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Friday, April 29, 2016

Thrillpeddlers' The Untamed Stage at the Hypnodrome: Life Is a Cabaret

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Zelda Koznofski - WWW.DAVIDALLENSTUDIO.COM
  • Zelda Koznofski
In 1972 Bob Fosse's classic film Cabaret celebrated the decadence of Weimar era Berlin while also noting the gathering storm which was looming just over the horizon. The Weimar Era was a wondrous time between the World Wars when Berlin was a mecca for avant-garde artists and performers — Berlin at that time was a place of unprecedented sexual freedom. It all ended in a heartbeat when Adolf Hitler was elected German Chancellor in 1933. Along with six million Jews, the era's anarchists and "sexual deviants" were hauled off to concentration camps, where most were murdered.

Thrillpeddlers' new musical The Untamed Stagenow playing at The Hypnodrome through May 28, also seeks to recreate that long lost time and place, albeit on a smaller scale. The results are often mesmerizing.

Untamed Stage 
was composed by Scrumbly Koldewyn — who plays at the piano throughout the performance — with additional material by Terance Bennan, Damien Chacona, Cab Covay, Andy Wegner, Martin Wormam, and Alex Kinney. 

As Act 1, titled Variety Acts, begins, the audience is transported back to a Berlin nightclub during the early 1930s. Several club patrons are seen as cardboard cutouts stylishly designed to look like members of the period's hipster class. As the Mistress of Ceremonies, Zelda Koznofski invites you to join her for a gloriously naughty evening where genders are undefined and intertwined, and where everyone explores their sexual adventurousness freely and without guilt. 

The second act, dubbed  The German Thing to Do — or How a Cow Changes History: A Kabaret Musical Fantasy illustrates how Nazi Brown Shirts (here called Brownshorts) broke down and destroyed what they viewed as a "sick" society. Like Act 1, the story is told through a series of graphic, surreal and camp musical numbers — audience members of a certain age might be reminded of San Francisco's legendary performance troupe The Cockettes. (Koldewyn is himself a Cockettes veteran.)

click to enlarge Noah Haydon - WWW.DAVIDALLENSTUDIO.COM
  • Noah Haydon
The Untamed Stage is unlike anything audiences of today have seen. The cast is superb, with Koznofski commanding the stage as your gleefully raunchy hostess. Standouts include Noah Haydon, who looks stunning in 1930s drag, and who possesses some impressive pipes.

But it's Steven Satyricon who pushes the boundaries of gender, appearing on stage in full beard, wearing a tux down to his waist. Below the waist Satyricon sports tight black nylons and high heels. He looks magnificent.

There are no weak performances in The Untamed Stage. All cast members have strong voices, brilliant senses of comic timing, and the the unique ability to play self-aware camp while also knowing when to pull back — they strike a perfect balance throughout the proceedings. 

The Weimar Era's freedom of expression is beautifully captured with hilariously erotic numbers like Dance of The Exhibitionists, Too Decadent for You and Pansexual Dora's Box. The segments featuring the Brownshorts effectively capture the mounting fear that Berliners of that time must have felt as they saw, out of the corner of their eyes, what was awaiting them when the party was over. 

The Untamed Stage 
makes for a wildly daring, original and fun, if thought provoking evening at the theater. 

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