Stacy Layne Matthews's
The Homo’Nique Show
July 29 -31,
2011 @ 7:30 PM
The Laurie Beechman Theatre | The West Bank Cafe
Reviewed by Kelsey Ehlert
Stacy Layne Matthews
of RuPaul’s Drag Race gave a fantastic
performance in a drag version of Oscar winner
Mo’Nique’s BET talk show, The
Mo’Nique Show. Matthews hosted the
live talk show parody in New York for only three
nights the weekend of July 29 and audiences packed
in like sardines. Friday’s performance sold
out with a guest lineup which included Carmen
Carrera and Amanda Lepore.
The Laurie Beechman
Theater offers cozy dinner seating; guests arrived
early and immediately began drinking as Adele’s
latest album played in the background. The anticipation
was palpable as Matthews dramatically entered
through the back and walked through the crowd,
bowing and kissing cheeks along the way. Many
gay murmurs could be heard, including, “Damn
Stacy, you look good, girl!”
delivered a few well rehearsed jokes all prefaced
with “Bitch,” before giving the audience
an opportunity to ask questions. A saucy older
gentlemen inquired, “Mo’Nique, what’s
it like having drag performers recreate your look?”
Her response was
met with a fierce round of applause, “Bitch,
you haven’t arrived until someone’s
done a fierce tuck of you!”
as Mo’Nique was great, Rick Syke as Liza
Minnelli was superb. It’s fair to say you
haven’t lived until you’ve seen a
drag Liza shake her ass to a cabaret version of
Beyonce’s "Single Ladies." She
stole both the show and Beyonce’s dance
moves. Tommy Fernia as Judy Garland was also remarkable.
As a duet, the two were show-stopping.
The first of Mo’Nique’s
official guests was Carmen Carrera, made famous
by Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag University.
She glided through the crowd and left a thick
perfume trail in her wake. She was beautiful in
person, but surprisingly shy and inarticulate
included transgender icon, Amanda Lepore, and
Randy Jones (the original cowboy from The Village
People). Jones was hilarious and also intoxicated—he
walked on stage with a glass of Kettle One on
ice and offered it to Mo’Nique, who graciously
took a sip before changing the subject.
All in all,
Homo’Nique was entertaining and
the venue appropriate. The West Bank Café
offered delectable eats like Truffle Mac ‘n
Cheese and a Butterscotch Toffee Parfait. Stacy
Layne Matthews was a great host—sharp, beautiful,
we think you’re going places!
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
| The West Bank Cafe | 407 West 42nd Street
At 9th Avenue
Hollis Witherspoon as
Maya Swan, Rosie Sowa as Calista Grey
& Gavin Starr Kendall as James in
Whale Song or: Learning to Live With Mobyphobia
Whale Song or: Learning to Live With Mobyphobia
Sunday August 14th @ 2:15PM
Thursday August 18th @ 2PM
Monday August 22nd. @ 6PM
Wednesday August 24th @ 7PM
Saturday August 27th @ 9:30PM
The New York International Fringe Festival –
The First Floor Theatre @ LA MAMA
Reviewed by Arlene McKanic
father is dead. He’s not only dead, but
his death was absurd; he died trying to swim with
a killer whale in its tank. Or was he offering
himself to the killer whale as a sacrifice? So
begins Claire Kiechel’s play Whale Song
or: Learning to Live With Mobyphobia.
James Swan’s death has unhinged his daughter,
a New York city preschool teacher who’s
decided to hole up in her apartment and push away
all that represents life and a hopeful future.
This includes her patient boyfriend Mark, and
her practical sister Sarah, who’s taken
upon herself the task of sorting out their father’s
stuff without her help. Maya actually hires a
drummer from Craigslist to bang the drums in her
apartment, the better to drown out the rest of
the world. But Maya is sinking into unreality;
now and again she’s tormented by the songs
of whales, who she’s come to equate with
death. Lo and behold, a real humpback whale has
taken a wrong turn and found itself up the Hudson
River. Maya, in her mad, grief-stricken state,
half-believes that she’s summoned it.
Keichel’s play couldn’t be anything
but a comedy, and in spots it’s screamingly
funny and full of lovely New York twists —
a line about people who smoke clove cigarettes
on the High Line got one of the biggest laughs
of the evening. Keichel hilariously intersperses
Maya’s scenes with bits of a newswoman interviewing
various people about the whale, including a save-the-whales
type, a psychic, a bureaucrat from the Bloomberg
administration, and ordinary folk who’ve
come to whale watch. Yet, the playwright’s
skill is such that the humor always contains an
undertow of sadness, and even tremors of metaphysical
terror. Maya’s father’s death reminds
her that he will be dead forever, and one day,
she too will die, as will her eager and fresh
faced little students, and their parents, and
the whale that’s found its way into the
river. Indeed, the whale, sickening in the river’s
fresh water and pollution, is probably going to
die before any of them.
