Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Arias With a Twist

Photo: Steven Menendez

The four musicians are elegant and graceful. The bass player is cool and contained. The piano and drum players banter with the singer. The trumpet player may be her lover.

The four musicians are puppets, just a few of the dozens of magical Basil Twist creations playing, floating, threatening, dancing, slithering, and screwing their way through Arias With a Twist (developed by Twist and Joey Arias). Twist's puppets include aliens, Busby Berkley showgirls, hyper-well-hung devils, an octopus, and versions of Joey Arias ranging from minute to gigantic. Twist also designed the scenery, giving us a jungle, hell, outer space, and the New York City Skyline, each a cornucopia of detailed delights. You could examine the jungle backdrop for an hour and not see everything. In Arias With a Twist, the sets and puppets--and puppeteers Lindsay Abromaitis-Smith, Chris DeVille, Kirsten Kammermeyer, Matt Leabo, Jamie Moore, and Amanda Villalobos--rate five gold lamé stars.

The sole non-puppet performer, Joey Arias, sings like Billy Holiday and does physical humor like the "demented diva" he is famous for being. His faux tap dancing is great fun. I found him cold, however, and often unengaging (however, I'm not his target audience).

A bigger problem I had with the show is that too much of the humor is the same tired and predictable sex jokes that drag queens have been beating to death for decades. Granted, the audience, mostly gay men, loved the humor. They started whooping and cheering and howling before the jokes were even told, which makes sense--in many ways, the show is a huge in-joke gay party. But I'm not a gay man, and I am disappointed that Twist and Arias did not use their prodigious imaginations to come up with writing more original than the usual bitchy humor and penis and penetration jokes. (I'm also not clear why the sound had to be eardrum-destroyingly loud.)

I feel as though I saw two shows. One was tiresome. One I loved.

(press ticket, eighth row on the aisle)


jan@broadwayandme said...

I'd been debating whether I should see this show and none of the other reviews—including Brantley's in the NYTimes—helped. But you've given a wonderfully vivid picture of its plusses and minuses that is really much appreciated. Kudos.

Wendy Caster said...

Thank you, Jan!