|This was a true ballerina, who spent much of the time on toe, pirouetting and jetting about the stage with incredible grace.
San Franciscoâs first and only CircusDragBurlesque festival, âFrolic,â returned for its second year, after a sold-out run last year had assured a regular place in CounterPULSEâs programming. âFrolicâ was a whirlwind of queer burlesque, drag queens, and spectacular circus - all for a good cause: helping CounterPULSE support cutting-edge artists. âWhen we set out to create âFrolicâ last year, we thought it would be fantastic to put together a hybrid production â one that could showcase the diverse talents of some amazing underground performance artists,â said Jessica Robinson, executive director of CounterPULSE. âWe chose several artists from each genre â circus, drag, and burlesque - and the audience response was amazing!â As it was this year when âFrolicâ played the weekend of Dec. 14 at the CounterPULSE studio.
Hosting the show this year was a wacky punk funk rock duo - âDreamboat, Where Are You?â - composed of Jessica Fudim and Carrie Baum, who call themselves âGlockâ and âShpielâ (a pun on the instrument). One drums, and the other plays electric guitar. One is very femme in dress and makeup, and the other is more towards the butch side. Both are comical. They are reminiscent of a vaudeville team, with a decidedly queer touch. Well actually, the whole show is queer (in both senses of the word). G&S brought out the first act, Boylesque, which is a sexy, faggy all-male burlesque troupe with a dash of Kurt Weill decadence. As a seasonal touch, five guys were dressed with reindeer horns and leather harnesses, bare-chested in red hot-pants. One had a red nose (Rudolph?). One guy was a punk St. Nicholas figure who had several frolicking elves (true to the title of the show), all dancing to the Village Peopleâs special holiday takeoff on the VPâs âMacho Man,â which was turned into lyrics like: âI wanna be Santaâs man.â
Dreamboat executed a set of bizarre original numbers, such as wearing blindfolds while drumming and strumming and singing: âI canât see you, but I know youâre there.â Their âMonster Songâ stated, âJust because Iâm big and hairy, doesnât mean that I am scary.â âThe Circus Strong Manâ had a vulnerable side: âI will not cry; my face is wet because I sweat from my eyes.â
Emily Leap was rightly named, because her acrobatics and trapeze work were quite agile as she soared above our heads. Accompanied by Jeff Reese (?? didnât quite get the last name clearly) in clown makeup, blowing on a mouth organ and operating an electronic repeater. Emily would perform these amazing mid-air antics and then âfallâ onto the ground when Jeff hit a weird note. At one point she wrapped her legs around him and lifted him right off the ground from her trapeze.
The Twilight Vixen Revue brought back the Golden Age of burlesque with two queer-identified showgirls who provided the perfect counterpoint to Boylesque. Stripping off their red chemises to reveal lascivious lingerie beneath, they performed exotic chair dances to sensual strip music, then left their chairs to do fancy Charleston moves, and followed with plenty of shaking and shimmying. Then they were joined by two of the Boylesque babes singing the romantic âBaby, Itâs Cold Outsideâ (a nifty same-sex love duet) as the Vixens worked a fan dance around the queer crooners.
Fauxnique (aka Monique Jenkinson), the first faux drag queen to win a Miss Trannyshack pageant, teamed up with mezzo male soprano drag queen Katya Ludmilla Smirnoff-Skyy nee Stolichnaya, to give a unique Eastern European performance piece. Katya gave us her histrionic history as the Russian widow of two vodka tycoon Counts, who discovered - and took advantage of â Fauxnique the wunderkind in her formative preteen years, whisking the tot off to perform (with glowing reviews) in Chernobyl. Katya utilized her opera trained voice to mournfully (remember: she lost two husbands and their inheritance) sing The Beatlesâ âYesterdayâ while Fauxnique illustrated through intricate ballet steps. This was a true ballerina, who spent much of the time on toe, pirouetting and jetting about the stage with incredible grace.
Dreamboat then flashed a stylishly made video on the back wall, depicting various freeeks frolicking (câmon now, you were forewarned there would be frolicking) to the live musical accompaniment of the âD,WAY girls.â Next up was a doubly impressive act. David Garcia skillfully worked the trapeze while contorting his body into a human pretzel â astounding aerial antics. Iâm sure quite a few tops in the audience were drooling at the way he could so easily touch the back of his head with his ankles and then do splits, all the while suspended midair. He also controlled two long streams of fabric â winding himself up to the top and then suddenly, quickly flowing back down, not quite touching ground. And the whole time he flawlessly lip-synched âFever.â Then it was Trannyshackâs delight, Raya Light (yes, that did rhyme; I am also a poet, but you donât know it), who self describes as âgothic drag with a glimmer of hope.â But how can I describe her act?! She was a bare-chested, red, white, and blue-glittered Uncle [Aunt??] Sam, recruiting tiny, green, plastic toy army soldiers to die in her wanton, wicked war, while lip-synching Queenâs jingoistic, patriotic âWe Are the Champions;â but after destroying each military man as fodder in her foul fighting fiasco, she lipped Queenâs âAnother One Bites the Dust.â Now why she had to drink that viscous liquid from a canister of motor oil is anybodyâs guess. And why were two touristy punk clown dudes snapping Polaroid photos the whole time? It was Rayaâs personal nightmare - not ours to understand.
Dreamboat pounded out yet another set. At first it was amusing; then a bit tiring; but to be quite frank, after four or six or eleven sets of heavy thumping drumming, with just four or five guitar chords, and two lines of lyrics chanted and repeated over and over and over â it was too much. I guess Iâm trying to say: I like Dreamboat â just as a dinghy, not a yacht â but not a lot.
Thank gawd Boylesque came back with their interpretation of Peggy Leeâs âFever,â working their fine fedoras to filth in Fosse-inspired choreography, suddenly snapping off their breakaway slacks to be almost bare, save for their boxers and gartered socks. Fauxnique returned to display her skills at balancing on one leg while lip-synching girlish gibberish. Who knew this faux queen was so brilliant at ballet?! The show ended with Eat Cake Productionsâ half a dozen chorus girls trying to resist a bakerâs dozen of cupcakes while reluctantly weighing themselves on scales to that saccharine âYummy Yummy Yummy, Iâve Got Love in My Tummyâ tune. Yet no matter how many articles of clothing they slowly stripped off (so sexily, until practically in the buff), the sizeable figures of their figures were horrifying. Finally they solved the weight problem when trapezes were lowered and they could hang from them while stepping on the scales with just a bit of their full weight measured. For the finale, the entire ensemble came out, dancing and smearing their faces with frosting. Fabulous!!!