Thrills, baby, thrills!

Keep your hands and feet away from the host: Mr. Choade, of “Mr. Choade’s Upstairs/Downstairs.”

Catch Kat Gang fever, and other fine fetes

BY TRAV S.D.  |  Ah, summer! While all you suckers were out in the country camping, swimming and sailing, I’ve been taking advantage of the warm season the New York way — by sitting in a darkened, tomb-like pen crammed elbow-to-elbow with a bunch of strangers. I’m speaking about (of course) the theatre. I’ve got no regrets, though. I caught some amazing stuff this month.

Unable to hold my thirst for horror till the Halloween season, I was only too glad to catch Nosedive Productions’ “Freaks from the Morgue,” the latest in a series of gorefests curated and hosted by a pair of bald ghouls called The Blood Brothers. The tomato soup was flying all over the place and we even saw a guy’s head get cut off. Beneath the special effects were some tight little one-act plays. But what am I, an English teacher? I gotta have thrills, baby, thrills! I also caught the always surprising (not to say shocking) Tammy Faye Starlite’s performance as Nico in “Chelsea Mädchen” at the Duplex. Her normal shtick is a potty-mouthed Christian singer. So it was cool to see her essay a smack-ridden, tone-deaf Berlinese rocker for a change. And while we’re in that part of Europe (nice segue, eh?), I also managed to catch “The Pig” by former Czech President/playwright Václav Havel (at 3LD, presented by Untitled Theater Company #61 in the Ohio Theatre’s Ice Factory Festival). In addition to live opera and interactive video, audience members were also treated to pork sandwiches. That’s what I call statesman-like behavior!

But what’s past is prologue. Onward into August
If you’ve got a Thursday night free (any Thursday night), I recommend a trip to Casa Mezcal on Orchard Street — where you can witness the sordid spectacle that is Mr. Choade’s Upstairs/Downstairs. This is a project of the Slipper Room in exile (their normal digs are still being refurbished). You never know what they’ll have on tap but I will tell you that the last one featured the London Seal Boy Matt Fraser (a thalidomide “freak” with flippers) wrestling with “little person” Rosabelle Selavy. Hey, look, I don’t judge. If they’re willing to do it, I’m willing to watch it. The rest of the usual bill is full of burlesque dancers like Ruby Valentine (who did a Vampira number in the last show). It’s all hosted by the manufactured freak Mr. Choade — a sort of cross between Morey Amsterdam and the Child Catcher from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Be brave, chillun, be brave. And for info, go to slipperroom.com.

August 6 is the opening day of Theater for the New City’s annual street theatre production “Bamboozled! Or the Real Reality Show” — which they describe as a “rip-roaring musical” and “a little operetta for the street.” TNC’s free presentation has been going strong for about four decades, and is one of the last holdovers of the heyday of political protest theatre. Without Vietnam, Nixon or even Reagan to rail against, it tends to be a Mulligan stew of progressive causes (but I haven’t missed one in seven years). Written and directed as always by TNC’s founder Crystal Field, the community-spirited romp always has plenty of sweetness and charm. It’ll be touring all five boroughs through September 18. For a complete schedule, see theaterforthenewcity.net.

The second big event at TNC this month is the return of their new annual Dream Up Festival. Curated by Michael Scott-Price, it features “theatrical visions embracing drama, poetry, music and dance” by presenting two dozen shows in TNC’s four spaces (August 14-September 4). Of particular interest to this observer are “Buried Alive! A Matchbox Theatre” by the brilliant clown Deborah Kaufmann, and “Anna Nicole: Blonde Glory,” written by Grace Cavalieri and directed by Shela Xoregos. For the schedule and tickets, go to dreamupfestival.org.

That festival will of course have an avalanche of competition from the granddaddy of summer theatre events, the New York International Fringe Festival (now in its 15th year). With 200 shows in 20 venues, it’s nothing to sneeze at — particularly when one of those venues is the Bleecker Street Theatre (which is being specially re-opened after its well-publicized shuttering last October). The festival runs from August 12 through the 28. I would really be lying down on the job if I didn’t start by telling you about my own entry, the “American Vaudeville Theatre 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza,” a variety show — produced and hosted by moi — that’ll be ensconced in the aforementioned 45 Bleecker.

As for the OTHER 200 some odd productions? Puh-leez! True to its name, a lot of the shows in the festival cleave to a certain aesthetic (which is called “Hey! Look at me!”).  Scanning the catalog, the shows that jump out at me, and club me on the head, are legion.

The one with the best capsule description might be “The F*cking World According to Molly,” starring the high-sterical Andrea Alton — who describes her endeavor thusly: “Molly ‘Equality’ Dykeman is a poet/security guard at PS 339 and a lovable train wreck who is having her first poetry show. Will bed bugs, Percocet and sissy kids get in her way?”

Then there’s “Gleeam” — a mash-up of “Glee” and “Scream.” And you don’t have to be a psychic to have predicted THIS one: “The Legend of Julie Taymor, or The Musical That Killed Everybody!” Musicals about musicals are one thing, but they may be preferable to musicals about lots of other things. For example, there’s “Jeffrey Dahmer Live,” which asks the musical question, “Can you relate to the man who killed and cooked his lovers?” And then there’s “Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera” in which “guidos and guidettes” strive to “get it in” (I think they must mean “get it on,” which is scarcely more appetizing).

My eyes lit up when I saw the title “I Light Up My Life” — hoping against hope that it would be about the late casting couch masher Joe Brooks. But alas, the first person here applies instead only to the show’s author mark Sam Rosenthal — creator of last year’s Fringe hit “Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire.” Class? Well there’s plenty of class in the festival. This doesn’t pretend to be a representative sampling, just some of the stuff that speaks to ME. Call it the festival’s “John Waters Wing.” At any rate, you can get all the dope yourself at fringenyc.org.

Lastly, if you absolutely MUST have class, as an alternative to the lurid pastimes mentioned above, might I recommend that you stop in to Arcane (on Avenue C) to hear the talented Kat Gang sing jazz? Kat is a lady’s name in this case. She is not a group. I managed to catch her act the other night and found her to be an Ella Fitzgerald-esque dilly. In short, she’s a Kat who scats. If you want to check her out, try katgang.net.

See you next month!

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