THEATER REVIEW: Gypsy Layne Burlesque is entertainment unto itself

Image from the Valentine’s Day show courtesy of Gypsy Layne Burlesque

Gypsy Layne’s Valentine’s Day Show
Bennington Performing Arts Center
Directed by Nicole Rizzo

“He kisses better than Jesus!”

Jokes sometimes aren’t that great, but they really aren’t meant to be any better than they are. It’s burlesque, an art form that over the last century has devolved into something else – the striptease show. To “burlesquer” something is to take it lightly, to parody something with humor and a little innuendo. What Gypsy Layne Burlesque, a troupe founded in Berkshire, does is bring humor to the striptease, the sultry dance, the comedy of second-rate sketch writers. He enjoys himself so well that he becomes fun and entertaining on his own and that, my good friends, is solid entertainment. The band performed two shows last weekend at the Bennington Performing Arts Center. If you’ve never seen them before, it’s worth taking a trip, as I found out on Friday night.

This troupe manages to generate applause, cheers and laughter every minute they are on stage. The troupe is made up of Rosebud Red, Mike Monaco, Opel Raven, Cody Dallaire, Kitty “Bang-Bang” Holloway, Jude Deen and Zoltan, The Hungarian Mad. They perform stand-up comedy, sketch comedy, fan dance, one-off strip act, threesome strips, cross-dressing strips, dress-up act, baton twirl and others specialties. It seems, at the end of his two-hour performance, as if there’s nothing the gang can’t tackle.

Gypsy Layne
Photo courtesy of Gypsy Layne’s Facebook page

The music, sometimes overly loud and a bit distorted, never stops and is a combination of familiar songs and, for me at least, eerie tunes that tell stories that the cast brings to life with dance and mime. Kitty dances with great beauty and a special effect to a song called “Lucifer”. Opel stuns us with a specialty titled “MANdroid”, while Rosebud pulls out the stops at the start of the show with “Bump and Grind” highlighting the classic concept of a burlesque dance. Mike takes up the slapstick joke in a specialty on the classic tune “It Must Be Him”. In the second act, Cody pulls off the delightful inversion number from Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” hit. A trio of gamers perform a TV talk show parody in “Gypsy Gab,” which couldn’t be funnier if it tried.

Several of the performers in this audience-pleasing expert group have genuine acrobatic skills, which are put to good use. In “Light Up the Night”, Cody displays a very special talent for twirling sticks that is truly illuminating. She does things with a very special variant of the fire staff that I can’t explain.

Genital jokes fill the spaces between numbers and in skits, and rather than offending anyone, they come across as rallying cries for onstage commentary and audience snickers. At the performance I attended, there were more women than men in the house, and their enjoyment of these jokes was a delightful reminder that a form intended to appeal to middle-aged men in the 1920 is now also aimed at a female audience.

Transsexuality and cross-dressing fill the show as well as dancing with scimitars balanced on different body parts, something I have never seen before. There truly is something for everyone here and I don’t believe any member of the public would leave this entertainment without taking away wonderful memories. I can’t begin to imagine how many people it takes to run this show, with its costume, hair and makeup changes, stage cleanups between acts, and sometimes confusing lighting work. I went to Vermont for this, not realizing how much I had missed over the years, but emerged a fan who hopefully will see them again soon. Since they are local, it seems possible (they deduce that they are ready to perform during bar mitzvahs). “Today you are a man” takes on new meaning!

Keep an eye out for the next Gypsy Lane Burlesque gig the group’s Facebook page.

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