Wednesday, June 30
Friday, June 25
Kiki & Herb: One Tranny's Trash is Everyone's Treasure
Alex M. Dunne
"This could go on for 10 minutes or three hours," warns Kiki Durain (Justin Bond) during the opening number of Friday night's Kiki & Herb show at On the Boards. For two acts and two encores this gorgeous road-weary performer and Herb (Kenny Melman) her "trendy gay jew-tard" sidekick sing, belt, scream, wail, and seduce their way through a wide range of standards and 80's alterna-pop covers.
There's Kiki front and center, slurring like Joan Rivers while telling the audience about her good friend Princess Grace driving her car off a Monaco cliff out of boredom. There's Kiki by the piano, vamping through Tom Jones' Sex Bomb. There she is crawling from table top to table top demanding the audience "lick my leg!". There's Kiki reclining in the chair, asking the doctor performing her episiotomy for "an extra stitch for Yasaweh," the tender husband of her daughter Coco. Behind the piano, we see Herb, cheerfully raising his eyebrow and his glass at all her jokes. By the end of the first Act, there's Kiki passed out on the stage while Herb yells back at the hooting and hollering audience "you should have killed her when you had the chance!"
This show is about making lemonade from life's lemons, and what sweet lemonade Kiki makes. Of starting out life in a tittie bar at 16, Kiki says "It was a good place to start." Of stabbing her first husband Ruby who refused to satisfy her, Kiki reveals, "When I was in the pokey, I learned another way to love." Of John Hinckley missing his shot, "That was the saddest day of my life." And of Nancy Reagan, "I felt sorry for her when she was banging her head on that coffin….FUCK HER!"
The duo's musical talents are formidable, like her industrial-strength blonde coiff. Kiki's range and tiger-belly delivery slays you while Herb pounds the keyboard non-stop in tempo with the jokes. The most magical moment, though, is the duet that grows out of Kiki's story about "being nice" to the owner of a yacht in the Mediterranean while 12-year-old Coco plays on the deck above. "Mommy loves her baby..." she croaks, hinting at what's about to happen. "Sometimes you have to forget, to move on," Herb pleads from behind. "The sea may look warm to ya, Babe," she ponders before slipping out of her depth and out of her mind. And then she's on the bow of the stage, barely treading the water of Pink Floyd's The Thin Ice as Coco drowns. Herb manages to save Kiki, and us, from doing the same in our tears, but not before we've all felt the loss of something irretrievable.
By mixing such stories of her mad-cap tragic life with standards from the torch/cabaret cannon and contemporary songs from New Order, Pink Floyd, and Kate Bush, Kiki cuts to the emotional gut of every lyric to deliver her hard earned wisdom. Those rushing in truly are fools. Love really will tear us apart. Institutionalize yourself. Deals with god are no use. Every now and then you will get little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by. And then you'll fall apart.
"JUST GO DOWN TO THE STORE AND BRING ME A FIFTH OF WHISKEY!" Kiki screams during a long-overdue reunion with her grown son Bradford. And in that moment, we understand why we love Kiki & Herb. They're comically brilliant and loads of fun to watch, but they're also telling you the straight dope about life in this world with all the force of a high-heel shoe to the head or a stiletto to the eye.
But don’t worry. Amidst all the laughter and the tears of Kiki & Herb, there's plenty of whisky for your wounds.
READER COMMENT: Kiki and Herb Carnival Cruise
Picture a Carnival cruise ship, sailing out of Baltimore, where the on-board virus outbreak causes a rash of alcoholism and severe cases of melancholy. Slip into your most dazzling evening wear and a fresh pair of Depends, then take your seat in the Monaco Lounge for a hysterical date with fate, destiny and “song.”
suicide is painless
One thing is sure: when Kiki asks you to lick, you'd better do it. I attended this show drunk on whiskey and beer with my companions, and in this judgement-impaired state i was too freaked-out to lick. I'm sorry, Kiki.
(But enough about me.)
On the one hand, "Kiki and Herb" is devastating. Be it the tinsel gold curtain attempting to recreate some saccharine, faded glory; or be it the way Kiki's shaking hand frequently mistakes the microphone for a glass of bourbon and water; or be it the (brilliantly underplayed) passive-agressive dynamic between our 2 heroes, this show is an utter heartbreak, painful and all too real. And yet, on the other hand, it's self-conciously false and completely hilarious. A lounge act assembled in two-act structure, made only more fake by the overly-bold make-up lines on the actors faces and the outrageous confessions that drive the story. Together, the devastating and funny, and the real and fake, create a deeply unsettling, entirely entertaining event.
While the first act establishes the strange, pathetic reality of present-day Kiki and Herb, the 2nd act gradually lifts off, taking the play into a more ethereal mess of nostalgia, grief and acceptance. In the end, I left On the Boards inspired by the distance that two intricate performances alone on a bare stage can take me; it's the sort of experience that just might make theater seem important again. And at the play's close, as Kiki and Herb seem to lift away from the stage and hover over us, they light up the room just like the broken and beautiful, god-damned, true-false stars that they are.
Thursday, June 24
Wow. Just got back from Kiki & Herb's opening night, and I'm just getting feeling back in my skull. It was something else, and I say that as someone who's said that about Kiki & Herb before. Totally fascinating to see how stuff landed--jokes that had landed like yukbusters at a previous show landed like "Schindler's List' here. And both respondes were completely legitimate.
Go see this show or I'll kill you.
P.S. Although this show was less explicitly death-obsessed than earlier K&H shows, it still scored it's biggest points with its suicide/death medleys--"love will tear us apart" into "temptation," "smells like teen spirit" into "suicide is painless"...plus a pj harvey cover that makes good on the threat to lick legs....Dear god...
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About BLOG THE BOARDS
Who better to write about what happens at On the Boards than the people who support and attend our performances? Making art is part of a dialogue between artist and audience, and so we've created Blog the Boards...
About OUR BLOGGERS
We are pleased to have David Schmader & Adam Greenfield as our guest BLOGGERS for Kiki and Herb's performance!
About KIKI & HERB
Kiki and Herb (a fictional 1960's showbiz duo) are the creation of OBIE-Award winners Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman...
About PRESENTING KIKI & HERB
OtB is delighted to announce a special 25th Anniversary Gala on June 26, 2004. This fundraising event will feature the dysfunctional duo of Kiki and Herb, the “slashingly funny” (The New Yorker) drag cabaret act out of NYC, performing their newest show on the heels of its 6-week run in London. OtB’s 25th Anniversary Gala will also feature a curtain raiser by local performers Sarah Rudinoff and Nick Garrison, with Chris Jeffries on piano, a pre-performance cocktail reception, and a post-performance party featuring DJ CARE. In addition to the Gala performance, OtB will present two performances by Kiki and Herb on June 24 & 25 at 9pm.
Kiki & Herb LINKS