After the final curtain of Landless Theatre Company’s Haute Mess, I sit in stunned silence. My mind spins with the outrageous things that occupied the stage in front of me. As my widened eyes return to normal and I manage to close my gaping mouth, I begin to try to piece together what I have just witnessed.
The show is, in my best approximation, a sort of fairy tale about three insufferably dense models who decide that they are going to form a union to protect their right to always have gum in their dressing rooms. On their quest to secure this, the ladies meet a demonic Anna Wintour (Wikipedia tells me she is the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue) and her faithful minion Boba Fett of Star Wars. Rounding out the cast of characters, the models also encounter a malnourished Ethiopian child brought to New York to walk the runway and Barbara, a dissenting mole person living in the tunnels beneath Manhattan.
Just a quick note: all roles are played by three actors in drag.
The bizarre plot line, as told by three men in bad wigs and pantyhose, is just the beginning of this outlandish and ultimately baffling show. First up, the technical aspects: Actors spend a significant amount time in the dark where no attempt has been made to light them. Elaborate sound cues are used not to stylistically add to a scene but instead to all too realistically capture the sound of models vomiting.
In addition, the use of props is considerably inconsistent. One pivotal scene is comprised entirely of the three frantically typing into invisible smartphones, and yet the audience sees not one, not two, but three fake vaginas. Three of them.
by The Other Baldwins
at Fort Fringe – Redrum
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
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The actors are their own brand of ridiculous. Model #1, Laila (Lucrezia Blozia), leads the pre-show distribution of the aforementioned gum and is the first to reveal her lady bits to the audience. Blozia’s ditzy fashionista is spot on, but she often seems to get lost onstage and lacks the specificity to pull off such quick character shifts. Model #2, Yasmine (Helen Highwater), has perhaps the largest range of characters to portray— shifting between good-natured grandmother, exotic diva, and terrified wide-eyed foreign child. Although she excels at differentiating her characters, Highwater’s comic timing is a bit off and leaves some promising jokes un-landed.
Patty O’Furrnatura completes the cast as Model #3, Bracelet. O’Furrnatura’s Bracelet is somewhat unremarkable but she shines in the role of Barbara, a deranged mole person with mysterious ties to Anna Wintour. The audience is truly anxious when Barbara leads the models into her gloomy maze of tunnels and threatens them with what lies beneath her skirt. However, her masterful character work is overshadowed by the clumsily-integrated social message within Barbara’s loathing for the shallowness of today’s fashion world.
Haute Mess is distinctly reminiscent of a scattered nightmare. The peculiar plot makes little to no sense. The actors play so many characters that sometimes they are forced to have altercations with themselves. The ill-conceived moral is only alluded to within the chanting of a crazed weirdo.
Although certain aspects will be burned into my mind for a long time (*cough* mole person genitalia *cough*), I am going to do my best to forget this show as quickly as possible.