Lady Bunny

May 20, 2017 | By

The immense, swirling, platinum wig atop her head is but one of the many things about Lady Bunny that are larger than life. She revels in them all in her show Trans-Jester!, currently enjoying a run at the historic Stonewall Inn. She is raunchy, tasteless, hilarious, fearless, political, angry, and knowing, while at the same time managing somehow to be sweet and endearing. Whenever she lashes out (which is often), a balancing bit of self-deprecation is never far behind. She is a proverbial spoonful of sugar getting her audience to swallow a remarkable amount of bitter, stinging medicine. If ever we needed the “cure” she is offering, it’s now.

Rather than concentrate on the immediate political mess and its cast of reprehensible characters (apart from a few barbed asides), for the most part she sets her aim deeper and broader. What bothers her, and what she lets loose on, is political correctness. Her main mode of attack is to pummel any notion of what is acceptable and expected. She pushes so many envelopes she could open her own stationery store.

Words and their use, misuse, acceptance and rejection are her main focus, and she’s brilliant at dissecting the absurdity of the “word police” so prevalent and powerful in today’s society. At one point she produces a physical list of bothersome words and phrases in a throwback to George Carlin’s legendary “Seven Words” monologue. Nothing is sacred or off the table—the acronym LGBTQIA, the term “cis,” “little people” vs “dwarf.” Her scope is broad yet at the same time thrillingly specific. Her thesis of mistakenly focusing on micro-aggressions while macro-aggressions are booming all around us is hard to refute.

The show begins in a somewhat traditional (if a bit more aggressively tasteless than most) “drag show” style to set us up for the trap she will spring on us later. She dives into areas that are usually avoided in polite (and even impolite) society. There are more scatological sex jokes and lyrics in this hour than in any dozen shows by other drag queens. She’s not only after shock, she’s after liberation. As the show progresses, some pretty serious ideas are introduced, but she has won over the audience by that time and we remain riveted to her performance and to her message—even in those few moments when there is no punchline. This is either the most political, socially relevant drag show or the dirtiest, most obscene and sidesplitting political lecture one could imagine.

All the trappings of drag are there as well. Some lip sync, some disco, some strong and affecting live singing, some in-your-face physical shtick, and that wig, which almost plays a role of its own in the proceedings. Her opening medley includes the Diana Ross hit “I’m Coming Out,” during which a rather large dildo begins to slide out from under her mini-skirted dress. Out of the blue she will do a musical tribute to country music icon Lynn Anderson after taking the millennials in the crowd to task for not knowing who she is. This number is done fairly straight, but elsewhere her satiric rewrites of well-known songs are on the money.

She closes with her version of Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here.” While I normally frown on reworking the master’s lyrics, this version is spectacular and her vocals are mightily impressive. I’m sure there are some who, at the end of Trans-Jester, would like to wash Lady Bunny’s mouth out with soap; I, on the other hand, wanted to vote for her for public office.

And I haven’t even mentioned her legs, on full display in that shiny mini-dress. They are, as Bette Midler used to say about other body parts, among “the best in the business.”

The Stonewall Inn  –  May 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, June 6

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”

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