As the Wheel Turns
Sexy Dirty... may be more serious than it looks
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Sexy Dirty Bloody Scary is an amalgam of so many forms of theatre that if I had written them all down as they occured to me, I would hardly have watched the performance at all. There's burlesque, Charles Busch, John Waters, Alan Ayckbourn—right off the top of my head—and for the more serious among us, a dabbling into the circus arts, a heavy dollop of Brecht (especially the Weill collaborations) and a harkening back to Grand Guignol as well...
...or I could just be talking out of my ass.
...it might actually be exploring that strange, uncomfortable, territory between audience and performer...
I spent the better part of the play trying to figure out what it was, exactly. It was definitely about form; maybe even an exercise in form—theatre to be examined; theatre so self-consciously "theatrical" that we are forced to look at it rather than forget we are in a theatre. Sure there is plot—tons of plot that is fragmented into 20 scenes and further fragmented by the device of the scenes being played in an order that is determined by a wheel of fortune. However, lest we spend too much time trying to follow the story, the writer, Chris Brophy assures us—during the play (his notes to the play are read as a scene)—that the work, "only appears plot driven."
Director Jeremy Hechtman has also applied a loopy imprint to the work, an old curiousity shop set, anachronistic costuming (which suggests 20s noir despite references to TV), and an OTT acting style which is energetic—sometimes exhausting—and never flags. The music, by Nick Carpenter, is joined to homemade sound effects created by the actors. And those actors—all very fine and many seen before—are not having fun, though the blocking and rhythm suggests they are; they are quite clearly working hard. (Especially Joanne Sarazen, Patrick Goddard—a CharPo contributor—and Catherine Lemieux.) The opening night audience, many who were camp-followers, seemed to laugh too hard at jokes and stage-business that was sometimes not funny and very often laboured.
And it was when I grasped this dissonance—between what we thought we were going to get (Sexy! Dirty! Bloody! Scary!) and what we actually got—that I started to realize there was more afoot here; that the work's Scary! was actually real darkness; that its Sexy and Dirty might actually be exploring that strange, uncomfortable, territory between audience and performer as experiments by Julian Beck did back in the hey-day of The Living Theatre.
Finally, I suspect, there is as little or as much here as any theatre-goer might want. Go for the goof, yes—but don't be surprised if you're a little ill at ease about what—or who—the goof is.
Sexy Dirty Bloody Scary is at Mainline
Read Joel Fishbane's discussion of burlesque and interview with Hechtman
Read Barbara Ford's profile of the show's musician/composer Nick Carpenter
See more photos of the show
Running Time: 2h
Running Time: 2h