Step Right Up!

Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic: More Tales of Sex and Death
Written and Performed by Dandy Darkly
Directed by Ian Bjorklund
Hot! Festival 2014: The NYC Celebration of Queer Culture
Dixon Place, NYC
July 11, 2014

Describing this deeply hypnotic, often horrifying, sometimes sentimental -- and in the end -- wildly entertaining performance piece is indeed a toughie. This task brings to mind what an academic might have been faced with if assigned to write a critique of T.S. Eliot, himself, doing a live recitation of The Wasteland. What could a scholar have written as a review of such a reading? Perhaps she/he might say “I was totally engaged and mesmerized by the presentation,” or “the listeners sat transfixed in pin-drop silence while Mr. Eliot discharged his words.” Later, our academic’s copiously annotated and footnoted analysis will appear in a university press journal, leaving those who see it only as dry “assigned reading” wondering what the big deal was. Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic is a totally engaging and mesmerizing show. The audience was in silence, pitched forward to catch every word. But if I were to quote the script out of the context of the whole work, you’d probably wonder why I was impressed too. 

Well, I was decidedly impressed, as Mr. Darkly held the audience in rapt attention for a full hour, taking us into multi-textured depths of darkness, and astonishing flights of the blithest of fancy.

Like Eliot, Mr. Darkly is a solo story teller and his words (albeit delivered with an outlandish energetic bombast of which Eliot was incapable) draw the audience into his vivid world -- and sustains that "other world" in such a way that the viewer’s customary reality is put on-hold for the duration of the performance. He has written these stories in what could be called prose poetry, and the rhythms, alliterations, puns and portmanteau words, coupled with his fine-tuned skill as a teller of tales, are a feast for the ears, and the eyes. Dandy Darkly attires himself as the crown-prince of all fops, with a miniature top hat, rouged cheeks, golden cummerbund, white lace gloves and feathered wrist ornaments fluttering in time to his broadly coquettish, dramatic gestures. 

Dandy Darkly has described himself as a story teller of “supernatural sleaze and homosexual horror.” He opens Pussy Panic by declaring, "I am New York City’s celebrated, desecrated, inseminated storyteller of tawdry tales of sex and death,” and tells of his “pussy panic,” which is loosely a sort of reverse "penis envy." He then launches into a collection of four stories, linked by fascinating segues. The stories could be considered as something akin to campfire stories, only that this outing is located in the protagonist’s satirical and bluntly graphic alternate universe. The first story tells of a young lady’s magical genitals, which become a patriarchal clubhouse (and much, much more). The second tells an undulating saga of a superstar, known for her endless series of “reinventions,” seeking her final, end-all-and-be-all reinvention. The third involves an elderly lesbian, a former construction worker, residing in a drab assisted-living home. She gains and loses romance with a former high-wire circus performer, who is now a colorful grand dame of her own self-invention. The last story (and most horrific) tells of an arch-vicious queen, a “mortician to the stars” in Hollywood, who attacks his work with enormous show business bravado, ultimately applying his craft to his own grotesque self-destruction. 

Mr. Darkly’s stories are marvelously augmented with original music by pianist Adam Tendler and percussionist Rachel Blumberg, working in conjunction with Bryce Edwards. Directed by Ian Bjorklund, this performance piece flows perfectly from tale to tale, from noisy to serene, from poignant to horrific. 

The stories in Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic are pointedly preposterous, but the audience seemed willing to surrender themselves to their dark host’s disarming charm, beaming self-delight, and enormous flare for presentation. As with all fine theatrical experiences, the vivid images crafted and offered two weeks ago have yet to fade in my recollection. Indeed, I don’t think they ever will.

Locally, Dandy Darkly will be presenting three shows of Pussy Panic at Celebration of Whimsy, 21A Clinton Street, New York, October 9 through 11, 2014.

For the international theater goers, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, is presenting Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic at CC Blooms from August 2 though August 24, 2014. - Jay Reisberg

(Photo by Laura Pardo, 2014.)

jay-reisberg-photo

Mr. Reisberg is a UCLA film school grad, professional singer, comedian, and bon vivant at large.

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