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Porn Yesterday

Daniel Breaker and Cheyenne Jackson are just your average pair of old high school buddies in David West Read’s “The Performers.” | CAROL ROSEGG

[Editor’s note: On November 16, the producers of “The Performers” announced the show would close on November 18 — so move fast if you care to see it.]

BY DAVID KENNERLEY | If Neil Simon got together with Robin Byrd and banged out a play, it might be something like “The Performers.” Written by Broadway newcomer David West Read, it’s a giddy romp about romance, jealousy, revenge, and cum shots.

The throwaway plot, which centers on married adult film stars named Mandrew (he came up with that stage name all by himself) and Peeps, is about as cheesy and filled with holes as your average plotted porn video. Which surely was a conscious choice by the playwright to mesh with the subject matter.

The setting is a Vegas hotel that’s hosting the annual Adult Film Awards — a seriously big deal in the porn community. Mandrew’s high school buddy, Lee, has come to town, along with his fiancée Sara, to interview him for a probing profile in the New York Post. But when the straight-laced couple gets swept up in the excitement of the porn world and caught in the friction between Mandrew and Peeps, who are both up for major awards, manic melodrama ensues.

Not that it really matters. For it’s the often witty, ultra-bawdy banter delivered by an uncommonly relatable, sharp ensemble that makes this trifle of a play irresistible.

In a surprise move, the doe-eyed Cheyenne Jackson (who last year married his longtime partner, Monte Lapka, by the way), hailed on Broadway for his mellifluous vocals in “Finnian’s Rainbow,” “Xanadu,” and “All Shook Up,” is showing off his comic chops this time around. And much more, for the script requires him to strip down to his tight blue Superman undies, confirming, without a doubt, that the amazingly ripped and plucked 37-year old has indeed got talent.

Sporting a dorky long hairstyle, he infuses Mandrew with an innocent affability that draws us in even when delivering inane lines like “I used to jack off to ‘Where’s Waldo’ books. There, I said it.”

Daniel Breaker (“Passing Strange”) is spot-on as the bumbling, ascetic Lee who wonders if he’s making a mistake marrying his high school sweetheart before experimenting sexually with other women.

As his fiancée, a repressed math teacher, Alicia Silverstone turns on the squeaky charms she perfected in “Clueless” to fine effect. While her Sara gleefully makes fun of the porn biz, mocking titles like “Spontaneass,” she hints that spontaneity — especially of the kinky sexual kind — could be precisely what’s missing from her life.

Playing Chuck Wood, in the wise, over-the-hill porn star role, the gray-haired Henry Winkler is miscast. I love his Fonzie-esque brashness as much as the next guy, but the actor is pushing 70. Legendary penis or no, Chuck winning the Best Male Performer award over Mandrew is, shall we say, hard to swallow.

It’s Ari Graynor’s turn as Peeps that steals the show here. Not only does she take an annoying stock character — the shrill, ditzy blonde who won’t be pushed around — and make her lovable, but her comic timing is flawless. Her fear of becoming a MILF before her time is real, and Graynor makes us feel it. Nina Arianda (“Venus in Fur,” “Born Yesterday”) better watch her back.

Jenni Barber does her best with the flimsy role of an even more clichéd character, Sundown LeMay, who has enormous fake breasts and a tiny brain.

If this is one of the more frivolous endeavors to appear on the Main Stem this season, it’s also the raciest. As with “The Book of Mormon,” rude, if not downright offensive, material is cloaked in the mantle of old-fashioned comedy so they can get away with it.

The weirdly funny exchange where Mandrew gets the stodgy Lee to re-enact his nominated scene from “Planet of the Tits” — the one where two buddies are simultaneously pounding two chicks and high-five each other during the act — is scarcely your typical Broadway fare. Later, when Chuck boasts he’s got a big penis, an inebriated Sara counters, “Guess what? I’ve got a big vagina.”

Such sexual shenanigans are tempered with family values. Mandrew and Peeps discover they are going to have a baby and face those challenges like any ordinary loving couple would. There’s a strong emphasis on connectedness and friendships. “We’ve got history” is a sentiment uttered more than once.

As it should, “The Performers,” directed by another Broadway first-timer, Evan Cabnet, zips by in 90 minutes without intermission. This is not a message play, unless you count “Porn stars are just like us.”

No doubt about it, this bumpy, raunchy enterprise achieves some rousing moments. Pity we can’t fast-forward through the senseless patches. Or press rewind to watch the money shots again and again.

THE PERFORMERS | Longacre Theatre | 220 W. 48th St. | Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun at 3 p.m. |  $34.50-$112 | telecharge.com

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