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Monday, April 27, 2015

There's Only a Week Left for Thrillpeddlers' Fantastic Jewels of Paris

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson

The latest Thrillpeddlers’ show at the Hypnodrome in SoMa presents a look at a hyper-real version of the past. Jewels of Paris: A Revolutionary New Musical Revue, is a witty, bawdy pastiche of high Modernism and cheerfully shameless vulgarity, a can-can on the umbilical cord that connects Paris to San Francisco. Whatever happens, you’ll never be able to keep track of how many wigs they go through in the course of two acts.

click to enlarge DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
Not so much an avant-garde production as a show about the birth of the avant-garde, Jewels is a loose series of vignettes largely told in song and framed by a sad clown who never ages and a couple of knuckleheads from San Francisco who visit the City of Love twice in 40 years. A tryst between sideshow freaks during the public mourning for Victor Hugo, a series of mishaps when a newborn Cupid is given his first quiver of arrows, and an erotic celebration of all things French via “la bouche” are just three of Scumbly Koldewyn and company’s sketches and songs that reveal a lifelong adoration of fin-de-siècle entertainment. Rewarding those familiar with Alice B. Toklas and the love locks on the Pont des Arts, this is a briskly paced bonanza of costume changes and intentionally dubious French accents.

Jewels also features a lot of male and female full-frontal nudity, and, perhaps more, full posterior nudity, too. Like their spiritual predecessors, the Cockettes, the Thrillpeddlers are steeped in theatrical history, which allows them to indulge in certain visual tropes that might be verboten in any other context. For example, the only African-American cast member (Dee Nathaniel) shimmy-shimmy-shakes her way through a number where a pair of horn dogs lasciviously manhandle her as an emblem of the Dark Continent’s exotic beauty. It’s high camp that comes to rest inches away from hipster racism, but the song itself is really an anti-racist send-up of French colonialism, and the ridiculousness is just too joyful to offend.

From the name-checking of “Everyone’s a Genius in Paree Today” to the how-was-this-pun-never-made-before silliness of “Let Them Eat Cock,” Jewels is a winner. The only problem with the show was the sedate audience, who instead of whooping and cheering, clapped quietly as one might after a sober Shostakovich concerto. When bare breasts and beaded skirts, straight out of Les Folies Bergère, collide with a bearded lady, a What-Is-It? of indeterminate gender, and an excessively waxed mustache or two, polite reserve should give way to something a little more raucous. A troupe brave enough to flash their butt cracks for art’s sake deserves nothing less.

Thrillpeddlers Presents Jewels of Paris: A Revolutionary New Musical Revue, Thursdays through Saturdays through May 2, 8 p.m., at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St., 377-4202.
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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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