The curtain has gone up on the new Yale Cabaret season—Cab 46—and the debut show is We Know Edie La Minx Had a Gun, written by YSD students Helen Jaksch, Kelly Kerwin, and Emily Zemba, and directed by Kerwin. The show has a lot of what makes Cab shows work—a sense of the audience’s proximity, a showy self-consciousness, and a lot of moxy. The play is not so much a whodunit as a howwasit, involving a late, beloved drag queen, Edie (played with show-stopping flair by Seth Bodie), a mummified, gunshot body in her apartment, and a gun. What the hell happened?
Well, of course, the entire subculture of which Edie was a reigning queen has its conjectures, so we meet a variety of possibilities—some plausible, some comically outrageous (my favorite was Edie in full Mae West drag getting the drop on a bandanna-ed bandit)—with all the enacted scenes employing the genre markings of any drama queen’s inner cinema; the bottom line: “he done her wrong.”
The real fire of the show is in the musical performances (original songs, and accompaniment as Charlie the Piano Guy, by Joel Abbott). Bodie/Edie could’ve sung more, for my money, and bravo to Ato Blankson-Wood, looking like a Grace Jones impersonator, for taking the passed baton from Lena Horne’s “The Man I Love” and scoring. Then there are the big, uplift moments, some with lip-synching, that have the audience clapping and cheering. Yes, despite murder and death, this show is a celebration of what Iggy calls “Lust for Life.”
Christopher Ash’s stage set is Warholian with its projections of Edie and it’s glitzy “everybody’s a star” aura; the other queens seem to recall tropes from the 70s and 80s as well—my favorite is the über-slinky Cabaret-like Mistress of Ceremonies played by Tom Pecinka, with her tale of carnations—and there’s a trio of comic turns by James Cusati-Moyer as a blonde ditz, complete with New Yawk squawk, in Daisy Dukes, a leather-skirted conchita hot for fun, and a hilarious Pacino take-off as one of Edie’s more aggressive paramours. Kristen Ferguson works best as the tersely barking flatfoot stumped by this cold case. And Christopher Geary rounds out the cast as a speculative intimate with a place in his bitchy heart for some of the loveable oddities of Edie in her prime.
Apart from all the comedy and song and dance, Bodie really shines in an intimate boudoir moment where Edie takes the entire audience into her confidence—we’ve all been given envelopes containing little icons that she lovingly identifies by the names of the queens they stand for. It’s perhaps the most Warholian moment of all—the idea that, without a historical sense, a scene, a subculture, an art-form, a performance, an identity will be forgotten as if it never was. Well might the other queens rehearse the stories of Edie’s alleged act of violence—she not only had a gun, but a heart and a memory. Viva La Minx!
We Know Edie La Minx Had a Gun Written by Helen Jaksch, Kelly Kerwin, Emily Zemba Directed by Kelly Kerwin
Dramaturg: Helen Jaksch; Producer: Emika Abe; Sets, Lights, & Projections: Christopher Ash; Costumes: Grier Coleman; Sound, Original Music: Joel Abbott; Stage Manager: Anita Shastri; Set/Technical Assistant: Samantha Lazar; Tango Consultant: Joel Abbott; Photographs by Nick Thigpen courtesy of Yale Cabaret
September 19-21, 2013