Oodles of Feelings and a Cupcake Dentata: The Libertinis’ Dinner with Death Comedy Hour.
~ Written by Crystal Tassels
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the boundary-pushing, genre-melding arts collective known as The Libertinis, you’re missing out. A small but talented group, the self-proclaimed “interarts gang” combines burlesque, clowning, theater, sound engineering and remarkable amounts of glitter in their original performance art. Last weekend, I caught the group’s latest production, The Dinner with Death Comedy Hour, at the Blackbox of Theater Puget Sound.
Armed with a basic working knowledge of The Libertinis but no firsthand experience, I knew this show would include silly costumes, pounds of craft glitter, and probably even a dash of politics. I sat down ready for what I thought would be a clown-y cabaret laced with narrative, some sexy striptease and quirky dialogue.
While the costumes, quirkiness and glitter (have I mentioned the glitter?) were all there, I was unprepared for the work’s arrestingly poignant – even tragic – commentary on depression, complacency, alcoholism, and loneliness. Also present, and equally intense, was a sparkly, dancing cupcake that giggled delightedly as it revealed a set of fangs and disturbingly long, red fingers.
Somehow, all of this made sense. Every last bit of this show was treated with a brazen sincerity that made it both heartbreaking and comical, a balance that The Libertinis carry off exceedingly well.
Dinner with Death follows the lives of a tight-knit collegiate foursome whose magical ringleader, played by the endlessly fierce Kiki Cosmosis, mysteriously disappears. Grieving the loss of their friend, the remaining characters go their separate ways and spend the next several years grappling with the chagrins of adulthood, which are displayed through a series of strip soliloquies and vignettes.
Yes, that’s right. Strip soliloquies. One for each character. The stripping brought fresh intimacy to the already deeply personal problems presented on stage. And since this was performed in a theater sans alcohol (thanks Washington State), the three left-behind friends were literally stripped bare. Cosmic Kiki was, fittingly, the only character to reveal body parts covered in rhinestones.
The story of Karen Timmons (played by Hattie Hellkat) exemplifies The Libertinis’ penchant for the creepy/funny/sad triple-punch combo. After dropping out of college due to an unplanned pregnancy, Karen struggles to escape her wretched unhappiness. Alone on the stage, she removes her clothes with weary disappointment as she slugs down MD 2020, telling the audience about her adulterous husband, her body issues, and the joy she finds in gluing googly eyes onto citrus fruits and photographing them, “because they just look so friendly.” At the close of her soliloquy, Karen, wearing only an apron, laughs as she poses with her silly-faced limes and oranges, then smashes them to smithereens with a hammer, sobbing into the pulp as the lights come down.
Genius aside, there were a few small hiccups in the story’s continuity. Did the opening scene take place at Kiki’s apartment, as she said? Or at Kiki’s parents’ house, as someone mentions later? Did the friends meet in college, as the characters maintain? Or in high school, as the program indicates? At times, it was also a struggle to see what was going on, as the Blackbox’s lack of an elevated stage made it difficult to see floor work that happened too far downstage. Though I will admit that this may be my own fault for (a.) being so very short and (b.) insisting on sitting next to goth-goddess Seraphina Fiero, who was seated in the second-to-last row.
Overall, Dinner with Death was an invigorating, sexy emotional jaunt. It’s rare that people actually use the phrase, “I laughed! I cried!” and mean it, but really. The rampant ridiculousness of the characters, the magic and the show’s general eccentricity made for a highly entertaining night of theater.
I am extremely curious (and confusingly aroused) at the thought of The Libertinis’ next adventure: a reprise of Gone Wild: A Savage Romp Through the Animal Kingdom produced by Annex Theater.
For more information on The Libertinis and when you can catch their next show, visit their Facebook page over HERE.