this auto-biopic she pokes fun and nearly everything in her life while letting a little pain seep through, but still it is presentation in an overdone fashion. Which is probably good for us, because putting the gloss on this Cain and Abel family story with a seamy underbelly makes it good fun and palatable while the lascivious side seduces us into having a damn good time. The l’envoi about her work with women is misplaced and undoes the tone which needs an uplifting end rather than a moral about this seemingly amoral time and enterprise.
While Director Michael T. Weiss does an excellent job of staging, developing a non-actress into an off-handed and realistic delivery requires a diligent coaching that most directors aren’t equipped to do which was not obvious in the final product.
In another incarnation, and I think this show “has legs,” we hope that the delivery gets more polished and more of her soulful singing is integrated.
No matter my picayune comments, it is a great story, a rousing good time chock full of Bay Area history and plenty of erotica and an fun weekend happening with shows at 8 and 10 pm.
The Pornographer’s Daughter
Z-Space (Z-Below Theatre)
at 450 Florida @16th St.
San Francisco CA