In this universal theatrical travesty of Desire vs Respect playwright/actor Brandon Olson knows how to mock the sensitive yet easily offended victims of unrequited love and often unexpected betrayal. Olson’s musical masterpiece What Elsas Knew in a Peril is a very gay romp in and out of frustration and madness leading to brilliant emotional pathos.
Subtly an homage to Cookie Mueller, the influential critic, actress and art-world luminary, Brandon as drag queen Cookie wants real romantic love at the end of a life of one night, one hour and even some ten minute stands. Cookie knows sex and love are often grandstanding rivals but what can an addled brain doll maker do with the life she/he has been given? The rules of chance are the rules of love like a fleeting roll of dice in a tastelessly decorated casino. You’re there to win but distracted by the fake ornamental gilding.
Olson’s heart wrenching performance as the ultimate unrequited lover gives us a chance to hear and see the problems of living too deeply in one’s emotions. Fun is fun then stinging love intrudes. Especially love that promises to solve all life’s petty problems. Beware offers of protective sanctuary.
Along come not one but three Elsas: Schiaparellis, Klentsch and Peretti (Dana Boll, Danielle Aziza and Denice Kondik) cunning, scheming high fashion designers and purveyors of perversity seeking a lucrative opportunity to make and sell the most expensive and weirdest women’s clothes for men ever seen. Who but the debauched Emperor of Degeneracy (Markus Hirnigel) should want a huge closet full of magnificent spangled dresses, scarves and panties. However he also wants disco parties, men in drag and of course, course and rougher sex all the time. Clothes and sex obsess the Emperor. Hirnigel plays him enacting an outrageous flamboyant vampire anxiously thriving for evermore decadence in his medieval Mittel European castle.
Serio-comic relief is provided by the brilliant Tom Martin whose Mopsie is a drag queen devoid of fashionable trendiness. He’s the clean up character after the assassinations and devastation. Yes there’s blood and guts. Lots of it. Some deserved some not. Fashion is a serious gangster business for these characters.
Ildiko Nemeth’s staging of What Elsas Knew in a Peril brings out the best in the script humor and madness. Her New Stage Theater on 106th St and Central Park West is an new intimate playhouse for experimental and avant garde performance of all types. I recommend the Elsas for a wildly diverting night of old fashioned high fashion.
In case you missed it What Elsas Knew in a Peril is a pun for ‘What else is new in apparel?’ Go see it and find out for yourself.