Seasonal schmaltz making you farklempt? Tarnish that tinsel with a refreshing nip of filth in The Kinsey Sick’s raunchy holiday roundelay Oy Vey in a Manger.
The Aaron and Cecile Goldman Theater at Theater J has seen some sights in its time, but probably not four men in perfectly-coiffed drag singing seamless a capella harmony (they call themselves “dragapella” and a “beauty shop quartet”) while doing things like tossing pubic wigs out into the audience or gyrating suggestively atop a dreidel. The beauty of the Kinsey Sicks is that they are equal opportunity parodists—gays, straights, Christians, Jews, liberals, Republicans all get the non-PC treatment. Nothing in this fast-paced musical revue is sacred or off-limits and thank God for that.
The San Francisco-based drag quintet specializes in twisted reinterpretations of holiday classics—and this being Theater J, we’re not just talking about Christmas. You may never look at Yiddish folk songs or klezmer music exactly the same way after seeing the Sicks. Cockles-warming, chestnuts roasting by an open fire—we won’t even go there.
In Oy Vey, members—oh God, here I go again, I can’t help myself—Rachel (Ben Schatz), Winnie (Irwin Keller), Trixie (Jeff Manabat) and Trampolina (Spencer Brown) are dashing around a ticky-tacky living room where bras are strewn over the Christmas tree, boas draped over the menorah and a lampshade, and cocktail glasses are tipped over the end tables. The foursome are in a dither because their house, which is actually a manger—THE manger—has to be sold so they need to spruce up a bit before the real estate open house.
In between tidying up and trading barbs, Rachel thoughtfully toots her pitch pipe so everyone can launch into the kind of four-part harmonies that would make the Glee cast chartreuse with envy. From the first number, a ditty about what gays and lesbians have in common—the need to look like 12 year old boys—set to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” the Sicks transport you to a tuneful and tasteless world where wisecracks about the Christ child (“Mary: I’m giving birth to the son of God. Rachel: You and every other Jewish mother.”), glittery lip-gloss and Perry Como-style crooning peacefully co-exist.
It’s difficult to pick your favorite from this fishnet stocking of goodies. Is it the re-imagining of the “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” song to “I had a little facial/I made it out of clay,” which goes on to rhyme with Beyonce? Or is it the diva-like Trixie, who in man-eating mannerisms reminds you of Vanessa Williams, expressing her longing to produce the devil’s spawn in “Satan Baby,” containing the memorable refrain “come and mortal sin me tonight.”
Trampolina, who combines the best of both worlds—Doris Day’s perkiness and Rock Hudson’s gayness—brings innocence and a certain, ahem, enthusiasm, to the lyrics of “Oh, What A Night,” set to “O Holy Night” and detailing “the night I did porn.” Twice.
The boppy reggae ditty “Don’t Worry Be Happy” gets turned into a witty tribute to tsuris by Rachel and Winnie in “Don’t Be Happy…Worry” while “Silver Bells” chronicles the manic upside to crystal meth usage. Holiday hook-ups are celebrated in “Oh Come, Ye Unfaithful,” “Where the Goys Are” and a variation on “Feliz Navidad” that I cannot repeat without getting heat from PETA.
Beyond their schtick and sniping, the Kinsey Sicks are gifted singers and physical comediennes. With Oy Vey, they provide a naughty but nice antidote to Christmas carols, fake good cheer, and heartwarming family fare.
Oy Vey in a Manger
Written and featuring The Kinsey Sicks: Spencer Brown, Irwin Keller, Jeff Manabat and Ben Schatz
Presented by Theater J
Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard