Sordid and sleazy with a faint hint of bathtub gin, The Wild Party is not necessarily the kind of fete you’d want to attend in real life, even if you lived in Manhattan in the 1920s. But it makes fine spectator sport.
Queenie and Burrs, a pair of dirtbag vaudeville performers, are in a rut. He simmers with rage, her hungry eyes can’t stop looking for something more. They’re restless. So they throw themselves a party.
Slowly (too slowly in fact: the show is at least 15 minutes too long) and with much drinking and dancing, things get out of control. The cast of partygoers is a gang of sexually predatory hedonists who can’t seem to drink quickly enough. There’s a fight. An orgy. Another fight. One of the biggest musical numbers is all about Old Testament stories — this Wild Party, directed by Allison Arkell Stockman and going on until Oct. 29, makes time for both Eve and the apple and Sodom and Gomorrah.
It’s tough to put an impressive set in a black-box space, but damned if the Constellation Theatre Company doesn’t do it every time at Source. This one, designed by Tony Cisek, is among their very best. Burnished metal plates dot the walls and ceiling, adding sheen. Dusty mirrored columns are inlaid with images of bamboo shoots. The lights, from A.J. Guban, start blue and violet and then trend toward yellow, like an aging bruise. The band, who is the collective MVP of the show, is tucked away behind bead curtains and lavender gossamer. Ooh, I wish I was sipping on an ice-cold martini right now.
The story is small — one apartment, one evening, not a large number of plot points — and the technical aspects enhance the intimacy. Unfortunately, not all of the performances do the same, but a trio of actresses shine every time they open their mouths.
As vampish leading lady, Farrell Parker looks bored with her own femme fatality, but she sells every moment of Queenie’s misery and ennui. It isn’t easy playing fed up without making the audience squirm, and Parker is a crowd-pleaser.
Lucky, lucky Rachel Barlaam. Not only does she get to sing the best and catchiest ditty in the piece (it’s the one I still have stuck in my head, days later), she turns it into the funniest, too.
And don’t take your eyes off Kari Ginsburg’s Kate. As the self-described “Life of the Party,” Ginsburg eschews all cliché with her flapper hemline and raccoon eye shadow. Kate is one sloppy party girl, but there’s no mess here.
These three smooth over The Wild Party‘s rougher moments. It’s not the kind of party after which you’d want to clean up, but if you’re looking for unusual musical, I would definitely RSVP here.
The Wild Party is playing at the Source from September 21 – October 29.