Still the sexiest date in town…
While one of the purposes of this weekly column is to promote the high quality/relatively inexpensive theater that can still be found in New York, today I’d like to spend some time with those who might be a little up for splurging.
And by madness, I mean that for about as much as you would stoop for a pair of full-price orchestra seats for a hit Broadway musical, you can snuggle up in a champagne sofa for two, while being enthralled by the scintillating sensuality and thrilled by the aesthetically sublime athleticism showcased in Company XIV’s current offering, Seven Sins.
Named for the private court entertainments presented to royalty during the reign of Louis XIV in France, Compagnie XIV is the creation of visionary choreographer/director Austin McCormick, who I have insisted for years deserves one of these MacArthur Foundation Genius Fellowships.
I first caught Company XIV in 2009, when they showed their wild antics in a small theater on E. 4th Street. After their first permanent home was flooded by Hurricane Sandy, the troupe was nomadic for several years until acquiring a new home in Bushwick, where McCormick has his hand in all aspects of the experience. .
It all starts before you even reach the venue, as you walk down a somewhat grimy, graffiti-covered street to the entrance of the XIV Theater, where you suddenly find yourself in a dimly lit hall, incense-scented lounge where bartenders serve from a specialty cocktail menu, curated by McCormick for each production. A company member, scantily dressed in fetish attire, will seat you and, if you’re splurging on a comfy couch for two, pour your chilled champagne. (Cheaper ticket options are also available.)
Trained in the choreography of the French Baroque period, McCormick has developed a signature style that combines classical ballet with an assortment of more contemporary styles, to recorded musical scores that can range from Offenbach to Armstrong to Cardi B. His actors include not only the best of stage dancers and singers, but burlesque performers, variety acts and aerialists whose specialties are incorporated into his playful and erotic versions of well-known tales such as Cinderella, The Nutcracker and The Adventures of ‘Alice in Wonderland. And regular Company XIV attendees will note that the shows are presented with various body types and gender presentations.
Hosted with panache by singer Pretty Lamé, Seven Sins is a parade of vices that tempted Adam and Eve in those biblical times. You are sure to find a favorite or two among them.
Nobody asks me to direct Broadway revivals, but…
…while enjoying the terrific tap duo of Kurt Csolak and John Manzari during the “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” number in the second act of Funny Girl — a patriotic tribute to the sons of World War I — that struck me that at least a scene or two could have taken place during the 1918 flu pandemic, and it would be interesting to see some characters choose to wear masks during offstage scenes.
I started going to Broadway shows in 1976, mostly on school trips…
…and in the first two years of my playing in Times Square, I became familiar with author Ntozake Shange’s portrayal of Paul Davis on the marquee of the Booth Theater, where the original production of his chorepoem “for the Girls of Color Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf” performed for over 700 performances.
The show also had a catchy ad, but I never got around to seeing it. I was more interested in catching Equus and Sly Fox and this new musical Annie.
It’s a shame, because not only did I miss what was undoubtedly an exciting and powerful play, but I, as a teenager, might also have learned a few things about the common experiences of girls and women. .
Although I certainly knew at that age that rape, abandonment, domestic violence and other acts of violence against women existed, it was not until social media became part of my daily life that I I really became aware of their frequency, just by reading the posts of my friends and acquaintances. At that age, I couldn’t imagine being called and even touched by strange men as they walk the streets of New York could be a daily occurrence for women.
But maybe if I’d seen “for colored girls who thought about suicide / when the rainbow is inf” when I was 16 or 17, and listened to their stories of abuse by men, I might have understood better why, later in life, some women, as an act of survival, assumed that I could be a threat, just because I was a man. I might have understood how actions that I would consider innocuous could be perceived as embarrassing, even threatening, by a woman, and that she would not tell me so for fear that I would become violently angry. And if I understood that, I wouldn’t feel hurt or confused by his precautions.
For me, one of the most powerful aspects of live theater is the ability to sit in the dark and be quiet while someone with different experiences than mine shares their truth with me.
“Dramaturgy is not so much a vocation as a hazing process.” -Paula Vogel