What happens to Blanche Dubois after the end of A Streetcar Named Desire? According to Tennessee Williams, her afterlife was one of survival and rebirth, and in interviews he’s suggested that she seduces the doctors in her sanitarium and then on her release, sets up her own boutique in the French Quarter. No longer reliant on kind strangers, post-Streetcar Blanche is a self-actualising dynamo.
This is the background to A Peep Show Named Desire, a new burlesque play by local artistic polymath, Lefty Lucy. Lefty plays the role of Blanche, aided and abetted by some charmingly diverting support. The show begins with two ‘birdies’, played with cheeky charisma by Rebeckah Gordon-Kirk and Scarlet Letta, who skillfully smooth the transitions as a kind of saucy Greek Chorus. Since Blanche is played silently, they relate the changing scenarios and break the fourth wall hilariously, chiding the audience with sassy outbursts: “Aren’t y’all glad you bought tickets?!”
We meet Blanche as she reclines louchely in her room at the Tarantula Motel, surrounded by piles of colorful, vintage suitcases. This is a testament to her literal and figurative baggage, as well as Destany Gorham and Amara Skinner’s inventive production design. She’s roused from her slumber by a handsy arachnid, leading into a routine that combines slapstick, hand puppetry and a deft switch into a reverse striptease. The jazz soundtrack adds to the feel of a bawdy silent move, Lefty’s instantly endearing skills as a physical comedian and accomplished rhythmic performer on full display from the get-go. Farcical seduction is a hard line to nail, but Lefty walks the tightrope with aplomb.
As the scene changes, we’re introduced to the arrestingly talented vocalist Jessica Mixon, who embellishes each scene with gloriously inventive takes on beloved standards. She pops up variously as a 1920s ingenue and an unsettling, David Lynchian-lounge singer. Most uproariously, though, she tears up the room with an emphatically cocky, gender-blind charge through ‘It’s a Man’s World’, replete with wonderfully melodramatic James Brown-esque cape theatrics from the swooning birdies. It’s a legitimately exciting, imperial performance and Mixon’s voice is never less than captivating.
Meanwhile, Blanche is pinballing her way through post-Streetcar life. As she’s romanced by off-stage lotharios, Lefty brings out some glorious classic burlesque and a rousing lip-synch of Shelley Duvall’s knowingly coy ‘He Needs Me’. Peter Canavallo’s light and sound design come to the fore as chaotic colors swarm around the stage, a backdrop to Blanche’s mental turmoil. Lefty switches seamlessly between cute, powerful, alluring and unhinged as corsets, feathers and fur-lined lingerie is donned and discarded with dexterity, élan, and sometimes fury.
The Birdies mock the architects of Blanche’s downfall as she rises from her demise as a forceful survivor, at one point goading the whole room into sarcastically yelling “STEEEEELLLLLAAAAA”, in an exhilarating spoof of the play’s most famous scene. Blanche’s ultimate victory in self-preservation comes to a heady climax with an electrifying escape act, bonds broken and chains (as well as clothing) cast off in a final act of strutting defiance.
Lefty Lucy and director Lauren E. Turner have created a thrillingly compact and sexily nimble show that is at once silly, touching, enticing and inspiring. Glamorous costume design by Xena Zeit-Geist, David Withrow and Jahireen gild an already eye-catching lily, and the cast and crew create an engaging, animated world that draws you in from the first scene.
It’s a triumphant showcase of Lefty Lucy’s talents, from comedic to sensual, and lots in between. The staging is a satisfyingly accomplished evolution of what in her own words started out a couple of years ago as “a scrappy burlesque show”. It’s an empowering romp, a celebratory tweak of the nose of oppression, and one where in the end, Blanche wins - and in terms of sheer entertainment, so do we.
A Peep Show Named Desire runs at The AllWays Lounge: Saturday May 7 @ 10:30pm, Sunday May 8 @ 5pm and Monday May 9 @ 8pm. Tickets
BOY BI: A deep dive into one of SATC's weirdest episodes
BALLS DEEP: We went to Queer Bingo at Capulet
MY EYES ARE DOWN HERE
MONDAYS amiright? You're weary after the weekend's excesses, just nurturing back those first few burgeoning molecules of serotonin to help you through the start of another week. What will the next seven days bring? What? Yet MORE unexpected extreme weather conditions added to the city’s already-crowded meteorological calendar?! Climate gods, you’re really spoiling us!
Last Monday, though, Up All Night dragged their creaking old bones down to the always-wonderful Capulet for a spot of Queer Bingo. What IS Queer Bingo and will I need a special outfit, I hear you say? I’m glad you asked, and the answer to the last part is very much up to you (you’re not going to be turned away or mocked however you rock up, there’s no strict feather boa policy but this IS New Orleans, so go hog wild if you’re feeling it).
There’s a five-pronged strategy of delight, operating in a pincer movement that makes it almost impossible not to have a fun start to the week. First of all, it’s bingo, and who doesn’t love bingo? SOCIOPATHS, that’s who.
