A Review: Psst! Feelthy Acrobats — Absinthe in Las Vegas

Absinthe at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas

Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV – Everyone loves acrobats but not everyone will have a tolerance for the non-stop, filthy, vile, obscene, and often very funny patter that accompanies them in this sui generis offering on the Vegas Strip.

Absinthe is housed in what looks like a temporary storage shed in a courtyard at Caesar’s Palace. The interior looks every bit as ephemeral, with simple folding chairs packed around a stage (and I use the term loosely) that looks to be about the size of the average kitchen table.

In this postage stamp space, Absinthe showcases acrobatic acts from around the world and some of them are doozies. Acts change from time to time, but among recent acts four Russian guys, a speed skating duo from Germany, and two Amazonian aerialists from the Netherlands were especially gasp-worthy.

Check out this video clip:

The spectacle is intensified by your proximity to the action and the fact that these artistes work without nets or safety wires. If they fall, they fall on you.

Adding a bit of spice is a strip teasing chantoozie, the delightfully de-lovely Melody Sweets. But what has made Absinthe a Vegas sensation, I think, is its arch framing device.

The show is ostensibly being produced and emceed by ”The Gazillionaire,” a snaggle-toothed, brilliantined sleazeball played with great relish by Voki Kalfayan, a former Cirque du Soleil clown. His opening line is “If you are offended by words like f**k and s**t, you’re at the wrong f**king show.” Don’t say you weren’t warned.

What follows is a constant stream of vulgarity and sexual innuendo as The Gazillionaire seems to bend over backwards to offend everyone in the audience. And it works. The night I caught the show an older couple (she never cracked a smile) were driven out, an event that The Gazillionaire took as a personal triumph.

Assisting the emcee is one Penny Pibbets (Anais Thomassian) who vies with the host in the vulgarity sweepstakes. At one point, she performs a crazed sock puppet routine that is breathtaking in its obscenity.

The saving grace in all this is that the repartee is often hilarious and most folks in the audience get with the program and thoroughly enjoy themselves. As did I.

By the way, the title is apparently derived from the absinthe-drinking acrobat whose chair balancing act opens the show.

Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace
Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard
Las Vegas
(800) 745-3000
Tickets run from $99 to $134 plus tax and are available here.


Craving For Travel Off Broadway: A Review


Michele Ragusa plays Joanne, a travel agent among other characters, in “Craving For Travel.” (Photo by Joan Marcus)

There are plenty of laughs for everyone in Craving For Travel, the delightful comedy at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater on New York’s Theater Row, but travel agents will take special delight in the savvy inside jokes that lay bare the hidden aspects of the profession.

Co-writers Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg (Sandberg also directed) have no apparent background in the travel industry, but they’ve done their homework well. They present us with Joanne and Gary, two high-powered luxury travel agents, formerly married, who are engaged in a bitter struggle to be named Travel Agent of the Year. Both are blessed (or perhaps cursed) with rosters of vastly wealthy clients who are insanely demanding as only the one percent can be.

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‘The Best Brothers’ and ‘Hirsch’ at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival 2012

I am fond of saying there is a Poutine Curtain that prevents Canadian culture from penetrating south of the border. So

"The Best Brothers" and "Hirsch" are playing at the Studio Theatre.

one of the pleasures of visiting the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is the chance to see the work of Canadian playwrights who otherwise might have gone unnoticed. Most often, these plays are presented in the small black box space of the Studio Theatre.

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‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival 2012

Beatrice and Benedick are the fun couple of the Shakespeare canon. As seemingly incompatible as oil and water they are nonetheless fated for each other and the pathetic fallacy of their inevitable coming together, engineered with a clever trick by their friends, is what makes them so indelible in our memories and makes Much Ado a perennial favorite.

It’s a special treat when we get to see the parts played by a real-life married couple and in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s delightful production at the Festival Theatre the couple in question is Deborah Hay and Ben Carlson, both Festival stalwarts. It’s an interesting choice.

Perhaps because neither of them are in, shall we say, the first bloom of youth, director Christopher Newton seems to have chosen to emphasize their age. So Beatrice becomes a sort of old-maid-in-training, all flutters and dithery indecision. I found it a bit distracting, especially since Ms. Hay is more than capable of turning in a far more sophisticated portrait.

