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A CurtainUp Review
Arias With a Twist
By Julia Furay
And that's nothing compared to the show itself. Co-created by popular drag performer Joey Arias and puppeteering phenom Basil Twist, this is a kaleidoscope of color and creativity. (Appropriately enough, it's performed in a theater named after Mr. Twist's grandmother, Dorothy B. Williams, who introduced him to puppetry as a child.)
The piece doesn't contain much of a story. Arias is abducted by aliens, then launched back home and sent on all sorts of strange (and sometimes sexual) adventures. But Twist springboards off this thin premise to create a series of scenes with unflagging inventiveness: a three dimensional starry night, a jungle with magic mushrooms and hidden microphones, a puppet-aided Busby Berkeley dance number, a tiny but detailed replica of the Manhattan skyline, a beautiful and lifelike jazz quartet. The show also depends heavily on the use of a scrim, in which artwork, newsreels and other creative images (designed by Daniel Brodie, whose work fuses nicely with Twist's visuals) are projected.
The puppetry (there are six practically invisible puppeteers) is executed so beautifully that we're unquestioningly enveloped into this bizarre, whimsical world. (One does wonder how they can even fit all these sets and puppets backstage!) Mr. Arias, our charismatic tour guide, isdressed as a glamorous dominatrix.
Arias With a Twist marks Mr. Arias's return to New York. Though he's been a fixture on the drag scene since the 1980s, he has spent the last six years in Las Vegas shocking tourists in Cirque de Soleil's Zumanity. Though I found his performance uneven, he's neverthless He's ideal in the sense that he's physically fearless and always up to the task of bringing Twist's vision to life through movement and personality. However, I found his performance uneven. What's more, he can't sell the script's cheesy jokes and his singing slows down the show. The songs (both new songs and standards) were shoehorned in due to Arias's popularity, rather than integral to what's going on onstage. That said, there's more to like than dislike about this visual feast that makes you want to come back for more. I'm not surprised that it's just been extended to play until the end of August.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
In the Heights
Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide