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Flash Review 2, 3-30: Honest, Twisted
Muz Muses on Molls and Dolls
By Karinne Keithley
Copyright 2001 Karinne Keithley
I'm putting on my Henry Mancini record
to write about Julie Atlas Muz's "Love, Guts, (cha cha cha)," which opened last
night at P.S. 122, though it's a poor substitute for the '60s Polish chanteuse
that would clinch the mood just now. Add some cheap liquor, a lady dashing by
in a trench coat, perhaps a round table with a lamp on it and some red velvet
wallpaper and a well-timed entrance of chorus girls and I'd be half way back.
If the recent New York Times article about the latter days of Las Vegas showgirls
made you sad that you may have missed your chance to discover the magic of girls
in sparkly underwear with giant feather fans, I'd suggest checking out this tres
The form of "Love, Guts, (cha cha
cha) is a series of related vignettes, a burlesque revue. There's lots of pink,
plenty of weapons, a swank line-up of tunes, alternately oppressed and empowered
generic factory-worker ladies, victorious fists at the end of songs, four large
feather fans, and lots of murder. The charming thing is that it's all contained
within the recognizable form of show-girl dancing. Each number generally takes
the theme of the woman on the edge, though always in rhythm. I favor the sections
with women in trench-coats and heels, a lo-fi "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" look. Frequently
the punctuating moments involve pulling a gun (the publicity mentioned a high
body count), but these shots yield a sweet pleasure when they pick off a line
of ladies one by one, all dropping in a well-timed wave.
There's a loose trajectory of frustration-violence-suicide-ghost
dance-rousing finale. Even as the show moves toward the point where half the cast
kill themselves (their stabbed, poisoned, hanging bodies only to become the set
dressing for an Yma Sumac bright pink mambo), the humor doesn't feel dark -- it's
too vampy to be disturbing. There is, however, something very lovely about it,
something I can't quite put my finger on, all this dejection and depravity with
such a swanky sound score. When, toward the end, the pacing of the show slows
down and the simple couching of a twisted situation in a high-kick musical form
is lost, the critical energy drains a little.
A show like this brings up the issue
of reference, a traffic in a certain mode which has a comforting nostalgic wit,
but relies on its throwback status for its style and comedy. (For example, the
mind-numbing parade of '70s, then '80s styles in recent fashion.) Muz, however,
manages to avoid the easy pitfall of straight reference by creating something
which is more in the spirit of revival. An honest, though twisted, burlesque.
"Love, Guts" continues at P.S. 122
through Sunday, with shows at 8:30 p.m.
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