“What’s the password?” asked the woman with a punk blonde bouffant, stiletto heels and a penis brooch.
I stammered, tried to show her my ticket. She just glared.
“Um, La MaMa?”
“You can do better than that.”
She let me into the underground club, in the basement theater of La MaMa, for “KINK HAÜS,” an hour of debauchery straight from the gritty gay bars of Berlin. Actually, performance artist and choreographer Gunna Montana has transferred this flagrant, fabulous, fun and sexy show from the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.
“KINK HAÜS” (don’t forget the umlaut) is largely a dance piece, with vigorously athletic and erotic choreography performed by seven skilled performers who are in remarkably good shape and often mostly undraped. Their movement veers between balletic, playful, graphic, and dangerous-looking. Among the most memorable: Jessica Daley doing acrobatics in and out of a bathtub; Frank Leone swirling in an and around and over headless blue mannequins; an oiled-up Stephanie Lyneice writhing and undulating on an oiled floor (I could smell the baby oil!) At one point, sparks fly, literally, when Daley uses a power tool to cut off a piece of a metal chain.
The show is also meticulously designed to feel outrageous, with a big flashing sign that says “FAGGOT,” and large dildos functioning at different times as barbells (in a mock exercise routine in a mock gym), microphones (in a lip-synching of God Bless America dressed in a red, white and blue evening gown), and unidentified flying objects on a string (I just missed getting hit by one.) Montana and set and lighting designer Oona Curley attack our senses, in a good way, with over-the-top splashes of neon-bright colors, predominantly blue and pink, featured on everything from the flashing disco lights that accompany the loud pounding and never-ending music; the black-lit crumpled plastic bar cups ostentatiously scattered around the floor; the outlandish punk/drag/burlesque costumes that the performers display strutting runway style; and the bright dyed hair of the performers.
For all the consciously edgy effects and sensual assault, Montana also seems to want us to take home something of a moral message. Montana has said that the idea for the show came after the bouncers at the door to an infamous underground gay club in Berlin barred him from entry (“I guess I just didn’t have the look”) so, in his disappointment, he imagined what it would have been like inside, and “Kink Haus” was born. He views it as something of an autobiographical journey. Having left a youth spent on drink, drugs and sex, Montana’s said, he considers himself now an “ambassador for sobriety,” and apparently by extension the show a kind of cautionary tale of gay life.
There is a scene of two of the performers degenerately attacking a comically huge mound of cocaine. At one point the Pope comes out then strips to burlesque style. But the moral message is clearest during a scene in which Dylan Kepp, looking wistful or forlorn, tries on various clothing strewn on the floor, while a voiceover (the only spoken words in the show) offers mock self-help boosterism (“I am fabulous” etc.) satirizing gay obsession with body image, sex, drink and drugs.
I suspect some of the crowd drawn to Kink Haus may miss this larger point while drinking in the acrobatics and overdosing on the homoerotic floor show.
La MaMa Downstairs Theater
“Choreographer/director/creative director/music/art installation and graffiti art” by Gunnar Montana
Cast: Avi Borouchoff, CJ Coleman, Jessica Lyn Daley, Dylan Kepp, Frank Leone, Stephi Lyneice and Gunnar Montana
Set and Lighting Design: Oona Curley
Scene Shop: Flannel & Hammer
Running time: one hour, no intermission
Kink Haus is scheduled to run through October 14, 2018