Nude for better or worse

Kathleen Turner shows all in stage version of "The Graduate."

By Jack Boulware
Published April 3, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

Since the invention of television and the motion picture projector, theater producers have had to modify the art of live performance in order to remain financially viable. Building ridiculously large and complex stage scenery, designing tripped-out light shows, dressing actors in silly cat costumes, anything to draw the rubes into the tent.

The most recent theatrical ploy to fill seats is also one of man's oldest allures -- bare-ass nudity. After actress Nicole Kidman stripped down and showed her Australian assets in the Broadway play "The Blue Room," tickets sold out for the entire run. And this spring, a theater in London's West End has employed the identical gimmick for a staged production of the film "The Graduate." The actress in question: Hollywood star Kathleen Turner. And to answer the next question, she is 45.

Preview audiences burst out of the Gielgud Theatre last week,
kicking their tongues all the way down the sidewalk, reports the British press. Word of mouth spread quickly of Turner's ecdysian efforts, and ticket sales immediately doubled. The ticket hotline was flooded with hundreds of calls, almost all from men, who suddenly felt compelled to go out on the town for a night of theater as soon as possible.

In the 1967 film, the Dustin Hoffman character is seduced
by the older Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft. This scene built tension by showing Bancroft slowly removing her stockings, deliberately teasing the young trembling Hoffman. The new production eagerly dispenses with such dramatic nonsense, and shows Turner emerging from a shower, only to drop her towel on the floor. She plays the rest of the scene in the buff.

Turner is no stranger to racy roles. In the film "Body Heat," she had no problem getting naked and chewing a pillow for her sex scenes with William Hurt. The scenes caused a big stir and, as is so often the case in Hollywood, elevated her status and asking price.

But let's be honest here. That was way back in 1981. People grow older, gravity takes its course. Which may be why the lights are dimmed throughout the nude scene in "The Graduate."

Producers of the show at the Gielgud Theatre claim the sudden media attention and increase in ticket sales is because of the quality of their show. But just in case people haven't heard of the initial buzz, the Gielgud has also thoughtfully released some publicity shots of Turner in her underwear.

A few years ago, when Kidman stripped down in a London production of "The Blue Room," a Daily Telegraph journalist slobbered over the moment as being "pure theatrical Viagra." But there is obviously a difference between Kidman and Turner. A tongue-clucking reporter for the Guardian says "The
Graduate" will be much different: "Unlike Kidman, whose miraculous lack of cellulite kept the nation's growing band of post-feminist columnists in copy for weeks, Turner is a lumpy, bumpy middle-aged woman."

Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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