Review: ‘Queens of the Night’

Nov. 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY RYAN SENAGA / Special to the Star-Advertiser

How does one begin to explain “Queens of the Night,” the latest production from Late Night in the Earle Ernst Lab Theatre at the University of Hawaii? Well, it certainly fits the “lab” category in that it is very experimental to say the least.

1121 QUEENS OF THE NIGHT

‘QUEENS OF THE NIGHT’

Presented by the UH-Manoa Dept. of Theatre and Dance

» Where: Kennedy Theatre, 1770 East-West Rd.
» When: 11 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, and Saturday, Nov. 23
» Cost: $5-$10 (tickets available at door one hour before showtime)
» Info: (808) 956-7655 or hawaii.edu/kennedy

The audience essentially plays the audience at Club Ernst, a cabaret. Before the actual performance begins, though, Amy Johnson on piano and Kitty London (Karisssa Murrell Myers) subject theatergoers to their inebriated vocals. We get a terrifically bad version of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and an even worse rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop.” In a moment of genius comic timing, Kitty passes out in the middle of warbling Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” Right on cue, Amy, still on piano, does the part of the song where Ludacris raps, and Kitty suddenly regains consciousness in time for the chorus. It all ends with a tear-streaked, bawling and nervous-breakdown version of Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

Incidentally, this whole minicabaret performance is the funniest thing seen on local stage so far this year.

Throughout the evening, two waitresses (Leah Koeppel and Louise Hung) weave through the audience, providing water in plastic cocktail cups and candy cigarettes, purposely getting in the way of the performance.

Now comes the tricky part: the actual play.

Our Master of Ceremonies (Bebe) appears to introduce the two stars of the show and the action begins. Cookie Fortune (Harold Wong) and Eclaire de la Malasada du Chocolat (Michael Donato) portray Lea and Christine, respectively, sisters who are servants of the Madame (Kassandra Durham, a pseudonym for Serina Dunham) in 1933 France. (One of the conceits of the play is that the roles are played by the actors’ “drag” personas.)

The Madame is a cruel mistress and both sisters suffer under her regime. Lea has a plant that she dotes on called the Queen of the Night. It blooms only once in a lifetime under the glow of the moon. Lea also has a gentlemen caller she keeps secret and for the most part, she doesn’t use her voice.

Christine? She just seems to be beaten a lot by the Madame.

The Madame is very interested in her Japanese culture lessons. As performed by Durham, the Madame speaks in a shrill, screeching voice that is almost unintelligible — or she was directed to use that tone by Alex Rogals, from a screenplay written by himself and Louise Hung. Soon everyone gets mad at everyone, the stage comes crashing down and that’s the hokey pokey. Reportedly, it’s all based on a true story of servants murdering their masters in 1933 France.

As a conclusion, in front of the projected image of an anime character, our two leads dance in sync with the cartoon. Definitely not 1933 France, but how does one question things at this point?

In one scene while the Madame is giving a long-winded speech, Lea seems to make the motion of pulling down her undergarments, squatting behind a wall panel, and, well, pooping. Complete with grunting noises. The exact reasoning behind the bowel movement is unclear, but on the other hand, does one need a reason to move one’s bowels during a production like this?

The bizarre logic at work here nonetheless causes one to smile and seems the only way to properly sum up “Queens of the Night.”

Needless to say, the show is meant for mature audiences.

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