Brad Raimondo directs with the deft, steady hand
that’s necessary for a play that hops in
and out of reality. Christopher Heilman also does
a good job with his lighting design, precisely
illuminating this character or this part of the
stage for the best emotional wallop. His scenic
design is also clever. The play begins with a
forest of boxes behind Maya’s sofa, which
also serves as a screen for the projections of
sea life she shows to her students. At play’s
end, the boxes are gone, like Maya’s delusions.
A nod should also go to costume designer Sarah
Reever, especially for the shawl Maya wraps herself
in like a cocoon, as well as Sam Kusnetz for his
impressionistic sound design, including the spooky
Hollis Witherspoon is funny, poignant and a little
exasperating as Maya. Witherspoon makes the audience
feel the disorienting depth of her loss, but why
must she push everyone away? And what is up with
her hiring this drummer? The drummer, by the way,
is played with a loopy bravado by Jordan Douglas
Smith. Siri Hellerman is great as Maya’s
levelheaded sister, and Ryan Feyk makes the audience
identify with his put upon, strangely innocent
Mark,who wants to be there for Maya as much as
she’s determined to reject him. Gavin Starr
Kendall, clumping around in red shorts, is also
good as James and other roles. Rosie Sowa is funny
as a ridiculous, but recognizable, reporter who’s
determined to make everyone believe that a lost
humpback whale is the greatest story ever told.
An meditation on mortality and whales, Whale
Song is part of the 15th Annual International
Fringe Festival. It will be at LaMama, 74 East
4th Street, till August 28.
or: Learning to Live With Mobyphobia was
produced by the Dreamscape Theatre and directed
by Brad Raimondo.
LaMama | 74 East
Silence! The Musical
Closes September 24, 2011
Theatre 80 St. Marks
Music and Lyrics by Jon and Al Kaplan
Book adapted by Hunter Bell
From an original screenplay by Jon and Al Kaplan
by Frank J. Avella
Back in August of 2005 I called the Fringe presentation
of Silence! The Musical “hands
down the best musical this year so far.”
It took way too long for this irreverent, rude
and madly entertaining show to finally hit the
NY stage, but the results were worth the wait.
Had it not been for Book of Mormon—another
scathingly satiric yet spectacular show, the quote
above could easily apply to 2011!
Silence! is a smart, side-splittingly
funny parody of the 1991 film Silence of the
Lambs which starred Jodie Foster and Anthony
Hopkins--both won Academy Awards for their astonishing
performances as did the film, it’s director
Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally (based
on the novel by Thomas Harris). This “unauthorized
parody” follows the film’s plot rather
faithfully -- and skewers it rather mercilessly.
To fully appreciate the extraordinary job the
creative craftsmen have accomplished audience
members should see the film at least once. There
were a few youngins the night I saw it that seemed
a bit lost while the majority of patrons were
hysterical with laughter at the ghastly joys and
delicious delights being offered up onstage.
The musical opens with a chorus of human lambs
singing the haunting title tune, which feels like
a blend of the original Howard Shore movie score
with some ‘Ballad of Sweeney Todd’
As Clarice, Jenn Harris enters jogging intently.
When she speaks, in her exaggerated Jodie Foster
lisp, she sets the satiric bar pretty high. That
bar is blown into the stratosphere with the appearance
of Hannibal Lector (the amazing Brent Barrett)
and his first power ballad, ‘If I Could
Smell Her Cu--.’ This is the show’s
signature song and is sung with just the right
amount of seriousness and camp while a rather
off-color ballet featuring dream sequence versions
of the two characters is simultaneously staged.
Those offended by the song have missed the point
entirely and may as well leave since more nasty
and base moments and numbers are waiting in the
The best parodies require a hyper-heightened infusion
of the most memorable moments from the original.
This is accomplished to near-perfection here.
There are very few clunker moments, although some
of the kitchen-sinked comedic gags do fall a bit
flat but most of them soar.
The score (by Jon and Al Kaplan) is exciting and
affecting with the Act One finale “Quid
Pro Quo,” a rousing standout number where
Lector and Starling tango it out.
Buffalo Bill’s songs are appropriately inappropriate
and wicked and Stephen Bienskie delivers them
with evil glee.
Christopher Gattelli’s direction is inspired.
The man does so much with the lowest of budgets.
Most of the Fringe cast is back and even more
pitch perfect—the best among the best being
the shameless Jeff Hiller and Deidre Goodwin,
who has the best line in the show.
Jenn Harris, who has stamina and speech slurs
to spare, pays homage to her cinematic counterpart
by diving in and squeezing every drop of broad
mimicry out of Foster’s performance. Harris
is a gem of a comedic actress, even when her vocals
are just okay.
The casting of Brent Barrett is genius. He never
tries to do a Hopkins impersonation. He does,
however, emulate his charm and elegance as well
as his chilling charisma. And no matter how vulgar
his Hannibal is asked to be, he always adds that
dash of grace. I love the dizzy Airplane-like
touches like having him clean his glass with Windex
and Barrett does it with such sophistication.
Oh, and his voice is crazy-fantastic!
The entire Silence! team kicks Lamb ass!
It’s a delectable delight that should have
a long life.
Tickets $25.00 to $65.00 | 212-352-3101 &
80 St. Marks | 80 St. Marks Place
New York, NY 10003