Arias with a Twist
nytheatre.com review by Matt Roberson
September 16, 2011
After a massively successful run in 2008, Arias with a Twist is back, offering sights and sounds that will surprise even the most veteran of theatre -goers. The word “spectacular” is often used in live art, but rarely is it as earned as in this production. Giant dancing devils. Neon Tron-esq alien probes. A garden of Eden that’s Thanksgiving for the eyes. With such a bountiful feast for the senses, you’d think Arias with a Twist would have no trouble holding the rapt attention of its audience. And yet, in lacking a story worth following, I left feeling intrigued, impressed, even titillated, but not full.
The light, throw-away story offered by creators Basil Twist and Joey Arias is that Arias, after being abducted by aliens, is dropped to earth. Dazed and confused, she begins desperately trying to find her way back to New York. The journey takes her through a sumptuous jungle, the fires of hell, and into the streets of our city, with a bedazzled mushroom-induced diversion along the way. Truthfully, however, this slight skeleton is really just a way to hold together the production’s many vignettes and songs. Had Arias’s dilemma been more compelling, the lulls that occur might not have been so distracting.
That being said...WOW. What one witnesses on stage at Arias with a Twist is like nothing else. Basil Twist and his sweaty but smiling team of puppeteers create a world that, at some point early on, begins to seem very, very real. Or at least preferred. A place where music is not just heard, but felt, and where danger has never seemed more fun. It’s one thing that Twist’s brain can create this level of imagination. That he can so effectively translate his ideas on stage, however, is staggering. And while Arias’s campy over-acting could use some editing, when he sings, or goes off-script to speak with his audience, the magnetism is palpable. He’s a star in certain parts of New York, and it’s easy to see why. Funny, emotional, and bawdy, Arias offers a deliciously captivating persona of X-rated fun and classic urban-American glamour.
Though a real emotional pull is missing, Arias with a Twist is still a success in that it assures the child in all of us that, as we once believed, anything is possible. Boundaries can be erased, and the imagination can indeed come to life. We’ll need a team of ninja-dressed puppeteers to make it happen, but it is possible.