Raging sluts and drunken aristocrats.
Sinner Saint Burlesque’s brand new run Long Kiss Goodnight has effectively scrapped the notion that less is more. The focus of the show is a lofty one by today’s standards- taking burlesque acts commonly delivered in a punchy 3-6 minutes, and stretching them out to roughly 10-12. Though headliners in burlesque’s heyday often clocked 20 minutes of stage time, a full-scale tease isn’t usually done in most variety formats (although Waxie Moon mounted his 17 minute endurance strip “Boléro” last summer, and I’d wager Indigo Blue and Lily Verlaine are ladies not ruled by timepieces).
Longer length acts sound like an intriguing idea for a new direction, but… would it work? Noc Noc’s mishmash of walk-ins and bachelorette parties aren’t known for forgiving attention spans, and though the room is always dotted with aficionados they’re usually outnumbered by folks equating burlesque with partial nudity and not much more. At times Sinner Saint’s artful narratives and plot forwarding devices have strained against the rowdy Thursday night crowd; this time however, they watched both eagerly and attentively (with maybe just a pinch of confusion). Most triumphantly of all, the ladies of Sinner Saint delivered a well-balanced and clever show.
Long Kiss Goodnight is essentially four performers in four lengthier acts, ending with Sinner Saint’s hallmark group finale. Cherry Manhattan’s effervescent hosting buoys the narrative along (incidentally, she wrote it as well) as she plays the role of a tipsy aristocrat with pleasantly loose morals hosting a party. The soiree’s era is of indeterminate origin, but vintage styling, some light accents, and booze are free-flowing. Cherry sheds more and more clothing as the “party” continues; as her inhibitions disappear she guides us through the four acts.
The extra time suited the ladies well, particularly Polly Wood, who was able to luxuriously develop her Elizabeth Taylor act into several different Liz’s with aplomb. Jesse Belle-Jones performed a multidimensional act based on Greek mythology that wouldn’t have carried the same weight had it been crammed in a shorter time frame. Entering with a stag’s head mask and spindly “legs”, she slips in and out of the roles of huntress, prey, and the goddess Artemis, jarring the audience but without a trace of heavy-handedness. (Her movements were inspired in part from a clip of Canadian-born Marie Chouinard she’d seen on YouTube a year ago, she told me later). Doña Dei Cuori’s faux-prim affectations were whisked away with a suggestive Prince soundtrack, and Evilyn Sin Claire used her commanding physicality and searing eye contact to turn up the heat whenever she appeared.
Though narratives can be difficult to execute in a form as “mindfully spontaneous” as burlesque, this one puts the emphasis on the acts by leaving a looseness to the show- the performances encouraged by the skillful narration, but not bound by it. As for the longer stage time, there was very little filler to draw out the acts, and that made those long Noc Noc intermissions a little easier to bear. However, intermission was just long enough for me to eavesdrop on some girltalk….”Wow, they have real bodies…” and “Every one of them is so confident, I don’t even know how they do it. Wish I could be like that…”
Sinner Saint Burlesque’s Long Kiss Goodnight runs every Thursday night at Noc Noc until March 14.