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A NoDef Theatre Review
For a show whose performances revolve around ideas of sex and sexuality, “Adult Petting Zoo” is surprisingly...well...unsexy. At turns funny, lewd, transgressive, whimsical and good old-fashioned weird, the show's acts rely less on sensuality than on surprise and sheer strangeness.
Boundary-prodding and hugely entertaining, “Zoo” is not exactly somewhere you'd want to go on a first date, but it's definitely something worth doing.
“Zoo” is the latest offering from New Orleans Fringe, best known for the Fringe Fest alternative theater showcase. Directed by Emilie Whelan, “Zoo” features several short performances by local and non-local artists, including a reprisal of a performance by a Fringe Fest act called Jazz Hand Job. The comment-defying nature of this name is par for the course for the Fringe folks, who claim “there is nothing too big, too bold, or too dangerous.”
Before the show's opening Thursday night, the atmosphere at the AllWays Lounge had the merry feel of being backstage at a school play. Costumed performers ran to and fro, while a young man in a mixed floral dress and unshaven legs clung to a light rig. A small audience huddled warily around the bar, including a pair of senior citizens, who looked prepared for nothing to shock them. Suddenly, a campy, horror-movie green light flooded one corner, and the show began.
“It was like being sucked up into a drainpipe into deep water,” playwright Gabrielle Reisman intoned – the joke being, of course, that there was no simile. In her performance, she delivers a timely monologue as a personification of oil. Though the rest of the show is relatively apolitical, the somber issue and her moody commentary set the tone for the “deep water” the rest of “Adult Petting Zoo” drags us out to. Many of the performances have a tongue-in-cheek quality, but the stakes are always raised when sex is involved, and “Zoo” plays deftly with that concept. A performance by Skin Horse Theater suddenly swerves into dark territory from a lighthearted, Beach-Boys-backed burlesque act, getting commandeered by a dictatorial, audience-abusing cabaret master. (The act's end, with its unsettling silence in a bit built around a D.H. Lawrence story, is especially chilling.)
Other moments are more lighthearted. A performance imagining legislators sifting through the material studied by the Meese Commission provides the show's first real laughs, and a bawdy segment based mostly in pantomime shows charm and athleticism on the part of the performers. The pantomime segment is staged in a side area, where the audience sits close enough to see the beads of sweat on the entertainers' skin, and to be roped into their comical embraces. This segment may go on a little too long – it's still entertaining, but spans too much time to ask audiences (and curmudgeonly reporters) to sit on the floor.
Jazz Hand Job's “Rigorous Disco of Doom,” a longer-form, mixed-mythology performance, features the ever-popular undead, along with a set of droll bird costumes that might have been captured from the set of a Japanese children's television program. This segment features the best costuming of the show, with a motherboard hung around the neck of a space-nymph and some glittering anatomical augmentation. At the show's close, the performers absorbed the audience into a jubilant and sweaty dance party. Performers from other segments got in on the act, casting away the evening's prurience in favor of innocent fun.
Where: AllWays Lounge/Marigny Theater
When: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m., Saturday 11 p.m.
How Much: $15
Dead Huey Long, Emma Boyce, Elizabeth Davas, Ian Hoch, Lindsay Mack, Anna Gaca, Jason Raymond, Lee Matalone, Phil Yiannopoulos, Joe Shriner, Chris Staudinger, Chef Anthony Scanio, Tierney Monaghan, Stacy Coco, Rob Ingraham,
Cheryl Castjohn, Sam Nelson
Brandon Roberts, Rachel June, Daniel Paschall
Michael Weber, B.A.
B. E. Mintz
Published Daily by
Minced Media, Inc.