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Jun 15 2021
Buffing It At CAMP MORNING WOOD, A Nudie Musical Not For The Clothes-Minded Comments (0)

Morning-wood-gay-boycultureCamp Morning Wood — where self-loathing isn't optional. (Image by Aaron Cooper)

As the NYC theater scene tentatively puts its toe in the water post-pandemic, it's no surprise that the bawdy musical Camp Morning Wood is taking the plunge early, and with gusto.

The show — performed largely in the raw by its hard-working cast — is back for a limited off-Broadway run at the Asylum Theatre in Chelsea, just in time for Pride, and without any shame.

Conceived and directed at a frenetic pace by Marc Eardley, the goodnatured show follows uptight Randy (Thomas Delgado), who, while obsessing over a just-out-of-reach twink, crashes his car deep in the woods, fortuitously close to notorious gay nudist let-it-all-hangout Camp Morning Wood.

Escorted to the grounds by the instantly smitten Derek (Chris Ogren), he meets zee French ow-nair, Jacques (Brady Vigness) and campers Hunter (Anthony Logan Cole) and Titus (Da'Merius Ford), and is soon forced to face his own insecurities as everyone else freely cavorts in the nude around him. Could this be the self-accepting space he needs to realize his priorities are nakedly out of whack?

Before he has time to piece it all together, Kincaid (Sean Stephens) is on the scene. This mean gurl is the very twink extraordinaire living rent-free in Randy's brain. The bubble-butted babe had a blasé three-way with Randy and his ex that left our hero with a complex. Even worse, Kincaid, whose vapidity is deliciously dished out by Stephens, is aggressive-aggressively teaming up with Snidely Whiplash-level baddie Sen. Dick Snatch (Shelton Lindsay), a churchy politico whose second deepest desire is to buy and demolish the camp to make way for a right-wing compound. (His deepest desire — spoiler alert — is dick.)

The show is not much to look at, but scenery would feel almost rude with so many naked bodies around. Still, anyone seeing Camp Morning Wood for cheap thrills will be disappointed. The guys are easy on the eyes and come in various shapes and sizes, but the show is relentlessly cute over erotic, and earnest over prurient.

Surely, these actors have the worst jobs in theater — full nudity in a tiny space while singing and dancing and attempting to deliver both laughs and insight via the book and lyrics by Jay Falzone, which are sometimes outrageously funny (as in the song “Anything's a Dildo If You're Brave Enough”) and other times on the granddad side of dad humor. But even without superlative vocal skills, they are usually above the material.

The biggest musical impacts are made by Ford, whose “A BBC's Lament” mocks the fetishization so many Black men endure, and by Stephens, who — in a conceit that could draw protests from the #FreeBritney crowd — actually lip-synchs his grand entrance to hammer home the point of his character's deep shallowness.

Too many of the show's songs, while spirited, are forgettable, chiefly because they're frequently homages to other works. One major exception: the rousing, Broadway-ready “Rise and Shine!”

That said, Shelton steals the show as Sen. Snatch when he appears and warbles the X-rated “Ballad of the Righteous” with a tent-revival confidence that would do Marjoe Gortner proud, and a stage-savvy swagger that rises and shines above all else. I think his number alone is enough to make the show worth carting your vaccination card to Chelsea.

Camp Morning Wood isn't going to stick with you forever, but if you can embrace the silly and can forgive a sweet, slight show for forcing an intermission on you, you probably won't be desperate to get back to civilization anytime soon, either.

Camp Morning Wood is registering campers until June 20. Tickets here.