The Kubrilesque audience enters to incessant click-clack of a typewriter, the province of an intense, hard-drinking man and a reference that if you don’t immediately get it might just mean you’re not the target audience here.
Yeah, that’s Jack (Neil Freuen) up there, whose alcohol and spirit-of-an-evil-hotel-possession-fueled fever dreams provide the narrative connective tissue for a night of burlesque homage to the works of Full Metal Jacket auteur Stanley Kubrick.
The evening starts off promisingly enough, with a tutu-clad Gee Gee Louise haunting Jack’s visions and offering a quick middle finger to any cro-magnon types who might have wandered in seeking a cheap strip show. Louise is by far the night’s most technically proficient dancer and sets a gender-bending high bar the rest of the show only rarely approaches. The night proceeds more or less chronologically through Kubrick’s fifty-year directorial career with each of the night’s bits tending to fall into a formula: iconic Kubrick scene + music (sometimes from the film’s era, sometimes contemporary) – clothes.
Kubrilesque is at it’s best when the dancers trust the audience to keep up with what’s being parodied without pounding them over the head. Mindi Mimosa’s playful riff on Lolita coolly, effortlessly embraces Lola’s put-on nonchalance, nailing the tone of the film while simultaneously being hot as fire.
It’s an appropriately inappropriate moment in a night that often seems hung up on being taken too seriously. Other highlights include Kat De Lac’s German-themed Paths of Glory riff (that giant pretzel sets this year’s early Fringe high water mark for weird-ass props) and Lady Rockwell’s very, uh, patriotic tribute to Full Metal Jacket. And oh yeah, there’s stripping 2001 monkeys.
by Crystal Swarovski
at GALA Theatre at Tivoli Square
3333 14th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20010
Details and tickets
But where some single bits work like gangbusters, attempts to class up the joint with something as unnecessary as a plot fall flat. The story, such as it is, revolves around attempts by the Dr. Strangelove military cabal going to censorious war against a production of Jack’s film script, with the ultraviolet assistance of the Clockwork Orange droogs. None of it makes much sense and mostly serves an excuse to include some very ill-advised singing and acting.
It is a form of bad luck, perhaps unique to CapFringe, that being gifted the impeccable, refined, air-conditioned Tivoli Theatre hamstrings one’s show. The lack of intimacy creates a remove that ends up mildly lethal to the proceedings. Some performers seem at a loss on how best to work such a large room and the lengthy, sometimes confused transitions between bits deal a major blow to the evening’s pace. It’s an unfortunate case of awesome place, wrong time.
(Note to CapFringe: how could you not put a show about the works of Stanley Kubrick in the REDRUM? Opportunity: missed.)
The Kubrick homages in Kubrilesque serve as a high-class version of the pop-cultural thematic linking material that has become de rigeur for the recent (and very welcome) burlesque renaissance. This year alone DC hosts troupes producing whole shows individually honoring Game of Thrones and the oeuvre of Joss Whedon.
I’m sure there is a whole Ph.D. dissertation to be written about the rise of geek culture, the fall of gender norms and their dual influence on what titillates the Millennial Generation. I applaud Swarovski and her troupe’s attempts at stretching the boundaries of the format. There’s certainly fun to be had with sexy riffs on the guy who brought us Eyes Wide Shut, but an ill-advised attempt at high-concept respectability ends up hampering what is otherwise a night of hyperliterate, sexy, gender-norm tweaking fun.