Rupert Noffs, The Modern Gay NYC contributor, heads to the theater and discovers that if the Devil wears Prada then Satan wears high heels.
Camp! Sassy! Plain old devillsh! If you’re looking for fun this week, and want to escape the New York City chill, head to the Off-Broadway production of SATAN IN HIGH HEELS playing at the TheaterLab from November 1st to 3rd.
The swinging 1960’s was the age of go-go dancers, the fall of social taboos, Woodstock, and “sexploitation” films. Movies like “Lorna”, “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! KIll!” and this, “Satan In High Heels”, were generally exhibited in urban grind house theaters. This version for stage was written by Robbie Robertson and Directed by Mark Finley (Artistic Director of TOSOS. NYC’s oldest LGBT theater company) and stars Karen Stanion as Stacey Kane a sociopathic carnival striptease dancer that sleeps her way to the top in her quest to become a Manhattan cabaret singer. She engages in a series of sizzling affairs with lesbian nightclub manager Pepe, nightclub owner and shady businessman Arnold Kenyon, and Arnold’s naive college student son, Larry.
Stanion plays Stacy Kane as a Marylin Monroe-gone-bad character which was fun to watch – equal parts Satan & Sass! Ron Bopst as Arnold Kenyon was strong as Stacy’s side-kick. Virginia Baeta as Pepe was butch but brassy, Paul Cailoa as Larry Kenyon, Brett Warwick as Rudy Valetine, and Jacqueline Sydney as Felice who knows how to make an entrance. It was Robert Locke, however, who stole the show with his overly camp potrayal of Paul. He had perfect timing. He just needs to savor more moments with his adoring audience. Jim Nugent as the cab driver/Vincent the waiter, Larry Bullcok as the Barker/Louie/Witch Doctor, Jeremy Lawrence, Mary Louise Mooney and Chris Weikel glued the ensemble together. As a group they worked together well, with no-one shifting focus and all totally in the moment. The ensemble scenes were the high-light of Satan In High Hells, with hints of vaudeville and slapstick.
The set was as simple as they come. Four black chairs used as the main props and an effective projection screen on the wall behind, told the audience where we were. Black and white shots of the Manhattan skyline worked well. It was slightly disappointing, however, to see the capability of the lighting at the Dixon Place Theatre not being used to it’s full potential. We got either black-out or white-out. I would’ve loved a spot-light here or there, especially in the song sequences and even some color…Devil Red, perhaps?
The star of the original 60’s film, Meg Mylles, was sitting front-row center at last night’s performance. What a darling. It was amusing to watch her reactions throughout the show. Especially the moment where Stanion mimes to Mylles’ voice from the famous “The Female Of The Species” scene. I felt frustrated for Stanion, however as she had a slight wardrobe-malfunction with her belt at the end, which, she could’ve worked into the performance (how about throwing the belt to Mylles with a little air-kiss?) but, you could see Stanion was caught off guard …and rightly so! That was brave.
Having only seen moments of the original film, one of the first low-budget “indie” films which brought a new wave aimed as a vehicle for the exhibition of non-explicit sexual situations and gratuitus nudity. I thought Roberston did an exceptional job in bringing the story back to life; which you’d would think is tricky with something that is, let’s face it, pretty dated. He penned a script that even young theater goers could bite into and be satisfied. There were moments that reminded me of a more sexier Death of A Salesman. A comedy of errors with lipstick, if you will.
The dance scenes were wonderfully choreographed by John Paolillio, with priceless 1960’s trademark moves. If only there were more!
The whole production was brilliantly Directed by Mark Finley who, you can tell, had a lot of fun with his cast. There were moments, however, that could be slowed down to let room for audience laughter and applause. We wanted to, we just didn’t have time! Also, when the actors mimed the ‘teasing of the hair’, ‘honking the car horn’ and ‘writing the check’ these moments had the opportunity to be over-acted. Sometimes, it’s odd for the audience to not actually see these props, so why not make it completely over-the-top and fun? Which is, exactly what this show is all about.
For the love of God, go see Satan!
Side Note: Last night’s performance was at Dixon Place Theatre, and having been a Lower East Side resident for nearly a year now, I thought I’d been to every diner and dive. Obviously not. This space is awesome. Complete with bar, rehearsal space and full theater for 150 people including mezzanine. Dixon Place is a not-for-profit organization and the audience was encouraged to “drink up” at the bar to help pay for the staff and performers. Who doesn’t love a drink with a splash of good karma?
The remainder performances of Satan In High Heels will be playing from November 1, 2 and 3, 2013 at TheaterLab NYC located at 357 West 36th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenue. For more information visit www.sataninhighheels-theplay.com. To purchase tickets click here.
Image Credit: Nir Arieli