note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Carl A. Rossi
Rodney Van Derwarker
I must confess I sat stony-faced through Fresh Fruit’s drag revue YULE EN ROUGE: five men en travesti, as bright and brittle as Christmas ornaments, trot out numerous holiday skits which consist of setting their own satirical lyrics to standard pop and disco tunes. Oh, I caught everything that was tossed to me --- I just didn’t find what I caught to be all that fresh, though they were fruity enough. Judging by the hearty laughter from the packed house, YULE EN ROUGE may prove to be a hit --- as for me, I’ll take Ryan Landry and his Orphans any night.
On the plus side, the Fruits are quite good at song and dance; they are also clever wordsmiths --- it is no small thing to set new lyrics to old music and make it work: words and notes should compliment each other or, if not, counterpoint for a certain effect, have all the right accents in place (on the words, not the notes) and the results mustn’t sound as if English is your second language --- and I did chuckle over a video spoof of tacky homemade commercials, with Dan Shih as the beaming owner of a Chinese restaurant that caters to a Jewish clientele; “IS! SO! GOOD!” he/she repeatedly crows over close-ups of deliberately unappetizing Asian-Yiddish entrees). A few somber moments --- say, a torch song or two sung by Peter Gaioni, the most striking member of the troupe --- would have made all that camping go down easier for me.
Lately I’ve been dwelling on the Importance of Being an Audience; now I’ve been thinking about the importance of environment: sometimes a theatre and a production will not go hand in glove but, rather, seem ill-matched, making what could be a good show seem “off”, the most recent example for me being EPIC PROPORTIONS over at the Lyric: everyone declared the show to be a sketch --- which it was; mounting it on the Lyric’s stage and giving it the “A” treatment only exposed the thinness of its characters and plot. But if EPIC PROPORTIONS were transferred, cast and all, to a comedy club, audiences (and critics) would go in not expecting Culture with a K and a good time might be had by all. The bombed-out FAMILY STORIES became a court masque when framed by the wood paneling and chandeliers of the now-defunct Market Theater, and should the Huntington ever want to stage HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, they’d be wise to seek out Dame Edna instead. Rather than merrymaking within the bleak confines of the Tremont Theatre, YULE EN ROUGE would be better off in a cozy piano bar/restaurant where the songs might be sung, a few at a time, by the very men who served us our suppers --- Manhattan has a number of such establishments --- perhaps then I’d be going “ho-ho-ho” instead of “oh-so-so”.