Thursday, January 23, 2014

"The Pornographer's Daughter" ☼ ☼ ☼

Liberty Bradford Mitchell has a pedigree, children. Actually, she has two. The first, from her mother's side of the family, takes her back to the Mayflower and Boston society. The second, from her father's  side, gave her a close-up and personal ride into the great pageant of San Francisco porn. With a story like this, and a fine sense of how to hold an audience, Bradford Mitchell's "The Pornographer's Daughter" will rivet you to your seat --- the good way.

It's pretty graphic, folks, at least on the video screen above the stage. Bradford Mitchell was born in 1969, the year the Mitchell Brothers opened their O'Farrell Theater as an outlet to screen their home-made pornographic shorts. Her stories of how brothers Jim and Artie catapulted themselves into mainline cinema and a screening at the Cannes Film Festival with "Behind the Green Door," the first feature-length pornographic movie ever made, starring the Ivory-Snow girl Marilyn Chambers, is absolutely priceless. Bradford Mitchell's personal revelations are terrific too -- like how she hated being "named Liberty in a world of Heathers and Jennifers."

The dark side is there, and we get the sense we've only heard the half of it. Her father, Art Mitchell, was arrested 187 times and her uncle Jim 188. Of course, the last time was when her uncle murdered her father. Liberty's last words to her dad must haunt her to this day.

But that's where the show stops being fun and starts being just weird. Nothing made sense in real life and it doesn't on stage either. Bradford Mitchell's behavior at her uncle's trial, and therefore her depiction of those days, make you ask a lot of questions. It's hard to know what to think.

Music is provided on-stage by The Fluffers. Their finest moment is when they play riffs from '60s songs as the show is opening. We could definitely use some more interplay between Bradford Mitchell and the band. Also, she needs to get some of her facts straight -- USC is not in Watts, for example. She needs to check her dates about Francis Ford Coppola.

None of this is to deny the power of this amazing tale. We come away with respect for a woman who has been through a lot and come out on the other end unapologetic for the way her father and uncle made their living. As she says about her family: "We put the fun in dysfunction." 

(And Marilyn Chambers was really beautiful. Just sayin.' )

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ 
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Pornographer's Daughter" Three Stars. It is well worth seeing, but suffers from a believability issue, capped off by her tears at the end. They ring false for the character on the stage we have seen laughing everything off with a wave and a F-bomb. Liberty Bradford Mitchell is a tremendous talent. Who could be surprised if "The Pornographer's Daughter" still has a few kinks?

"The Pornographer's Daughter"
Z Space Below
470 Florida Street, San Francisco
Thu-Sun through February 16

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