Trav S.D. on Downtown Theater

March fizzled; April’s all about burlesque!



The Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre’s “Revolution!?” at Theater for the New City proved a disappointment. Missing from this production were the beautiful old hand-carved puppets and verbal wit that had charmed me so much in their “Johannes Docktor Faust.” Instead, the troupe presented a series of improvised and rather aimless clown bits, none of which seemed to illuminate the historical events they were supposed to represent. The segments were supplemented by run-of-the-mill circus turns like stilt-walking and juggling (with occasional cameos by marionettes), all at a somewhat less than dazzling skill level.

Over at the Kraine Theatre, DM Theatrics production “Two Gentlemen of Lebowski,” while undeniably pleasing the vociferous Lebowski clique in the audience, was also not this reviewer’s cup of beer. While the direction and acting were at the company’s usual high level, I found the play itself (an adaptation of the Coen Brothers movie “The Big Lebowski” translated into rather inexpert Shakespearean) to be a one-joke idea that would strain a ten-minute sketch to the breaking point. More of a formal stunt than a play, it works best at those points where director Frank Cwiklik blows off the script and brings his own ingenuity to bear. The audience ate it up though; it’ll probably stay open ten years.

Lastly, while not ordinarily a fan of fight-driven theatre, I did enjoy Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company’s “Alice in Slasherland” at HERE Arts Center. The production benefited mightily from Qui Nguyen’s dialogue (which managed to straddle both “rich, funny and real” and “send-up of horror movies” both at the same time.) I was a little turned off at the description of the plot in the press release (concerning high schoolers who must vanquish demons from hell. What, again?). However, the vehicle is so formally excellent on so many levels (performance, design, special effects) that it won me over in short order. You’ll find more pontifications, in a special roundtable discussion with editor Scott Stiffler and actress and director Audrey Crabtree in the March 31st edition of The Villager and the April 2nd edition of Downtown Express).


Now that spring is upon us and hearts begin to stir (or something), I thought it might be fitting to open with a couple of interesting-sounding burlesque shows. April 2nd will see the launch of “Sextacular! Sextacular!” The title, I think, says it all, or at least most of it: a conjuring of the Moulin Rouge as imagined by Baz Luhrman, with contemporary NYC burlesque mixed in. More novel is the promise of “punk rock cancan girls and [the] rocket-fueled glam rock band Starbolt 9.”

I saw one of co-producer Joey Nova’s previous shows (“The Go-Go Killers”) about a year ago—which I was less than impressed by; but the “Sextacular” publicity picture of his co-host Erika Smith (made up like the Green Fairy from the storied absinthe bottle) bodes well. “Sextacular! Sextacular!” will be at the Bleecker Street Theatre at 10:30 p.m. every Friday in April.

Saturday, April 3rd is the date of a sacrilegious smackdown entitled “The Burning Bush vs. The Second Coming” in which Jewish and Christian burlesque performers will vie to outdo each other in defiling Passover and Easter. If the event is as hilarious as its title, it should be a hoot. Furthermore, you get to “cheer for your favorite prophet and see which side wins.” Just like life! The better than usual line-up includes Dirty Martini, Nasty Canasta, Johnny Porkpie, Tigger,  Lady Rizo, and co-producers The Schlep Sisters, among others. This affront to God and man will be at Le Poisson Rouge: more info at

Target Margin’s “The Really Big Once” examines the artistic relationship between stage director Elia Kazan and playwright Tennessee Williams, and how at the height of success, they collaborated on “Camino Reale”, Williams’ experimental and highly unpopular turkey—I mean, script. Target Margin’s current season is devoted to an exploration of Williams’ more experimental works, most of which are more obscure than obscurity (and with justification). The company presented numerous of these works at the Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn throughout March, climaxing with “The Really Big Once”—which will be at the Ontological-Hysteric Theater from April 15th through May 8th. For more information, see

Another play about a play, or rather an “experimental video theater work” about a movie based on a play, is Reid Farrington’s “Gin and ‘It’” — which premiered in this year’s Under the Radar Festival and is set to re-open at 3LD Art & Technology Center April 24th (running through May 9th).

3LD is all about the gadgets —and Farrington’s work fits into their usual fare, integrating as it does video with live theatre. The current show is an exploration of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope.”

If the visual arts are more to your taste as subject matter, there’s always the revival of Charles L. Mee’s bobrauschenbergamerica by SITI Company at Dance Theater Workshop (April 22 through May 16). Directed, as it was the first time around in 2001 by artistic director Anne Bogart, the play takes on a collage-like structure that mirrors the technique of artist Bob Rauschenberg himself. This is a rare chance to see the much-lauded production back on its feet. For details, go to

Lastly, on the very last day of the month, Claudia Shear (best known for the Broadway smash “Dirty Blonde”) will premier her new play “Restoration” at New York Theatre Workshop. In “Restoration,” the actress/playwright portrays a struggling art restorer who suddenly gets her dream gig sprucing up Michelangelo’s “David” for the sculpture’s quincentennial   (that’s 500th birthday, folks).

Having arrived at full frontal nudity and Claudia Shear, I see that we never really left the topic of burlesque after all. Yet another manifestation of Einstein’s “Curved Space” theory. See you next month!



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