We had a blast at Mob Jews on Saturday night, a collaboration between Jonny Porkpie’s Pinchbottom Burlesque and the Schlep Sisters. And I’ll cut to the chase, I saw nothing to alter my previous assessment of Mr. Porkpie’s skills as a scribe and performer (read here and here and here). So this will be brief, by my standards!
The other day my man Justin R.G. Holcomb was expressing a wish for a full time Times Square theatre that burlesqued other shows (much as Harrigan and Hart, and Weber and Fields used to have). And I think of them every time I watch one of Jonny’s scripted productions. He doesn’t parody other contemporary theatre shows, but he does work in that TRADITION of burlesque. I think it is to die for. I think it is where it’s at. Lightly rehearsed, his performers are full of that same adrenaline type energy you get from improv comedy, because they are flying by the seat of their pants. The difference between these shows and improv is Jonny’s clever scripting, which is full of puns and quips and jokes both clever and cheesy (often at the same time) and delivered with so much goddamn fun and confidence and brio that it gets transmitted to the audience like radio waves!
Further, this was the first of his shows I’ve seen in the current bar space at Times Scare. (The previous show we saw there Pretencion, was in Times Scare’s legit theatre space). And I must say this space is simultaneously better and worse. The tone of the show perfectly suits the night club/ cabaret type environment. This is about pleasing an audience, it’s earthy and lively and populist (and showcases nudity!) This show should be enjoyed with waitresses who bring you beverages. The down side is that it is separated from a noisier bar space and by a corridor with foot traffic from the haunted house by…nothing. (Well, a curtain). Consequently at the back of the house there is some hardcore noise bleed, and we had some difficulty hearing the show at times. And believe you me, this is a show where you want to hear what people say.
The plot was some mishigas about a burlesque house/ speakeasy underneath a pickle factory (pickles are not only intrinsically comical, but Gus’s Pickles donated product, setting the tone for the entire evening). The fictional joint is run by the Zhlepsky Sisters (guess who plays them? Talk about gilding the lily!). I liked it best when they danced to “There’s a Party in My Pants”.
Their rivals are the Tortelli Triplets (hilariously rendered by Angie Pontani and the Maine Attraction). It’s a gag that there’s only two of them….but ya know what? Not really. The third one is very small and has been gestating inside Pontani for the past five months. The highlight of the evening (and one I hoped I’d see, and kind of just knew I’d see) was Pontani’s gorgeous five-months-gone pregnant strip, as beautiful in a Madonna-esque way (not Madge, but the original one, which is an emotion I thought I’d NEVER experience in a burlesque show) as it was funny and sexy. It was pulling my heart strings, I won’t lie and I was JUST asking myself “Is this a burlesque show or am I just experiencing the beauty of LIFE?” when some characters came out and shot her dead rat-a-tat with a machine gun, and I said, “Okay, it’s a burlesque show”.
The cleverest burlesque turn in the show (in fact one of the cleverest I’ve seen) happened to be boylesque but…c’est la vie. The moment belonged to Patrick Davis, who integrated his strip with a seemingly failed card trick, which turns out to succeed in the end. Mr. Gorgeous tweaked his name to “Mr. Goygeous” and did a funny routine with a parrot and bird shit. And we also much enjoyed Fancy Feast, Anita Cookie, Darlinda Just Darlinda, Minnie Tonka, and I hope I didn’t leave anyone out.
This one was hot off the presses so don’t be bummed if you missed it. Porkpie is bound to revive it at some point. And meanwhile, he’s always producing something somewhere as are the rest of the talented cast. Just google ’em or follow the links above.