Saturday, March 7, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Lucas Brooks' Cootie Catcher at Under St. Mark's Theater by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Lucas Brooks' Cootie Catcher at Under St. Mark's Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Cootie Catcher
Written & Performed by Lucas Brooks
Directed by David Drake
Under St. Mark's Theater (94 St. Mark's Place, NYC)
Reviewed 3/6/15 at 5:30 p.m. 

If you enjoy sex as much a Lucas Brooks does, you are bound to have many stories about when you feared having contracted sexually transmitted infections. Those stories form the basis of his very entertaining new show Cootie Catcher. To fully understand the "cooties" and "cootie catcher" references, you really need to understand what they are, especially since Lucas Brooks literally uses a Cootie Catcher in his act. Cooties is a fictional childhood disease used in the United States and Canada as a rejection term and an infection tag game. A child is said to "catch" cooties (as one might catch sexually transmitted infections) through close contact with an "infected" person. The word is thought to originate from the Austronesian languages, in which the Tagalog, Maori and Malay word kutu refers to a parasitic biting insect, or kudis, meaning scabies. The earliest recorded use of the term in English is by British soldiers during World War I to refer to lice. An origami Cootie Catcher has eight flaps, each containing a message, and the person operating it, in this case Lucas Brooks, manipulated the device based on number choices made by the audience. When a particular sexually transmitted infection was selected, Mr. Brooks did a short dance number and then told a personal story related to his experience with that particular disease. The Cootie Catcher would traditionally be used as a pincer to play-act catching insects such as lice off the bodies of other children. You could also be immunized against catching cooties by drawing two circles and two dots on the arm of a fellow student and by reciting, "Circle, Circle, Dot, Dot. Now you have your Cootie Shot."

Lucas Brooks is a writer, performer and sex educator who lives in Brooklyn. He holds a BA in The Arts from Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts where he appeared in Operatta, Firefall and Love's Labours. He wrote two previous shows, VGL 5'4" Top and Fame Whore, and appears in burlesque venues as Lucky Charming, which explains why Mr. Brooks stated that "most people meet my butt before they meet my face." He is also the creator of The Intellectual Homosexual, a website where he analyzes gay culture and society. More relevant to this show, however, is that he is a self-described "exhibitionist slut" who, although a stickler for safe sex, has nevertheless had many scary close encounters of the sexually transmitted kind. In this show, Cootie Catcher, Lucas Brooks highlights his dance talents before sharing an intimate story about when he thought he may have been exposed to a serious sexually transmitted disease. 

Sex has become an important part of his identity and Lucas Brooks is not shy about discussing his past eclectic, sexual experiences, whether they be getting blown by five guys and fucking a guy in a swing at a group sex party in Park Slope, to discovering that an off-duty bartender (who was "a little fabulous") had a sore on the head of his dick, to his giving a blow job (when he was still "a little tramp-in-training") to an HIV-positive man (before knowing his HIV status). Each of these stories was followed in the show by a description of his visit to the Department of Health or local clinic, a recalling of his discussions with the doctor and finally, a reflection on what was learned as a result of all that uncertainty while awaiting the various test results. Although still HIV-negative, Mr. Brooks eventually was diagnosed with having contracted the human papilloma virus in the crack of his ass, resulting in his having warts both on and under the skin, which he found amusing since he has "never, ever" used his ass during any sexual experience. Just in case you are concerned, the human papilloma virus was treated, came back, was ignored by him, and eventually just went away. 

The anecdotes told during Cootie Catcher succeed in keeping the audiences' attention especially since you get the feeling Lucas Brooks is being totally honest about them. He is also a very talented dancer and storyteller. I should warn you in advance that there is no nudity in this show. Lucas Brooks does not strip and is always impeccably dressed. The message of the show is that there is no such thing as safe sex but that if you take appropriate precautions, you can remain sex-positive and sexually active. 

Cootie Catcher is being presented as a part of Frigid Festival New York. It was previously shown  at The Celebration of Whimsy Theater and as part of the HOT! Festival at Dixon Place. You can learn more about Lucas Brooks at his website 

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