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Entries in Boobs of the Dead [2013] (1)

Sunday
Oct132013

Boobs of the Dead: A Walking Dead Burlesque (2013)

Beware the Infectious, Deadly Outbreak...of Dancing!

It's becoming impossible to write about Gorilla Tango Burlesque's pop culture parodies, because they're all the same--which is to say they're all different in the most emotionally and intellectually satisfying ways. How many more reviews will I write proclaiming everyone's need to spend their Friday and Saturday nights in a Chicago black box theatre, watching curvy women dance their asses off in service of some of the sharpest satire around?

As many as I have to, because the shows are that good.*

Don't take my word for it, though: rely on a second-hand testimonial provided by a girl I just met, whom you probably never will. Last night, I attended Boobs of the Dead: A Walking Dead Burlesque with a dear friend, and his new belle. She'd never seen AMC's record-smashing TV drama, The Walking Dead, from which the burlesque draws its inspiration. But she came out of the theatre with a huge smile on her face, giggling at the silliest, sultriest time she'd had in awhile.

Like the television series (whose fourth season begins tonight), Boobs of the Dead opens with Sheriff Rick (Mai Atari) waking up from a coma during the zombie apocalypse. Thanks to a series of emergency communications from a CDC official (Estrella Von Trapp), we learn that these zombies aren't just deadly--they're dead sexy! Yes, somehow the mankind-ending infection causes everyday people to suddenly sprout fishnets, boas, and pasties, and dance to omnipresent rock tunes--before devouring anything with a pulse in sight.

As Rick makes his way out of Atlanta towards the CDC, he encounters hordes of walkers (dancers?), and even joins a small group of survivors. Among them are crossbow-sportin' redneck Southern Guy (Slightly Spitfire), conservative crackpot Old Dude (Tallulah Twist), sleazy bully Best Friend (Vicki Van Go-Go), and Rick's long-lost bride, Wife Lady (Peaches N. Cream)--who, it turns out, has slept with just about everybody in camp since the world went to hell.

Like Holy Bouncing Boobies: A Batman Burlesque and The Empire Brings Sexy Back, Boobs of the Dead turns its source material into fodder for Mad Magazine-style parody montages. The CDC broadcasts comprise most of the first half-hour, with Rick's story advancing by about two minutes for every five of the scientist's; whether this was an intentional nod towards the series' controversial, molasses-paced second season on the part of writer K Leo is debatable, but it works brilliantly nonetheless to keep the audience on its toes.

Boobs of the Dead also makes it easy for us to substitute the caricatures on stage for their real-life counterparts, which makes the satire transcendent, instead of merely effective. In addition to the performers selling Leo's awesome script, director Nicole Keating, choreographer Erica Reid, and costume designer Kristen Ahern create a unique, wholly immersive world on that tiny stage, and I'll be damned if I didn't get odd flashes of Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln almost getting into a lover's quarrel over Daryl Dixon's fancy new boa.

I'm suddenly reminded of the pre-show announcement regarding prohibitions on photography and touching the performers--specifically, the moment when the audience was asked how many of us had attended a burlesque show. I think half the hands in the room went up, and I wonder if I might be taking for granted the number of you who have no idea what I'm writing about.

"Isn't burlesque just old-timey stripping?"

No. At least, not the way Gorilla Tango Burlesque does it. You won't find "strippers" here, emptily trying to arouse perverts in business suits. These women are gifted dancers, performance artists, and comedians, whose abilities would carry them far even if they kept their clothes on. Their body types range from extremely athletic to not-so-much, but to a person they exude confidence, sexuality, and an empowerment that comes only from wanting to make their fiftieth show as fresh as their fifth. Call it luck, or simply the culture GTB has established, but I have yet to see any raging, drunk assholes in the crowd--rather, the audience is always diverse, engaged, and ready to laugh themselves breathless.

Boobs of the Dead carries on this fine tradition, adding unique and timely dimensions to the wildly popular TV series (the government shutdown's greatest casualty, it seems, is the CDC's inability to curtail a sexy-zombie outbreak). In doing so, it establishes an identity all its own that will utterly satisfy die-hard Walking Dead fans, zombie-genre virgins, or even skeptics who actively hate both. If you crave entertainment with real brains, there's no better place to be next weekend.

Boobs of the Dead: A Walking Dead Burlesque plays Fridays at 11:59pm and Saturdays at 10:30pm at Gorilla Tango Theatre's Bucktown location (1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647), now through December 27th--with a special Halloween night presentation at 9pm. Show and ticket information can be found at the gorillatango.com.

*This is not bias. It's entirely possible that there's a less-than-stellar Gorilla Tango show out there, but I've yet to see it.