Saturday, October 31, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy! at Under St. Mark's Theater by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy! 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!

Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy!
Written by Neil Arthur James
Performed as Dandy Darkly
Directed by Ian Bjorklund
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 10/30/15  

Dandy Darkly is a colorful, master storyteller and performance artist who is able to provide audiences with insightful, thought-provoking, entertaining tales that always succeed in captivating your attention and leaving you a little more aware than you were when you came in. Delivering this Cowboy Cabaret in an intimate campfire style ("Gather 'round this campiest of campfires!"), he opened the show by asking the audience to place their hands on their hearts, to face the American flag hung on the stage behind him, and to recite in lip-sync style, along with prerecorded children, The Pledge of Allegiance, which was interrupted occasionally by the sounds of rapid machine-gun fire in the background. 

Appearing in a jewel-spangled, black cowboy outfit, with two white pearl guns, a sheriff's badge, a human skull belt buckle, a clown-painted face, and authentic, pointy-tipped rattlesnake skin boots (he purchased in Wyoming), DandyDarkly tells four vivid, insightful, incredible, mesmerizing stories packed full of thoughtful social and political commentary with taped, perfectly timed, original background music provided by Adam Tendler, Rachel Blumberg, Jeffrey Underhill, and Bryce Edwards, his musical collaborators. Lighting design was by Christina Watanabe. Despite the bizarre collection of characters presented during this roller-coaster ride through a dreamlike phantasmagoria, this genius storyteller stays on track by telling coherent tales carefully crafted to hit the mark in terms of wit, satire, and comedy. 

The first story entitled "Silver Dollar" is about Otis Moonshine, an American soldier who served as a sniper and now appears to have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Post discharge and now back home stateside with his wife, he is having a hard time adjusting. He drinks heavily and claims he sees werewolves everywhere. He even believes the enemy soldiers he killed were werewolves and that he only lived because of a silver dollar he kept in his uniform. He eventually loses his job and his wife, and we learn he is a homophobic, closeted gay man who sneaks out into the forest at night for anonymous gay sex but who wouldn't be caught dead in a gay bar. While on those forbidden paths, he "steps on used condoms that squirt out semen like mayonnaise from a condiment packet." He hates his own gay urges and struggles with the shame of being "a faggot" while at the same time facing a PTSD-inspired impulse to commit mass murder. He wants no part of the werewolf pack and it disgusts him that werewolves are even in churches nowadays getting married to each other! Close to suicide, he is invited by Blair, a childhood gay friend, to attend his wedding in a gay bar. As a teen, he had a crush on Blair, who was the only man, including himself, willing to accept him for who he was. Otis reflects on his experiences in war and realizes that who gets their legs blown off and whether an innocent person is killed is as arbitrary as the flip of a coin. So Otis decides to flip his silver coin. Heads, he will attend Blair's wedding and accept his own homosexual desires. Tales, he will barge into the gay wedding and kill all the gay werewolves (who congregate in the woods under the full moon) with extreme prejudice. 

Virginia Titsworth, Hollywood's Sweetheart, is the subject of the second tale entitled "Final Girl." She was just found dead and the story acts as a eulogy for this beloved actress who sought recognition and fame, as most minor celebrities continue to do throughout their lives. Ms. Titsworth was the childhood spokesperson for Baby's Breath cigarettes, and eventually found fame as a beautiful, scream queen in Final Girl, the titular heroine of a low-budget slasher film that went on to spawn nine sequels, including one where she played a crazy lady committed to the Santa Clara Home For Nervous Women. Her success type-cast her in that particular role, which destroyed her career. She did write a memoir entitled Final Woman but the roles dried up and she became increasingly distraught, eventually being committed to the Santa Clara Home For Nervous Women, which was "highly publicized" and "highly ironic." In the end, she won a People's Choice Award for her performance in the reality television show entitled Scare An Old White Bitch To Death, one skit of which was her being chased by Bill Cosby carrying a cocktail. 

In "American Apparel," the subject of gentrification is addressed as The Imperial Poppycock Saloon, founded in 1901 for "finicky fellows of refinement," is being torn down and replaced by upscale condominiums and stores such as American Apparel. Dandy tries to make the point that we are surrounded by so much history, but at the same time, everything and everyone is getting swallowed up and homogenized. When the Imperial Poppycock Saloon is finally padlocked, Bidet, a drag queen rat who has longed to perform cabaret, dons a cotton ball wig and a band aid sash, and climbs on top of a matchbook cover to perform for all the mice, spiders, raccoons, homeless men, and others who gather each night in this now-closed and abandoned bar. She is a hit! Perhaps in reality, but perhaps it is all just a whiskey induced delusion. As she and others adjust to the new upscale, hip neighborhood, she seizes her opportunity and re-opens The Imperial Poppycock Saloon as Bidets.

In the final tale of the evening entitled "The Ghosts Of Stonewall," Dandy Darkly rails against political correctness and condemns those progressive activists who are afraid of words. He says it is the rich and powerful who should be afraid of words that expose their corruption. He condemns the GLBT Youth of the Grindr generation, who take their equal rights for granted and forget the rich oral history of those who fought at Stonewall and who remain radicalized fighting against the status quo and for the civil liberties of all Americans. If you don't like the way things are, fight to change them! And if you do, The Ghosts Of Stonewall may throw you a rose!

Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy! (All-American, Satiric, Horrific, Patriotic Tales Of Sex & Death) contains macabre stories packed with unusual metaphors and artful alliterations that allow you to watch a wicked wordsmith tell his tales the way they were intended to be told. Dandy Darkly is a likable, colorful storyteller destined for international fame and fortune! For more information about Dandy Darkly, visit his website at: 

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