For the New Year, Buddies In Bad Times Theatre is giving audiences a rare treat. Created by Kitty Neptune, Sasha Van Bon Bon and the rest of The Scandelles troupe, Under The Mink regularly ambushes its audience with moments of sublime and sophisticated comedy. The evening is disappointing, however, because the production does not deliver throughout. One despairs of the lows mainly because the highs are so vertiginous.
In performance, Van Bon Bon is responsible for most of the production’s triumphant moments. Her arrival on stage is a guarantee that what follows will be smart and sophisticated, erotic and hilarious. The show’s first-half highlight is Van Bon Bon’s take on the history of film during which she manages to flashily personify ancient Hollywood.
She also stars in the breathtakingly funny finale. Here, a Norma Desmond vamp meets and defeats the Twenty Minute Workout in what surely are five of the funniest minutes that will be seen on stage this year. It also represents exactly what the rest of the evening aspires to but fails too often to achieve.
One more reason for delight is set designer Daniele Guevara’s success in dressing up Buddies’ dark and hostile main space. For once an audience is made to feel welcome there. It is amazing what can be achieved with a deceptively simple proscenium theatre design using rich colours. The lack of a slope, however, in the theatre’s flat concrete floor means that any time the actors/dancers descend below knee level they disappear from the view of many in the audience.
Guevara’s accomplice in providing visual delight is costume designer Brenda Mozel, whose creations are both imaginative and erotic. Eric Gold is responsible for the sound and projections that give the production an air of multimedia innovation.
One obvious highlight is the wonderfully apposite choice of film clips used to introduce the evening’s individual segments. The clips show off an encyclopedic knowledge of some of the furthest reaches of cinema history. But they seem to run slightly too long. Perhaps the creators are (understandably) so much in love with what the clips represent that they want everyone to adore them as much as they do. In the same way, some of the work featured seems to represent enthusiasms of individual performers rather than the needs of the production.
Too many of the segments are plagued by problems of timing: gaps while props are replaced, the audience left too often in the dark, skits allowed to meander and then grind to an indeterminate halt. By the end, we are left with fond memories but disappointed that it hasn’t been as triumphant an evening as it should have been.