Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

[Touch] Sexyback: or what you will [2014-03-24]

A few weeks ago, Touch Performance Art did a workshop production of "Sexyback: or what you will" at Club Oberon.

The website said 8pm. Doors didn't even open until 8:07, and the show didn't start until ~8:35 (because not only do you have to wait for everyone to get in, but you want everyone to buy drinks). Le sigh -- I forget what Club Oberon shows are like. I saw Sarah V. from feminist sci-fi bookclub in line, and we hung out once we were inside, which was nice (the killing time part is more enjoyable with friends). I was hoping people would be actually dancing during the pre-show, but people were just standing about, alas.

It does with "Twelfth Night" what "The Donkey Show" does with "Midsummer" -- bare bones of narrative with lots of song+performance. Which actually basically worked. When Sebastian and Viola are driving and then crash, I was confused (I literally thought, "Why did they decide to make Olivia's deceased husband named Sebastian?") and someone in the brief talkback also expressed confusion (mine had resolved because I knew the story, but this person's hadn't apparently).

Some of us had expected this to be an 'N Sync only production, so I was pleased that we got to have a full 90s pop oeuvre. I realized, when I was Googling to find out what some of the songs were, that Justin Timberlake was in 'N Sync (and a bunch of Lonely Island songs), so the show has access to a lot via him (this also explains why Britney Spears and not e.g. Christina Aguilera). [Yes, if I actually knew my pop music, I would have realized that the show title is a JT solo song from 2006 and so we were unlikely to be limiting ourselves to (a) boybands, (b) the 1990s -- apparently 'N Sync's first album was 1997/1998 ... I guess by "the '90s" I mostly mean the mid-late '90s when I was in (jr) high school (1994/1997-2001).] I think someone even names the duke "Justin" in one moment.

Olivia's opening song (in mourning garb) was "Cry Me A River."

When someone (same actor who plays Antonio, and in similar clothes, so I'm not sure if they were intentionally merging the two characters) is turning Viola into "Cesario" they do "Suit and Tie" -- of course. (And Cesario legit transitions from a kind of 1950s housewife dress to suavely suited up -- though the tank top undershirt we see during the on-stage portion of the costume change is padded to show small breasts, so they're definitely playing Viola as being a cis woman, even if she's played someone I read as a cis man.)

That Cesario is played by someone I read as a cis man initially made me a little uncomfortable (Viola being played by a man in drag). But it's not really played for laughs, and it means that Cesario and the duke having hella chemistry felt really homoerotic and I was like, "I could be into pop slash" for a moment (I've never been into popslash).

Writing the love letter, they do the "my love / uh huh / my love / hey" interlude between "Sexy Ladies" and "My Love" (including "I love the way you're standing / Lips look so sweet, like cotton candy (My love) // That don't mean you gotta stop dancing / 'Cause the way that you move is so demanding (My love) // [...] // Let me make an indecent proposal") [lyrics, lyrics]

When Maria et al. are carousing, they play JT's "Rock Your Body" (aka, "I'll have you naked by the end of this song" -- though no one actually disrobes ... I recalled the Janet Jackson Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" at the time, but it didn't occur to me until the next morning that this may be why they had Maria played by a PoC -- I suspect there were a lot of visual in-jokes that went over my head because I didn't know the boyband members, the music videos, etc.).

I think Maria did "Oops!... I Did It Again."

Malvolio does "I'm A Slave 4 U" (and I think that's also where "You see these shackles / Baby I'm your slave/ I'll let you whip me if I misbehave" from "SexyBack" shows up) and, when he's locked up, they do "Crazy."

The next morning, reflecting on how Malvolio gets a lot of the Britney songs, I was imagining him being played by a woman and had a strong discomfort about this. I think because of how negatively Malvolio is treated by the show/audience -- I was recently tagging all my Shakespeare posts with the specific plays, and in 2003 I said, "i'm always sad about Malvolio at the end -- except for the NHS production i think, because we played Malvolio angry but never sad and broken"

One of the best scenes is the Duke, "Cesario," and Olivia on a rotating stage, each facing out into the audience (so facing away from each other) doing "Tearin' Up My Heart."

Sebastian & Antonio fight -- stylized, slow -- to "Bye, Bye, Bye" (and there's black light -- this is probably the "We have also only professionally lit one number of the show" from the program). Immediately after the show, I contended to Sarah V's friend that they retain all the major plot points -- but in writing it up, okay, the Sebastian/Antonio narrative does get shorted. (I'm fine with leaving out the part where Sir Toby is trying to get Olivia to marry Sir Andrew.)

Olivia invites "Cesario" to her bedroom (twice) and they do "3-Way" (a Lonely Island song).
Then, when the Duke finds them, they do "What Goes Around... / ...Comes Around Interlude" [lyrics]

---

The cast list says:
Viola/Cesario
Duke Justin
Lady Olivia
Malvolio
Sir Toby
Maria
Fool
Sebastian
So I don't know who the character I was referring to as Antonio is. I deemed him Antonio because he goes to Sebastian sort of like he knows him, and Sebastian acts like he doesn't know him (because of course he doesn't -- which is kind of ironic, on reflection, since when !Antonio is dressing Viola as a boy, he starts to be like, "Of course you have these hot curves which kind of gives away the disguise -- I mean, no, you're totally convincing") and then they fight ... which mirrors the Sebastian/Antonio arc in the play where Antonio goes up to Cesario for his purse (mistaking Cesario for Sebastian) and s/he of course doesn't have it.

***

FWIW: After the show, they said their plan is to do 3 more workshop shows in July and then 10 full shows in the fall.
Tags: issues: drag, issues: gender, issues: trans, music, plays: attended, plays: shakespeare, shakespeare: twelfth night, shows: club oberon, small world
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