Last week I wrote a lot about tradition, about how, no matter how many times they've seen them, locals never seem to tire of the traditional Christmas shows: The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, etc.
Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. 4th St., has a few traditions of its own, traditions steeped in brazenness and adult humor. Anti-holiday traditions, if you will.
And, for many, they're traditions as beloved, revered and celebrated as their less-crude counterparts. While the theater may not offer the same show year after year, the same themes are presented, and they almost always include sex, drugs, perverse humor, foul language and brief nudity.
And this year, the Nightingale didn't disappoint.
The show was "Holiday Hootchie-Kootchie," a vaudeville-inspired production presented by the Horsemeat Fly Circus, which is really just a codename for the Midwestern Theatre players, led by John Cruncleton. The program promised live rock-n-roll music, shadow puppets, robot sexuality, high-concept, low-brow striptease and no-concept, high-brow burlesque. And boy, did they deliver.
Theatergoers were greeted by a large, bright green robot, wearing a peasant skirt and a crocheted shawl, warning us, "Do not watch this show. It is bad. It will ruffle your feathers, and not in a good way," all in its measured, monotone, robot voice.
My first thought was that the Horsemeat Flea Circus was doing this for legal purposes. The robot must double as the company's lawyer, and it's attempting to avoid litigation by warning us before we sit down of the "filth" that awaits us.
There was another warning, too, on the inside of the program I picked up on my way in: "Special props provided by Slumber Parties by Amy Lee."
Oh, hell. What did I get myself into?
I think the robot just used the word "disgustitude"...
The Filth Commences
When the lights finally went down, we were met by a grandma (Julie Seals) telling us that, since we did not heed her robot's warning and turn immediately away from the impending filth and run out the door, she was going to "incinerate our asses." Her "tool of destruction" (a big, purple vibrator) had little effect, and grandma was stripped down to her sexy underpants and a pair of red, sparkly pasties.
(At this point, you've either stopped reading, or you can't wait to see this show.)
What followed the naked grandma interlude was an hour-long series of short vignettes that offered a steady stream of sex jokes, half of which were clever and funny, and the other half of which were neither clever nor original, but still punctuated with a "ba-dum shh" of the drum. Still, most of the time, you couldn't keep yourself from snickering.
The "scenes" didn't really have much to do with telling a story; they were mostly an attempt to offer context to the jokes being told, and I thought this worked really well.
It was almost like the players were taking their turns at a stand-up comedy act, but they did so in costume and with other players, kind of like how porn flicks always attempt to include some sort of story line, even though that's the last reason you'd watch the video.
Intermittently sprinkled throughout the program were burlesque performances by Eye Candy's Ilsa the Wolf, obscure holiday videos, technology-themed jokes a la the robot and musical numbers by the band, which included a guitar, bass, drums and trombone.
There are a few moments here and there that play on the traditions of the holidays, like the scene in which three girls (Seals, Heather Sams and Cassie Hollis) are peeking at their presents under the tree when they see their mother (Sarah Cruncleton) canoodling with Santa Claus. As they sing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," their mother, who appears to be slightly intoxicated, starts giving Santa a lap dance.
The cast also carols "Deck the Halls"--naked, of course.
But to be completely honest, I really didn't think the show was as foul as the robot led me to believe it would be. Sure, there was a fair amount of nudity, cursing and sexual innuendo, but it was all in good humor and good fun. That, or maybe I've just seen so many shows at the Nightingale I've become desensitized to it.
The only time I questioned the taste of what I was seeing was during a video of Jackie Beat's parody of "Santa Baby." Her rendition is "Santa's Baby," a retelling of how Santa knocked her up (with "a bastard child, but at least it's white").
The video was pretty funny, until the moment she sang "Santa's baby is going to get aborted tonight/ But because of the conservative right/ I have to say I was raped that night/ (I wasn't.)"
While I can appreciate the dig at fundamentalist anti-choice activists, even I was a little shocked at the nature of the song. When it concluded, there was a soft, shocked chuckle.
A scene like that wouldn't deter me from seeing the show again, because the rest of it was 100 percent good (not wholesome) fun. The show is really an excuse to just have a good time. And I think most of the people who frequent the Nightingale Theater know and appreciate that. A little sex and obscenity isn't going to keep them away; in fact, it's likely to encourage their attendance.
If you've had all the good, clean, family-friendly fun you can handle and you want to get a little turned on while you laugh your ass off, "Holiday Hootchie-Kootchie" continues this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $5.
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