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Taking Liberties with the Rococo review

Wednesday, Feb 16 2005
They will not be silenced. They will not be censored. They'll sound their barbaric yawp across the rooftops of the Mission District, and no one can stop them. As the war escalates and the election rips our nation apart, the Red Gate Performance Collective defiantly presents a collection of short stage pieces called Rococo Risque: Liberties Taken. Or, as company member and opera singer Ariela Morgenstern puts it in a recent e-mail, "There comes a time in every cabaret/sketch comedy/burlesque/wackadoo theatre company to TAKE THAT SHIT HEAD ON."

Inspired by USO shows, MTV, and the sexual tension exuded by military personnel, directors Ben Flax and Elisabeth Millican have made the evening satirical, topical, and, in some cases, Morgenstern says, possibly in bad taste. "It's a pretty crazy fun time," she says, "but when one is dealing with the subject of war, it's hard not to have some dark humor." Audiences can expect entertainment like original music by composers Rob Reich and Pat Moran performed by a live band onstage and an MC in the form of a sexy French Lady Liberty; but the easily offended might want to steer clear.

Some skits do seem a little off-color: "The Real World: Fallujah" is one; another involves an Abu Ghraib hand/conscience sanitizer. But the company is made up of professionals, and you should trust them. The all-male "Tourniquet Burlesque," for example, spotlights both heroism and hedonism. "It's so hot, it's soldiers, it's a soldier burlesque," Morgenstern says, but she immediately cautions against buttonholing Liberties Taken as a hoochie-coochie display. It's much more of a play disguised as cabaret, she explains, pointing out that at past Rococo shows, audiences have been riveted.

"Some people have said, 'What gives you the right to talk about what's going on in the war?'" she relates, and emphasizes that the company brushes off such criticism. "That's what satire is; that's what everyone should be talking about."

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Hiya Swanhuyser


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