To say Ronnie Larsen is obsessed with sex could be an understatement.
He’s written plays about seedy Times Square peep shows and cruisy truck stops. Larsen has taken audiences behind the scenes in the gay porn industry and even sent a prim and proper Mormon mom onto Grindr. And his plays almost always offer at least a hint of male frontal nudity — except that one about the mom.
But Larsen’s latest play, “Sauna,” opening Aug. 20 at the Foundry in Wilton Manors, is a little different. It’s set in a straight gym and sex isn’t condoned.
“They come, they go, in and out. Men of all ages, races and body types and sexual orientations. Relaxing, drying off, cruising, touching. It's not legal to have sex in this particular sauna, not in this one. But does that stop them?” said Larsen.
This is just a sauna in an ordinary gym but when Larsen puts a bunch of horny naked men squeezed together in a tight, hot and sweaty box, well things are bound to happen, right?
“They have to be careful. A guy was arrested there last week. But, isn't that part of the excitement, the danger? And who wants to play and who just wants to be left alone isn't always clear at first,” Larsen teased.
Larsen was inspired by a two-man play submitted for his consideration by William Ivor Fowkes, called “Steam.” Larsen liked the setting, but envisioned a very different approach with a larger cast and credits Fowkes, even though he didn’t borrow any of the characters or plot lines.
Larsen’s play even works in celebrity cameos among the many vignettes inside the sauna. On the first weekend, local businessman and Wilton Manors Commissioner Chris Caputo will be making appearances. Caputo is also a board member of POW! (Plays of Wilton), Larsen’s nonprofit producing partner.
“I've never been on stage in a towel before but I'm really looking forward to it,” Caputo admitted in an email promoting the show. “Also, please don't text my boyfriend next week and tell him you ran into me in the sauna over the weekend. He's in Portugal for two weeks and might not understand the context!”
Larsen even put out a public invite to SFGN publisher Norm Kent to participate during the run.
“I already mentioned him in the show, so wouldn’t it be perfect?” chuckled Larsen.
Larsen did note some changes to operations at the Foundry, following a COVID-19 scare. One of the original cast members was diagnosed with the virus, sending all the actors and Larsen to be tested. Fortunately, none of the others tested positive, but the producer resolved to require masks again for audience members in the intimate, 40-seat theater space. Cast members will continue to be tested regularly throughout the run.
“It’s really changed my perspective,” Larsen said, pointing out his theater was one of the first to resume live performances last year after the pandemic forced the closure of performing arts venues across the country. “I’m beginning to think this is the new normal, as [the pandemic] keeps going on because people won’t get vaccinated.”
Ronnie Larsen’s new play “Sauna” will be performed Aug. 20 – Sept. 25 at The Foundry, 2306 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets start at $35 at RonnieLarsen.com.