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Personapalooza! It’s yesterday once more, when Theater for the New City hosts 1960s Warhol superstar and Velvet Underground centerpiece Nico. Born Christa Päffgen in pre-war Cologne, Germany, she’d grow up to assume the guise of a Teutonic chanteuse who captivated Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Jim Morrison — while making her mark as a distinctive artist whose glum monotone was (and is!) ripe for parody. Something much more than that is offered by gifted satirist Tammy Lang. A longtime NYC performance scene presence as country/gospel crooner Tammy Faye Starlite, Lang as Starlite channels the singer/songwriter’s genuine greatness and undeniable goofiness, in “Nico: Underground.”
Anchored by Starlite’s dead-on vocal performance, the show functions as a jukebox musical (a “cavalcade of non-hits”) as well as a recreation of actual encounters Nico had with journalists (via Jeff Ward’s portrayal of The Interviewer). While Nico’s dour worldview is played for laughs, this production has genuine artistic merit. Starlite does a fascinating job of coaxing emotion from that iconic monotone, and the classic songs (including “Femme Fatale” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror”) benefit from the top-notch musicianship of Keith Hartel (bass, guitar), Richard Feridun (guitar), Ron Miracle Metz (drums), Dave Dunton (keyboard) and Craig Hoek (sax, flute).
Sept. 11–28. Thurs.–Sat. at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 3 p.m. In the Cabaret Theater, at Theater for the New City (155 First Ave., btw. 9th & 10th Sts.). Tickets: $15. For reservations, visit theaterforthenewcity.net. For info on the artist: facebook.com/tammyfayestarlite. Twitter: @tammyfayenyc.
Peculiar Works Project continues their tradition of site-specific productions, by setting “3Christs” in the sanctuary of Judson Memorial Church. Co-playwrights SM Dale and Barry Rowell based their script on a psychological study that took place in Michigan’s Ypsilanti State Hospital from 1959-61. Betting that he can cure three paranoid schizophrenics with one harsh dose of reality, Dr. Milton forces them to live together. Eventually, he reasons, all will have to admit that they can’t possibly be the one true Jesus Christ. Good intentions, bad idea. The overconfident doctor soon finds himself playing God — to varying degrees of success.
As the delusional patients are manipulated by a series of indisputable truths and convenient lies, the nurse charged with overseeing their day-to-day existence begins to question both the ethics and effectiveness of destroying one’s core belief system. “Perhaps,” she reasons, “psychosis represents the best terms some people can come to with their lives.”
Through Sept. 28. Thurs.–Sun. at 7 p.m. In the sanctuary of Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South, at Thompson St.). For tickets ($18), call 866-811-4111 or visit peculiarworks.org.
— BY SCOTT STIFFLER