Well, I played hooky from my niece’s first birthday party this weekend, and my nephew’s third. With fourteen (soon to be fifteen) nieces and nephews, it’s inevitable that sooner or later I’m going to fall short on the uncling duties every now and then. On the other hand, I had the best excuse ever: boobies.
Yes, it was once again time for the New York Burlesque Festival, and like last year, we went to the Saturday Night Extravaganza at BB King’s. More on that in a moment.
We spent the first part of the day at Manhattan Theatre Source, enjoying the first week of the Estrogenius festival, which has grown into a sprawling, five-week celebration of women-produced, women-centric theater. (That isn’t to say that there are no men involved; there are, at every level. But there are women central to every short play; the Bechdel Rule wins the day here.)
(Incidentally, this seems to be a habit for us. Each year, before we go the the NYBF -- which, while a woman-centric art form, has at its core an admitted amount of objectifying -- we've gone to see other woman-powered art. Last year was a collection of short films by Chick Strand at the New York Film Festival.)
This week’s plays were produced by TheatreSource’s executive director (and my good friend and first—albeit fictional—wife) Jen Thatcher. Five short plays that ranged from two older women rather testily discussing the college dean that bound them together to a zombie attack in the land of fairytales. Quite a range, and every play in the show really hit the mark. For the fifth week of the festival, one show from each of the four weeks will get an encore, as determined by audience demand. Me, well… as much as I loved Olivia Rorick’s performance in Katherine Clark Gray’s “Pussycat,” I’m hoping for more zombies. (That play, by the way, was called “Snow White Zombie,” written by Brenton Lengel, directed by Lita Tremblay.) Estrogenius continues through October 30.
Then, after a stop for crepes, we were off to the Burlesque Festival, meeting our friends Mike and Maria in the line outside of B.B. King’s. And oh, what a show! There was a little something for everybody, as the show began with Mimi First dressed like a cross between Zatanna and a magician’s rabbit, stepping (one leg at a time) out of a giant top hat. There were classic peels, as done by Miss Indigo Blue and Adora Derriere (who used sound effects to great advantage, following the advice of animal sounds telling her to remove fur, feathers, and eventually, a whalebone corset). There were sillier moments—such as Delilah’s attempt to climb into a giant pint glass of PBR, but her tight dress was simply too constricting to get the job done properly, Dr. Lucky’s portrayal of Marie Antoillette, or when the Evil Hate Monkey, well… peeled his banana. There was room for a little geekout: witness Lux La Croix’s energetic robot dance, or Gigi La Femme’s transformation from Episode IV’s diaphanous Princess Leia to the Leia costume Jabba prefers. And there were a few social statements as well: Ms Tickle made a thought-provoking transformation from blow-up doll to a Live Nude Girl, still trapped in the same station; later, Tigger took on the persona of a merman in the oil-choked Gulf of Mexico to a lounge version of “Black Hole Sun.”
As Lyle Lovett sings, there’s more I remember, and more I could mention —and hell, let me tip my hat to the amazing Miss Saturn, who managed to disrobe whilst twirling hula hoops!—but description to a certain extent diminishes these acts. These were amazing, eye-popping performances that pasted a smile of disbelief on my face and kept it there all night.
And there’s only one word for that, as emcee Murray Hill well knows: Showbiz!