Vaudeville conjures images of variety acts featuring animals leaping through flaming hoops, tap dancing little girls in fancy dresses and men in striped blazers doing slapstick. LadyBEAST Productions creates offbeat vaudeville variety shows, and Vaude d'Gras 4: The Transistance brought together circus arts performers to deliver a marvelously entertaining, somewhat cohesive story at The Valiant Theatre and Lounge during the final weekend of Carnival.
The show was billed as an "underground, immersive, experi- mental spectacle," pitting vaudeville performers against the powers that be. The Transistance featured a story of war and peace set in a bizarre, futuristic, dystopian world, suitable for a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Characters dressed in pseudo-military attire commemorated the tricentennial of "everybody's favorite war," which was waged between nations Commercia United and Industria. Presiding over the Peace War anniversary was emcee Rear Adm. Guglielmo, an Italian opera singer possessing a magnificent voice along with his ventriloquist dummy, Captain Charlie. All the while, there was 20th-century music broadcast by Commander D.J. DMFX. Songs by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Edith Piaf and Cole Porter made listeners wonder if no new music had been written in 300 years.
Red lights flooded the stage while sirens screamed and performers patriotically spun flags. Entertainment for the nationalistic celebration included knife throwing, walking on shards of glass and balancing atop bottles. LadyBEAST dangled from the ceiling while performing awe-inspiring acrobatics, and Sgt. Sarah Stardust gracefully climbed a rope, never losing her military cap even when hanging upside down. Guglielmo delivered a stirring rendition of "Speak Softly, Love," the theme song from The Godfather.
The characters fretted over having a sufficient number of "citizen points" to ensure their safety. The Execution General of Commercia United (LadyBEAST) accrued an exceptional number of citizen points by putting her own husband to death when his membership in the Transistance revolutionary movement was discovered.
In trying to capture the notorious Industria spy, Gogo McGregor, dazzling gunslinger and rope trickster Private Clay Mazing got tied up instead. A delightfully wicked dominatrix, McGregor tortured him and the audience with her provocative burlesque act.
The paper-thin plot was a vehicle to string together a series of fascinating circus acts, but it also satirized current international politics. Vaude d'Gras evolved out of a show LadyBEAST created four years ago, Cirque de Gras, also featuring Guglielmo and Mazing, but "this year I couldn't ignore what is happening in the world," she said. She particularly wanted the show to premiere last week because Mardi Gras "puts a spell over the city," and its message is love, LadyBEAST said.
The troupe will take the show on the road this summer, traveling to New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington and Vancouver, Canada. There will be an encore presentation in New Orleans in May.