Review: Pinchbottom's PRETENÇIÓN

July 16, 2009 at 12:25pm
Ringmasters Nasty Canasta and Johnny Porkpie.  (Photo by Ted D'Ottavio.)Ringmasters Nasty Canasta and Johnny Porkpie. (Photo by Ted D'Ottavio.)Cirque du Soleil's spectacular but wilfully obtuse style is overripe for parody, and who better to poke fun than New York's masters of theater-burlesque fusion, Pinchbottom?

Hosted by Nasty Canasta and Johnny Porkpie and featuring Naughtia Nice, Arrogant Mick and Tigger! - along with a nightly rotating guest list of burlesque's biggest names - PRETENÇIÓN is part of the undergroundzero theater festival currently playing at PS122 in New York's East Village.

PRETENÇIÓN features vibrant individual performances from each member of the main cast and the four guest stars. As with Cirque du Soleil, the acts are framed by a themed narrative. The theme? The lost art of pretension - and that's pronounced "pree-ton-see-on", if you please. The characters' search for pretension, a journey which takes its cues from The Wizard of Oz amid other pop culture stalwarts, is an essential undertaking because, in the words of Nasty Canasta, "without it, we cannot show our boobs with irony".

On opening night the audience was treated to Angie Pontani as a beautiful ballerina, Dirty Martini in a tassel-spinning tribute to Tigerlily, Peekaboo Pointe as the ultimate sex kitten -- rawrr! -- and the most striking performer of the night, Mat Fraser.

Mat's straight-up stage name may lack the puntastic flair of his counterparts, but the lack of disguise perfectly reflects the nature of his act. He came out wearing a suit and button-down shirt - all a bit ho-hum - but about a minute later the penny dropped: the arms hanging loosely in his jacket sleeves were prosthetic. What started as a standard striptease took on a whole new meaning when Mat began to tug and pull at each arm, removing the prosthetics and kicking them aside with a flourish. It was shocking, compelling, and - yes - sexy.

Apart from a few grainy videos on YouTube, I had never seen Tigger! perform - I know, I know: what have I been doing with my life?! - so watching the king of boylesque do his famed acrobatics and precise, perfectly characterized clown striptease was an utter delight.

Linking up a series of individual burlesque acts to form a grand narrative is a tough ask, especially when said acts are diverse in theme and different every night. PRETENÇIÓN's segues are indeed tenuous, but that's part of the fun - the show's approach is so joyously silly and self-mocking that it doesn't really matter. Simply sit back, marvel at the slick, perfectly crafted individual performances, and nod wisely in that mystical Cirque du Soleil way.

PRETENÇIÓN tickets are $20, and the show runs until Sunday night. Tickets can be purchased online at Ovation Tix.

Guest performer schedule
Thursday: Amber Ray, GiGi LaFemme, Julie Atlas Muz, Ms Tickle
Friday: Bambi the Mermaid, Clams Casino, Jo Boobs, Ruby Valentine
Saturday: Darlinda Just Darlinda, Harvest Moon, Legs Malone, Leroi the Girl Boi
Sunday: Creamy Stevens, Gal Friday, Little Brooklyn, Madame Rosebud

xx Cherry Belle