Arias with a Twist – Los Angeles Theater Review
POPULAR ART DEFINED
by Harvey Perr
published November 22, 2009
Arias with a Twist
now playing in Los Angeles at the Redcat
through December 13
What is popular art in the theater? If, from the moment the curtain goes up until the moment it comes down, you are
in a state of wonder while being constantly and progressively entertained, that is art. If the images delight and surprise and make you
smile or laugh out loud and are still beautiful to behold so that it creates tears of laughter as well as tears of amazement, that is art.
If it triggers in you a sense of recognition at the same time that what you are witnessing is unlike anything you’ve seen before, that is
If everything seems as natural as breathing and yet requires clockwork timing, that is art. If, when you think the
journey you are on couldn’t be sustained and you are confronted by the realization that the inventiveness is infinite, that is art. If the
sole performer, Joey Arias, is a drag performer in the exalted tradition of Justin Bond (Kiki of Kiki and Herb) and the late great Ethyl
Eichelberger, and the man behind the performer, Basil Twist, is a genius in the world of puppetry, and together, they are working at the
peak of their talents and creating what can only be described as magic, that is art. If when you leave the theater, having laughed yourself
silly, you are nevertheless in a state of bliss, that is art. Their show is titled, aptly enough, Arias With a Twist. It is at the Redcat Theatre until December 13 and if you miss it, you do so at your
own risk. You risk discovering that art can be fun.
One is afraid to tell too much because the joy of it all is in letting it unfold slowly and
assuredly and wittily, a treat for the heart and mind, before your enchanted eyes. Suffice to say that it starts with the dramatic event of
opening a curtain, takes us into outer space, finds Arias, in a leather outfit designed by Thierry Manfred Mugler, strapped to a rotating wheel, and ends in a
Manhattan boite with Arias doing a pitch perfect imitation of Billie Holiday singing “You’ve
Changed” to the accompaniment of four of the most graceful tuxedoed musicians in town who just happen to be puppets with an unerring sense
of being absolutely real. What happens in between, in addition to hearing Arias’s extraordinary voice soar in a mind-snapping variety of
musical choices, is – and take my word on this – sheer delight.
Twist deserves the lion’s share of the credit for his direction, for it is clearly his imagination that keeps the
evening twisting (no pun intended) and turning and for creating a framework of endless mystery and daffy humor which shows Arias off to
maximum intensity. But every one of his puppeteers – Eli Presser, Kate Brehm. Kirsten Kammermeyer, Matt Leabo, Jessica Scott, Lidsay
Abrmaitis-Smith – deserves recognition for helping to create so much magic and remain invisible. The eye-popping video design by Daniel
Brodie, Ayuma “Poe” Saegusa’s lighting, and Greg Duffin’s sound bring to exciting life Twist’s concept and, at the risk of being redundant,
Have I made myself clear yet? The crowning achievement of New York’s crowded theater season last year has come to
Los Angeles. Arias With a Twist is the title.
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com