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Entries in Ghostbusty: A Ghostbusters Burlesque [2015] (1)

Tuesday
Sep012015

Ghostbusty: A Ghostbusters Burlesque (2015)

Puft Pasties

In the three years since I began writing about Gorilla Tango Burlesque’s black-box-theatre pop parodies, I haven't found a reason to negatively review one of their shows. The Law of Total Probability suggests that such a streak is unlikely, especially when the person writing the critiques is no stranger to spinning nitpicks into all-out assaults on the art form.* To anyone tired of reading my rosy, ecstatic endorsements of shows with titles like Holy Bouncing Boobies and Game of Thongs: please try back another time.

The company’s latest, Ghostbusty: A Ghostbusters Burlesque is another top-notch, hilarious re-imagining of a geek staple as a silly and sensuous all-female dance show.

Writer Jeremy Eden runs the familiar story of New Yorkers-turned-monster-hunters through an R-rated, Mad Magazine filter. The result is an obsessively detailed, ultra-modern take on Ivan Reitman’s 1984 blockbuster. Sure, the numerous nearly-nude dance numbers are great, but there’s really heady stuff in the details,  like Eden’s assertion that smarmy EPA worker Walter Peck (Jean Wildest) might have been a misunderstood good guy, and an utterly ingenious take on the ghost-containment-unit breakout that pushes the boundaries of what can be done in GTB’s small performance space.

This evolution was my biggest takeaway from Ghostbusty. It’s become increasingly difficult to think of GTB’s aesthetics as “charming”. The props, costumes, and lighting effects have evolved from a kooky cardboard Batmobile zooming around in circles to a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man rigged to wither and fade under an assault from nuclear proton blasts. There aren’t any explosions on stage, of course, but a bizarre dance between Ghostbuster marionettes and a dancer outfitted with white balloons (which are filled with smaller balloons)—all set to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball--make for a truly surreal scene that transcends mere low-budget homage.**

I can’t be sure, of course, but it seems to me that this rolling sophistication has carried over into the performances as well. In particular, I was quite surprised by Bailey Irish, whose comedic work I’ve admired in previous shows. Here, she pulls double-duty as no-nonsense secretary Janine and as evil ancient god Gozer. In the latter role, aided by a slick outfit from costume designer Andrea Berting and some fierce hair and makeup,*** Irish actually looked possessed when she emerged on stage. In the same way Reitman and actress Slavitza Jovan created a genuinely unsettling character that enhanced their film’s comedy, Bailey commits to Gozer as an ultra serious presence who must contend with a quartet of affable cartoon idiots.

As for the Ghostbusters themselves, it’s hard to top Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Hudson, but Royal T, Rosie Roche, A Myth Ist, and Cách Monet do a boisterous, bang-up job. Eden and director Liz Istrata help balance out these Level 11 performances by shifting focus between the main cast and a handful of low-key supporting roles. In particular, Louis Tully’s (Carolina Reaper) brief monologue about his kick-ass party offers a break in the action as well as a surprising bit of audience incorporation (yes, I meant “incorporation” as opposed to “interaction”).

You may have heard that Paul Feig’s female-led Ghostbusters reboot will hit theatres next year. You may have also heard the predictable Internet backlash that followed the announcement. I have no idea whether that film will hold a candle to the original, or if it’s just a brand-driven, gender-swapped cash grab in the making. I do know that Gorilla Tango Burlesque has already beaten Feig to the punch, in a manner of speaking, and that the creators’ reverence for the series is exactly what diehard fans deserve.

*For new readers, “the art form” is typically movies.

**I recommend getting a front-row or elevated seat, especially for the climax. Those puppets are awfully hard to see from the middle section.

***It turns out all the performers created their individual hair and makeup looks for the show, with input from Berting.