The Home for Wayward Girls and Fallen Women
nytheatre.com review by Megin Jimenez
August 9, 2008
In our world of commercially driven sexuality, where it's now normal to surgically remake your body into an idea of perfection, and hardcore porn is just a mouse-click away, burlesque—tassels and all—may just be the most subversive act around. The Home for Wayward Girls and Fallen Women invites us for a much-too-brief hour into a pan-sexual, post-feminist party. Here, seduction coexists comfortably with the absurd, and each and every body, because of its singularity, offers tantalizing possibilities.
The setting is the basement of the Home, a speakeasy-cum-reformatory for bad girls. Tucked away in a lush Spiegelworld circus tent behind the bustling tourist mall that is essentially the South Street Seaport, the goings-on in here do indeed feel illegal. The conceit that ties the performances together is ostensibly a fundraiser; the cause varies with each date, as do the host and performers. On this particular evening, host Cherry Pitz (Cyndi Freeman, also the producer and co-creator), looking as beautiful as a drag queen, is seeking to bail out a sister in the slamma'. Channeling the spirit of 1950s baby-voiced vamps who are just misunderstood ("That's not what I meant! You have such a dirty mind!"), she bares a little more creamy skin with each new act ("Ooooh! My back is so naked!").
Stripteases of all moods ensue, ranging from the classic feather fan dance of Veronica Varlow to the hilarious Miss Brooklyn as a sexy lady clown letting loose (yes, giant floppy shoes and all). The boys are invited, too—TIGGER! (James Ferguson) transgresses as a Catholic priest who energetically bares more than his soul. Meanwhile, Martha Stewart and the FBI threaten to shut down the high jinks, but soon can't help but be drawn in. For the audience, hooting and hollering is mandatory (good "Burletiquette," as the program declares). It is this inclusiveness, as well as a historical awareness and a sharp sense of humor, that makes the revue such fun. It's a feeling of having stumbled into a bar outside of the space-time continuum, where the best bits of sexy 20th century aesthetics (early jazz, false eyelashes, garter belts) have been gathered together for some smart and sensual dancers to play with.
While future shows will feature different story lines and casts, I'm pretty certain they will make it as hard to leave this enticing place as it was on opening night.