Black Widow Laughs

you witch productions · Ages 21+ · United States of America

world premiere
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Review by ERIK BLAIR

June 10, 2016 certified reviewer
tagged as: funny · comedy · dark · sexy · Beautiful

What I liked

  • The Humor: When the show’s jokes landed, they landed very well. There was quite a bit of surprising fun to be had in the show—more than I expected there to be and it made the show increasingly engaging as it went on. The cast had very good timing throughout.
  • The Cast: Attractive, using broad strokes with their characters (intentionally so for the story) in an almost broad comedy way, the cast was all very good at what they were doing throughout the show.
  • The Bassist: His playing made a tremendous difference to the show, adding great notes (figurative and literal) to the plot and helping the audience to understand the emotional resonance of the scenes and the characters’ attitudes. He became essentially a character of his own and I appreciated that quite a bit.

What I didn't like

  • Theme: If the show is going to style itself as burlesque, then that’s what I expect to see. And in this case, that isn’t what quite what I felt I was given. It was burlesque-LIKE. The women were dressed sort of like saloon-girls would be, sure. But there was no real burlesque moments in the show—and burlesque is about more than costumes. It’s about the tease. It’s about the dancing. It’s about the promise of sex. And when you create a show about vampires—you’ve got perhaps one of the BEST choices ever for such a burlesque show. But this show didn’t quite give me what I was expecting to see.
  • The story: There are many, many, MANY things to like about this story. But the first few minutes of the show were a little unclear to me. The first conversations of the various characters were so stylized that I lost a little of the actual clarity of what information they were attempting to impart to us as the audience. By the end of the show, all that information was clear—but the beginning was just a tad confusing. If that’s the goal, then the show’s done exactly as it intended. If not, then perhaps a little more clarity at the top might help the audience understand what they’re seeing faster.

My overall impression

Welcome to the amusing, sexy world of a speakeasy like none you’ve ever seen. The owners—not ones you’d really like to meet. The customers—some of them pure, simple folk and some of them with secrets bubbling just under the surface. A mix of death, sex and sultry humor that’s spinning a web that may slaughter anyone in sight before it’s over.

This is not the easiest show to review. It’s a story about creatures of the night who aren’t entirely certain how to be such because they’ve never had to do it by themselves, apparently. It’s a comedy about the damned that tends to break into stylized dance at the strangest times. It’s got characters who seem determined to repeat their name with a complete story attached as though all of it must be said every time or danger will befall the world. It’s got a lot of VERY strong actors and yet I have no idea what any character’s name was after the show was over. Like I said, strange.

Is it a comedy? Sure, and it’s a pretty good one. There are great laughs. and I enjoyed most of the show quite a bit. The opening was a bit confusing and some of the choices (especially when characters were not the focus of the scene) were strange, but most of the show was lots of fun.

Is it about death? Absolutely. This show’s story begins and ends centered entirely around the idea of death and its impact on this speakeasy—and indeed, much of the plot and comedy comes from the idea of who’s alive and who’s dead and what that means to the people who are currently running the place. I have to say that I was VERY pleased to contemplate early on one plot idea about the very first guest to enter the speakeasy that turned out to be a big reveal later on—it made me very, very happy that the story included that sort of twist as it was classic to this kind of tale.

But is it a burlesque? Here is where the show runs into its least successful current aspect for me. The women are dressed in their burlesque best, certainly, and they most definitely fit the part. But burlesque is about the tease. It’s about the sex. And it’s about giving the audience that momentary hope—that momentary glimpse—that momentary desire. And the only instant we have of that in the entire show happens at the very, very end—and in a way that feels (in its current form) somewhat out of place to the rest of the show.

But perhaps that’s only because there is no earlier tease within the show to prepare us. There is nothing to set us up for a normal burlesque before pulling the rug out from under us. We have men who keep coming into the speakeasy. If the women there kept getting interrupted before they started to dance for THEM…then they would also be interrupted before dancing for US, the audience. It would be the tease again and again and then, just when we finally go it—the real dance would be different than we expected. That would make the current dance a fully realized experience.

Then again, perhaps I am merely one of the damned myself and my ideas six feet underground, where the whiskey costs five pennies—six for a refill. And if the goal was simply to infuse the show with the look of burlesque, then I suppose the team succeeds as they planned, for the ladies look stunning at every turn.

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