Joey Arias in Arias with a Twist. Photo by Steven Menendez
Woolly’s Arias with a Twist is Arias as in Joey Arias, drag performer, and Basil Twist as in puppets. The show is visually stunning on every level – the lighting, costumes, sets, and oh my, the puppetry – the puppetry is superb. And I was bored through almost all of it.
Which is so disappointing. I love a good, campy, drag show. I love live music and cover songs. But it would have taken a step up for me to make it to underwhelmed by the experience as a whole. We got more enjoyment after the show from ranking which other theater would be more or less likely to show someone feliating a puppet. [For the record, we had no consensus on most likely, but National was the winner for least probable]
I’m not sure why it never came together for me, though I’m going to lay some hate on the sound. Saturday’s show had several sound issues and there were a number of occasions where I simply couldn’t hear Arias speaking or singing. It seemed particularly bad when the body mike was in play, but there were level issues all around. I understand the desire to crank up that pounding Bonham drum on Zeppelin’s Kashmir but Arias simply was not holding up the vocal end of the bargain. The alien gag was amusing but, like most of the rest of the bits, not enough to overcome the very long and unimpressive musical number.
Perhaps a good campy drag show just can’t survive being this well produced. If we’re going to buy it as cheesy fun when a super-sized Arias stomps though New York City then maybe it shouldn’t be so beautiful and convincing. The four band member puppets were the most subtle and were brilliantly manipulated. The piano player exhibited a subtle shaking laughter that would have brought a tear to Jim Henson’s eye.
If the music and audio lived up to the snark and visuals – or if I was a lot more stoned – I’d be lined up to go back tonight.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s production of Arias with a Twist, performs through May 6, 2012. Woolly Mammoth Theatre is located at 641 D Street NW Washington, DC 20004. Closest Metro stop: Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter (Yellow/Green line). For more information call 202-393-3939.