Secondly, there’s multiple prizes on offer, from cocktails to food plates to bottles of wine (and Capulet’s A-grade menu means that these are all great wins for a FREE contest). The remaining triage of treats are all down the evening’s hostess, queen of the bingo balls Siren, who rules over the proceedings with a bawdy panache that is a singular delight. Resplendent in finery that frankly, Monday nights don’t really deserve, it’s almost like being at a free, one-queen show that incidentally has bingo going on.
Siren runs four or five games depending on time, with classic bingo, a four corner variation (four corners is unarguably the queerest way to win a bingo) and the infamous ‘tight rim’ of a whole square around the middle one - always labeled FREE (BRITNEY).
But hold onto your hats, dear reader, because the best is yet to come.
After every couple of rounds, Siren will break out from her throne and lip synch/dance for your pleasure, a soothing drag balm if you were just one square away before someone rudely announced their own completion. The music is excitingly esoteric, and we saw Siren spin and sashay to Macy Gray’s ‘I Try’ and Dolly P’s mistressful version of ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Meanwhile, the cards eschew simple numbers and instead go for topics that inspire casual therapy session chats with the audience, such as ‘A Delight to Have in Class’ and ‘Everyone Brought Hummus to the Potuck’.
We didn’t win, though we came close to the tight rim. But in a sense, given the game, prizes, funny chat, drag finery AND performance breaks, we really ALL won. (Bin)Go and support this lovely evening, or be forever an unmarked square.
Queer Bingo with Siren: Monday nights at Capulet from 7pm, no cover.
Read our features!
The Lady and The Dale
If someone pitched this as a movie, it would likely get rejected as being too far fetched, and when it's laid out in four action-packed episodes, the never-less-than-eventful life of Elizabeth 'Liz' Carmichael does stretch credulity.
After an early life as a smalltown grifter, Liz (who was assigned male at birth) begins a double-layered transition. She undergoes surgery and begins to live as a woman (all the time with the complete support of her wife, children and close friends) and she spearheads the creation and manufacture of a revolutionary, three-wheeled car model, The Dale.
Both aspects of her life are remarkable. She lives with apparent fearlessness as a trans woman, having to put up with intrusive reporting and dangerous insinuation as her profile becomes more and more public. She also has to fight the hostile reaction from a patriarchal car industry that hates competition, and added into that mix there's also the fact that she's entering a business from dabbling in various 'get-rich-quick schemes'.
The twists are so compelling that it would be a shame to spoil them here, but for a variety of reasons, the legality of the car venture is called into question and Liz has to fight on all fronts as commercial, legal and personal tensions reach a breaking point.
The conclusions about Liz's intentions are left to the viewer and there's discussions to be had as to whether she was a well-meaning entrepreneur or a scheming con artist, her devotion to libertarian politics notwithstanding. What's not in question is her absolute rejection of society's judgements and her unswerving devotion to her family.
This limited series is, in turn, an analysis of the motor industry, a crime caper, a look at what it meant to be trans in the 1970s and 80s, and a portrait of a charismatic dreamer whose drive, whichever way you look at it, was remarkable.
Various trans commentators put events into an accessible political and social context, and the jaw-dropping moments of hubris, valor and humanity make for an incredible ride. Liz Carmichael was an amazing woman, not least because she would not care one jot about your opinion of her ambition - to make automotive history while looking after her kids.
It’s A Sin
From Queer As Folk to Doctor Who, the writing chops of Russel T Davies aren’t in question, and - especially with the original UK QAF series - he has helped bring some truly groundbreaking shows to fruition. His latest project looks at the unfolding AIDS crisis though the eyes of young, queer Londoners.
Amid sexual discovery as small-town young adults arrive in the Big City, the looming sense of dread grows and an evocative 80s playlist soundtracks gut-wrenching developments. Although not written with this in mind, the parallels with the COVID pandemic are hard to ignore - there are deniers, desperate ‘cures’ as people try anything to survive, social outrage and political clashes.
The protagonists are fighting homophobic families, societal acceptance and the existential threat of a virus that politicians are trying to ignore. It’s in turns joyous, provocative and devastating. The analogue panic of pre-internet information networks is a stark reminder that in the 1980s, going bar-to-bar with leaflets was the way that people sought to protect each other. Marches had to be organised by phone and letter. Disinformation took more effort to counter. Volunteer-run phone lines were vital.
It’s not a perfect show. Tropes are simplified and there’s some reductive views as the script tries to fit the intricacies of a huge public health emergency into five episodes. Some of the character arcs are flawed, but the questions it raises - and especially seeing the same frustrating political mistakes that have been made in the past year with COVID - are important, and approached critically, it’s a worthwhile watch.
Star cameos from Neil Patrick-Harris and Stephen Fry elevate some of the best scenes, and the young cast are consistently engaging. It’s a tough story, and it’s one from which we're still learning lessons.
UP ALL NIGHT
Even more distractions. Probably NOT SAFE FOR WORK!