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Unquestionable Talent, Questionable Taste: Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Ed Rampell: This naughty, bawdy brew blends circus acrobatics, commedia dell'arte, standup comedy, vaudeville, cabaret, the Rat Pack, cross-dressing, striptease, (taped) rock music and live singing.
Absinthe

ABSINTHE Spectacle Review

Imported from Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace, Absinthe is a heady mélange of a variety of entertainment forms geared for adult (although, not necessarily grown up) audiences. This naughty, bawdy brew blends circus acrobatics, commedia dell'arte, standup comedy, vaudeville, cabaret, the Rat Pack, cross-dressing, striptease, (taped) rock music and live singing. Imagine the Flying Wallendas meet Purple Owsley meet Cirque du Soleil meet burlesque, and you’ll get some idea of this mind-blowing one-act extravaganza executed minus intermission.

It’s all presided over by an over-the-top, sleazy, Trump-like ringmaster called The Gazillionaire, who - along with a kooky female sidekick - intro the acts, interact with the audience and reel off a series of quips and jokes that range from the racial (if not outright racist) to the sexist, often in poor taste. The sheer athleticism of the various performances, many introduced as coming from Russia (with lust), accentuate the human form, and may leave you, like Shakespeare, musing:

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“What a piece of work is a man! How… infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!

In skintight costumes and/or scantily clad, these youthful, buff athletes and hoofers, such as the Silicone Valley Girls and the Flying Farquhars, will cause you, to paraphrase Hamlet, marvel that “Man delights me; and Woman.” In carefully choreographed numbers, they contort themselves in ways that twist logic, muscularly hold each other aloft with agile aplomb and take your breath away with peerless panache. The masked Girl in the Bubble, garbed in a revealing black leather S&M outfit likely to win Mistress Tara’s approval, somehow manages to, literally, be swallowed up inside of a bubble.

Absinthe

Much of the derring-do performed by these young physical specimens are strongly sexually suggestive, ranging from the vulgar to the exquisitely erotic, performed in midair with great beauty by what we are then told by The Gazillionaire are a brother and sister act. Lesbianism appears to be acted out from on high, swinging to and fro, and all this acrobatic sensuality lends new meaning to the term “swingers.” In a striptease act a nearly naked nubile pneumatic nymph strips down to a g-string and tassels on her ample bosom, which she swings with sheer abandon.

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While many routines may leave you gasping, pondering how human beings could do that, one number, lampooning Cirque du Soleil, depicts over-the-hill, overweight performers who “clumsily” (on purpose) attempt to essay an athletic erotic act, much to the amusement of the audience which overall seemed to enjoy this 90 minute concoction of psychedelic acrobatics gone bonkers, that takes viewers on a ride from the slime to the sublime.

The spectacle ends with The Gazillionaire apparently randomly selecting a middle aged female and two young males from the spectators gathered beneath the big top to compete in a contest that involves intimate touching by total strangers (which made me wonder whether these bystanders were actually plants?), with the prizes being drinks on the house.

Absinthe, of course, is a distilled highly alcoholic spirit with a greenish color that has long been a favorite in the demimonde of artistes. If memory serves correctly, Paul Gauguin was a big absinthe drinker and the Post-Impressionist cleverly attached bottles to a line on a rod, so that around 1903, before refrigeration let alone air con, he could keep his absinthe cold in the well beneath the window of his two-level studio hut in the tropical heat of Atuona, Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas Islands. When, presumably, the painter needed more inspiration, he’d reel up the cooled absinthe from his well for a swig.

Absinthe

Absinthe is believed to have dangerous propensities and some ticket buyers may likewise find that Absinthe the show is, as Hamlet put it, “a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.” But other theatergoers are likely to be delighted by what they behold beneath “this most excellent canopy” of the big top, located above West Garage, Lot W, just south of the Regal L.A. LIVE movie theaters, diagonally across from the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton. A good time is guaranteed to many - if not all.

Absinthe plays Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Sundays at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Spiegelworld Tent at L.A. LIVE’s Event Deck, 1005 Chick Hearn Ct., Los Angeles CA 90015 through May 28. For more info: AbsintheLA.com.

Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell

Film historian/reviewer Ed Rampell is co-presenting Esther Shub’s documentary The Fall of the Romanovs on Friday, 7:30 p.m., April 28, 2017 at The L.A. Workers Center, 1251 S. St. Andrews Place, L.A., CA 90019. This is part of the ongoing “Ten Films That Shook the World” series celebrating the centennial of the Russian Revolution, taking place on the fourth Friday of each month through November. For info: laworkersedsoc@gmail.com.