Still, one can’t fault her comic timing and a pratfall on the curving staircase that dominates Santo Loquasto’s set is sheer brilliance. Once I got past my initial misgivings, I found her performance quite enjoyable.

Ben Carlson gave his usual solid performance, but the fact that it seemed barely indistinguishable from the one he gave in last season’s Misanthrope was vaguely disconcerting. His delivery tends to be precise and emphatic giving his sparring with Beatrice something of a donnish quality.

If one can quibble with the central performances, the rest of the cast is above reproach. As the young lovers torn asunder by a vicious slander, Hero and Claudio, Bethany Jillard and Tyrone Savage are near ideal. Savage even makes Claudio almost sympathetic, a feat many feel is impossible. Juan Chioran as Don Pedro and James Blendick as Leonato are impeccable and, under Newton’s deft direction, they turn the scene in which they make an eavesdropping Benedick believe Beatrice is madly in love with him into comic bliss. And Timothy D. Stickney manages to stand out in the small role of Friar Francis.

For reasons that remain opaque to me, Newton chose to set his production in early twentieth century Brazil, but at least it doesn’t distract from the goings on and it allowed Loquasto to create some spiffing military uniforms.

This production of Much Ado may not be the best the Festival ever mounts but for now ‘twill serve.

Much Ado About Nothing continues at the Festival Theatre though October 27, 2012.
For more information visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.

‘The Matchmaker’ at Stratford Shakespeare Festival 2012

The Matchmaker is playing at the Festival Theatre through October 27.

Thornton Wilder’s farce The Matchmaker is perhaps best known, to the extent it is known at all these days, as the progenitor of the musical smash Hello Dolly. It would be nice if the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s current production changes all that.

Here is a production that is every bit as worthy of a New York transfer as the Stratford musicals that usually make the trip. That might not make much sense to the money people, but New York audiences would be grateful and American theatre might rediscover one of its great treasures.
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‘Cymbeline’ at Stratford Shakespeare Festival (2012)

Cymbeline is being performed at the Tom Patterson Theatre as part of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

If you’ve never seen Shakespeare’s Cymbeline there’s a good reason for that. The play is devilishly difficult to do. Start with a large, sprawling cast filled with roles that would challenge even the best actors. Then add a complex, intricate and, to modern tastes, sometimes ludicrous plot. Top it all off with some daunting stage effects (the script calls for a severed head followed closely by the torso from which it was lopped and a deus ex machine that’s a real doozy) and you begin to understand why most theatre companies and directors shy away from this “problem” play as it is sometimes labeled. [Read more…]

‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ on Broadway, A Review

"One Man, Two Guvnors" is at the Music Box in New York City.

One Man, Two Guvnors, currently packing them in at the Music Box, is billed as “based on” The Servant of Two Masters by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni. But this show, fresh from a sold out run at London’s National Theatre, is not so much an adaptation of Goldoni’s work as it is a travesty.

And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

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Twelfth Night at Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Des McAnuff is a wildly inventive director and much, perhaps too much, of that inventiveness is on display in his production Twelfth Night, which is wowing Stratford Shakespeare Festival audiences at the Festival Theatre.

Set against the backdrop of an enormous smashed mirror, McAnuff’s delirious Illyria is home to a mismatched menagerie of types and tropes that seem to have been stitched together from several plays and periods. By switching the first two scenes of the play, McAnuff seems to be alerting us from the beginning that this will not be your father’s Twelfth Night.

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Titus Andronicus at Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Titus Andronicus, once regarded as an embarrassment of Shakespeare’s formative years, is back in vogue. And indeed it doesn’t seem all that out of place in this age of “torture porn” films and the atrocities being performed around the world in the name of either freedom or religion, sometimes both.

Still, the rendition the play is being given at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s Tom Patterson Theater this season will convince many that play should be returned to the shelf more or less permanently.

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Shakespeare’s Will at Stratford Shakespeare Festival

When she’s not playing Shakespeare’s Richard III this season at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Festival mainstay Seana McKenna is playing Shakespeare’s wife in Shakespeare’s Will, an intermissionless one-person non-play by Vern Thiessen presented in the vest-pocket Studio Theatre.

The conceit is that we are seeing Anne Hathaway Shakespeare just after she’s buried her husband Will. In a rambling monologue we learn a great deal about their unconventional relationship before she gets around to reading his will (the title’s a pun, get it?) which seems to upset her no end.

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