Since its creation by Austin McCormick in 2006, Company XIV has enjoyed both critical acclaim and audience delight with their reimagining of classical ballets and fairy tales– patently reimagined, I must add, for adults only! Company XIV’s shows feature live singing, flawlessly choreographed and performed dance numbers, feverish sex appeal, and no shortage of bawdy humor. Lest we forget, there are also those costumes! The Company has always had a fondness for high heels, corsets, vintage lingerie, and enough gemstones and sequins to make 383 Troutman St. visible from outer space. Conceived, choreographed and directed by Austin McCormick, the Company’s new production Seven Sins is a re-imagining of the creation myth of Adam and Eve– followed by mankind’s delightful decline into S-I-N in all its seven varieties. Now enjoying its World Premiere at Théâtre XIV in Brooklyn, I’m going to start off by saying that Seven Sins is Company XIV’s boldest, funniest, sexiest, most extravagant, and most sin-sational show to date. The theater may be located in the heart of “Graffiti Alley” in Bushwick, Brooklyn, but Seven Sins is more satisfying than any Broadway show. And, you’re unlikely to find absinthe on the cocktail menu at any Great White Way venue…
Even before the sinning starts, the audience is immersed into a setting that is no less than titillating for all five–no, seven senses– from the visual to the olfactory and then some. With its seemingly endless array of chandeliers and some deliciously extravagent set pieces, every inch of Théâtre XIV seems painstakingly and lovingly detailed. Even the faux tree in one corner drips with baubles. The aura is all very opulent, but there’s more than just a touch of the “verboten” lingering in the air. For auditory stimulation, are treated to a combination of French music and such American pop hits ranging from Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth to, appropriately enough, In The Garden of Eden. Dining tables are curiously set up near the stage, as in preparation for some type of “grande bouffe”. Sexy people in fur coats with teasingly skimpy costumes underneath (The coats come off later!) offered such specialty cocktails as the “Absinthe Rouge” and the “Forbidden Fruit”. Seductive scents permeated the smoky air. To state the obvious, the attendees soon realized that they were in for something sexy, fun, and deliciously over-the-top…
The first bite of forbidden fruit came without warning: A sexy, behorned deviless (Amy Jo Jackson) broke into Sam Tinnesz’ penetrating Play With Fire as her servants writhed around her in a masked orgy of fleshtones and searing red. Hell never looked so heavenly! Our Mistress of Ceremony concluded with the famous line that started it all… “In the beginning…!” Of course, all seven sins had to get their start somewhere, so…
Picture it: Eden, year… 0? We meet “Adam” (Scott Schneider), who boasted his own extraordinary solo dance piece. But Adam didn’t stay solo for very long. In a hilariously conceived and performed introduction, set to Louis Armstrong’s You Are Woman, I Am Man, Adam is soon joined by Eve (Danielle Gordon). It’s love at first sight, as evidenced by a lusciously romantic ballet between the two. These dancers made Paradise look just as amazing as Hell. But as anyone who has followed the story knows, the pre-fig leaf Adam and Eve were about to become part of an unwilling threesome as a famously wicked serpent enters the scene. I’ve always believed that The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies’ Here Comes The Snake is, hands down, the best burlesque song of the times, and the performers make the most of it for what will soon be “last call” in the Garden of Eden. And, of course, there was an entire piece dedicated just to that famous apple. In the words of our MC, “A toast to Hell! May your STAY there be as fun as the WAY there!”
Adam and Eve may have been expelled from Paradise, but this troupe of infinitely talented players kept the sins a-coming as our first man and first woman looked on. “Vanity” was symbolized by the peacock, and the eye-popping, elaborate peacock-inspired costumes were set to a beat that perfectly mimicked the proud strut of that oh-so-vain bird. In Josephine Baker-style, one performer (Marcy Richardson) is elevated in a giant cage while singing opera, while the rest of the “peacock people” gaze longingly into elaborate hand mirrors, almost as if a Baroque antecedent to the modern-day selfie. “Wrath” featured some astonishingly fierce and aggressive tap dancing by Demi Remick; “Greed” brought the art of the pole dance to new heights (and introduced the audience to “gravity-defying opera”, thanks to Ms. Richardson again); and “Lust” (as if the entire show didn’t inspire enough lust from start to finish…) paid tribute to old-school, classic burlesque, with the emphasis on the “tease” (courtesy of Lilin). The number segued into the oh-so-apropos I Feel A Sin Coming On. If the audience expected a lazy “cool down” period with the sin of “Sloth”, they were mistaken: This segment is only guaranteed to raise the body temperature even higher. In a show with one phenomenal performance after another, it’s hard to say which one took the seven-layer red velvet cake. But judging by the gasps and orgiastic response from the audience, I’d have to say that “Jealousy” may have been the reddest apple of the night, largely thanks to the double lyra by Troy Lingelbach and Nolan McKew. It’s a piece that truly must be seen to be believed.
Multiple climaxes are always a good thing– and another wild, mirthfully indulgent, no-holes-barred segment came with “Gluttony”. This truly inimitable piece featured performer Sam Urdang, who can juggle both cutlery and cream puffs, and can even toss them into the air and catch them in his mouth (The cream puffs, not the cutlery…). Urdang also managed to throw a cherry in the air and get it to land on a toothpick– in his first try! The scene exploded into a food-themed orgy of glamorous gluttony, with high-adrenaline music and frenetic dancing. At this point, the audience may have been satiated to the point of a food coma (To echo the words of Cab Calloway, “Everybody eats when they come to my house!”), but this was not the end of Seven Sins. In the spirit of any good burlesque performer, I won’t give it ALL away– but I will say that the show’s conclusion is a reminder that there’s ALWAYS room for more. Seven Sins is a temptation well worth yielding to. The Eighth Deadly Sin, in fact, would be MISSING this extraordinary show.
Company XIV’s Seven Sins continues through October 31st at Théâtre XIV, 383 Troutman Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn. For tickets and more information, visit http://CompanyXIV.com. Tickets start at $85, with VIP seats at $245-$295 (includes curated pairing of nibbles and cocktails served tableside), and champagne couches for two people at $495 – $595. Purchase tickets athttp://CompanyXIV.com or call 1-866-811-4111.
The cast features Cemiyon Barber, Danielle Gordon, Josh Hobbs, Amy Jo Jackson, Nicholas Katen, Pretty Lamé, Lilin, Troy Lingelbach, Nolan McKew, Demi Remick, Marcy Richardson, Scott Schneider, Emily Stockwell, Chanel Stone, Hannah Straney, Sam Urdang and Marcos Antonio Vasquez.
The production team includes Zane Pihlstrom (Costume & Scenic Design), Jeanette Yew (Lighting Design), LEXXE (Original Music), Sarah Cimino (Makeup Design) and Kristina Vnook (Production Stage Manager). Cocktails by Austin McCormick. Like Company XIV on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Companyxiv, and follow on Instagram at @CompanyXIV (https://www.instagram.com/companyxiv).
Photos by Mark Shelby Perry.