The shock and scandal of nudity in the American theater is no more, but it still affects how theatergoers respond, writes critic Misha Berson.

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The stage nudity wars are over, and won.

This isn’t a bold declaration. It states the obvious: The appearance of full frontal nudity in American “legit” theater no longer sparks the shock and scandal it used to. Not to mention the arrests and jail stints.

The times have been a-changin’ since the late 1960s, when the cast of the Broadway musical “Hair” broke a barrier by appearing au natural in the show’s finale. But it is premature to dismiss the impact nudity may still have on audiences, and on the theatrical act itself.

And if unrobed genitals or a bare breast can still trigger patron complaints, walkouts and even subscription cancellations, what is the more subliminal artistic effect on a production?

The question arose again with two new plays presented in Seattle, “Threesome” at ACT Theatre by Yussef El Guindi and Book-It Repertory Theatre’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” (an adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut novel), which included sustained, nongratuitous (to my mind) displays of full-frontal nudity.

Neither featured blink-and-you-miss-it flashes of male privates, as in a 1993 Seattle Repertory Theatre staging of John Guare’s “Six Degrees of Separation” that had subscribers up in arms. This is about the full Monty.

I’ll set the scene: In Seattle playwright El Guindi’s “Threesome,” which has ended its run, a young man visits a couple’s home for a prearranged menage a trois. Though his inhibited hosts stay garbed, their guest peels to the buff and spends most of Act 1 lounging on and around their bed, letting it all hang out.

The Book-It take on “Slaughterhouse-Five” (which closes July 3), adapted and directed by Josh Aaseng, creatively conveys the nonlinear saga of Billy Pilgrim, a bumbling Everyman who gets “unstuck in time” after witnessing World War II horrors.

Three different actors play Pilgrim as he zigzags through the space-time continuum from youth through old age. And the middle Billy often appears as a captive of the space-alien Tralfamadorians, who’ve stripped and caged him and a buxom porno actress to closely observe the pair’s every move and mating habit.

Maybe the most jaded (or desensitized) theatergoers would take such extended periods of in-your-face nakedness in stride. But this is America, built on Puritan bedrock, not Scandinavia. It remains, after all, taboo (and, on the street, illegal) to gad about in public sans clothing, and a display of frontal nudity in live entertainment is viewed as risqué. (The impact, though, has been blunted by what’s seen on film and cable TV, which routinely exhibits artfully arranged and brazenly flaunted flesh at a remove, and warns off non-adult viewers.)

Both Book-It and ACT gave advance warning to ticketbuyers that actors would appear in the buff. But placing a naked body before a clothed audience is still perceived as a provocative act.

While sexual titillation is the goal in X-rated nightclubs, nakedness can also be craftily used by artists to project humor and insouciance (a la the neo-burlesque craze), to advance a plot, set a mood, toy with our expectations and get under a character’s skin.

When in “Threesome” a man bares all and others cringe from him, it’s a deliberate, cunning stroke of theatrical irony underscoring the catalytic complexities of sex. The Egyptian American feminist Leila has arranged a tryst with two men to “take back” her sexuality after being brutally raped. But her intellectual strategy is interrupted by personal, political and cultural factors that get in the way of a liberating romp in the hay.

In “Slaughterhouse-Five,” the captive Billy and Montana languish in the raw as they do in Vonnegut’s book. But onstage, their predicament acquires an interesting sense of dual voyeurism: as the Tralfamadorians scrutinize their flesh so do we, turning the stage into another kind of display cage.

Practically, it can be hard to keep your audience focused on a play with nude actors strutting about. One can easily drift off into worrying about their comfort level ­— are the players warm enough? Are they embarrassed? Are we embarrassed for them?

Inevitably, biology and cultural biases are not suspended in the art. Nor are moral quandaries. Is it all right to keep your eyes riveted on the nude form? To judge it on a scale of attractiveness? To be aroused by it, or turned off by it?

Does the sight jolt you into hyper-awareness? Or offend you into shielding your eyes, or fleeing?

Theater is an artistic endeavor, therefore the aesthetics of stage bodies are as much a part of the experience as any other dramatic element. Our responses become part of the performance.

Actors know they are cast, to varying degree, based on their appearance. But their physical imperfections won’t be airbrushed in live theater, as celebrities’ are in magazines. Being so exposed can produce gooseflesh and other unintended physical consequences (use your imagination), or quaking terror.

It takes nerve and poise to be so vulnerable on a stage. And that vulnerability can be compellingly revealing. Watching the disrobed Quinn Franzen as Doug in “Threesome ” struggle with feelings of sexual inadequacy, and Erik Gratton as Billy Pilgrim, alarmed then pleased to be on display, I admired their theatrical commitment. It makes the great Rosalind Russell’s definition of acting as “standing up naked and turning around very slowly” even more true than usual.

As critics tend to do, I was analyzing my own reactions to their bare-it-all turns, which ranged from blasé to discomfited to fascinated. But how did my fellow patrons respond?

The ACT staff reports very few complaints about the nudity in “Threesome.” In fact, one woman bought tickets because a friend told her how distracting it was “seeing a penis onstage.” Apparently she needed to check that out for herself.

Book-It collected more, and more varied, relevant comments about “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Some patrons wondered why so much flesh was uncovered, for so long. Others were disgruntled. One decried the nudity as “cheap, unnecessary and campy.” A few were so offended, they exited early.

But there was no big scandal or hullabaloo over either of these productions by high-profile Seattle theater companies. That’s a sign that it’s less of a big deal now, but accepted as an artistic choice — or warmly welcomed. As one Book-It patron wrote, “I really appreciated the unashamed nudity … Americans in general are much too uptight about nudity and sex. Bravo!”