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Flash Review 2, 2-13: "Jill in Brazil"
Trowing Orchids with Pulvermacher

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2001 Chris Dohse

"Jill in Brazil," seen Sunday at the Flea Theater, is the second installment of Neta Pulvermacher's successful, year-old "The Orchid Show." Both chapters are narrated by "Jill St. John," a drag queen, lip-synching orchid fancier, surrounded by a rolicsome bouquet of hothouse beauties in astroturf and plastic, dancers who double as potted plants and backup singers. The Brazil episode takes the passionate Ms. St. John on a mythical journey South, into a mysterious cave, in search of specimens of her beloved flora. Along the way she encounters song, dance and storytelling on the primordial origins of the orchid family. She even stops to whip up a batch of orchid ice cream.

The basement theater of the Flea is an awkward, intimate space, wide and shallow, with odd windows and narrow passages cut from its back wall. This polka-dotted space is oddly effective for the direct appeal of this wacky children's theatre. Pulvermacher uses its windows and doorways to separate and punctuate the action.

Jeremy Laverdure, as St. John, strikes a perfectly supercilious purple-wigged chic. Tami Stronach provides the real voice for the narration, and carries the biggest share of sung parts as well, with zest. The other flowers are Jason Marchant, Maile Okamura, Brittany Reese and Tracy Dickson. All throw themselves delightfully into their roles.

Beware, misanthropes! Your faces may crack. This show is billed as a "hilarious show for the whole family" and its matinee time slot ensures a healthy attendance of rug rats. A mandatory Q&A afterwards requires you to stay in your seat for extended exposure to the wee ones. The twisted humor of the piece is actually too sophisticated for the very small, although one little boy was intrigued by the occasional flash of underpants. A degree of tension exists between the whimsy of the work's simplicity and its potentially subversive naughtiness. The color and sound and basic shenanigans work on a primary level, regardless of camp content. Certain other references can be appreciated over the heads of the diminutive. The awkwardness of parts of childhood are represented as well. A story of Jill's childhood wish to become a flower is abetted by the use of fetching hand puppets.

The original "Orchid Show" and its all-dance predecessor, "River of Orchids" were presented first on the program, which continues Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. through February 25, with a 1 p.m. show February 21. For more information, please call 212-226-2407.


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