"Peep Show" Format Returns to Times Square

By Roseanne Colletti
|  Monday, May 17, 2010  |  Updated 9:34 PM EDT
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One performer, one audience member, now in <a title=Times Square for a limited time." />

One performer, one audience member, now in Times Square for a limited time.

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This is truly an intimate performance.

A man opens the door to a small black box -- "a theater."  You sit down alone in the tiny booth. The panel in front of you slides back to give you a peep, and you see a woman -- playing a ukulele.

This may not be exactly  the common frame of reference for what's known as a "peep show," but it is what has just opened in Times Square.

This is "Theatre For One" as created by Tony-nominee (for "American Idiot") Christine Jones.

"I wanted to distill it," Jones told NBCNewYork, referring to the relationship between performers and the audience. "I realized there was precedent for this in the form of peep shows, confessionals, and Maxwell Smart's  'cone of silence.'"

She said she even toured midtown sex shops for inspiration.

In fact, the only seat in the "audience" comes from a peep show vendor.

"It's a new seat, not used," quipped Jones before we could even ask the obvious question.

"These shows are not X-rated, they're just tributes to Times Square's colorful past," said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance, a sponsor of the free entertainment.

True, the crossroads of the world was punctuated with porn palaces and peep shows until the big clean-up in the 1990's.

But that was then. Now tourists on line  to get into "Theatre For One" should expect short musical numbers, puppet shows, magic acts, poetry and other readings.

"I felt like I was transported back to Victorian times. It was enchanting," commented Geri Reichgut, in for the day from suburban Long Island.

The portable show palace, not much bigger than a Port-a-Potty, is constructed of road cases, black and silver boxes you've probably spotted stuffed with equipment at rock concerts.

"I play the upright base in there and people are 'whoa' when the door opens," said musician Saskia Lane, after she entertained us with a ukulele.

Do people clap?

"I don't know if the sound of one person clapping is something I want to hear," said Lane.

"But it's always a full house," asserted magician and actor Steve Cuiffo.

The presentations are three to 10 minutes in length, revolving around a different theme each day through the run of show, which ends Sunday.

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