Imagine a drag queen. Imagine a drag queen living in a world of puppets. Imagine a drag queen in a world of puppets traveling to outer space, to the jungle, to hell and back (literally)…and you’ve got the beginnings of Arias with a Twist.
The love- and brainchild of renowned drag diva Joey Arias and world-class puppeteer Basil Twist, Arias with a Twist is a triumph of artistic collaboration and non-linear performance art. And yet (surprisingly and thankfully), it never takes itself too seriously, a real coup for the downtown arts scene.
Arias delivers his performance with his usual Judy Garland aplomb, and his Wizard of Ozzian wonderment suits the conceit well: Wonder Woman of the Z Chromosome Arias gets lost in time and space, but returns to New York in time to perform torch songs with the Dream Music Orchestra, while Twist’s sublime and surreal puppets are operated by consummate puppeteers. All in all, a spectacle in the best sense of the word.
Some of the most striking sequences of the show are the least obtrusive. (Or rather, less obtrusive. In a world of aliens probing with cosmic dildos and a giant emerald vagina doing the can-can, “least obtrusive” seems an impossible phrase.) The scene in which Arias floats through a giant goldfish bowl featuring Daniel Brodie’s dreamlike multilayered projections evokes all the pathos of Pink Floyd’s “How I Wish You Were Here” (after all, we’re just “two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year”). And Arias’ sulky rendition of Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” is surprisingly moving.
Toward the end of the evening, Arias began to pick on a young female in the audience in a style of aggressive comedy unbecoming of a lady. So be forewarned; if you were born with female genitalia, sit far enough back to avoid persecution.
All in all, though, Arias with a Twist shrieks of love and care. And for a show featuring a satanic threesome and a King Kong sequence, that’s something to write home about.
Arias with a Twist (Deluxe)
Through Oct. 16, Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand St. (betw. Pitt & Columbia Sts.), www.supporthenrystreet.org; $35–$65.
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