KINK HAUS – Downstairs at La Mama
Direct from the Philadelphia Fringe Festival now at Downstairs at La Mama arrives KINK HAUS, a gay fantasia that celebrates with outlandish dance and visual spectacle “a search for identity and freedom”, from the apparently autobiographical experience of its creator Gunnar Montana credited as “choreographer/ director/ creative director/ music/ art installation and graffiti art”. Along with set designer Oona Curley, he’s transformed La Mama into an underground disco, with the dance floor as performance space and the walls covered with graffiti and homo iconography of artists from Basquiat to Tom of Finland.
Montana’s fantasia enfolds in a series of about a dozen vignettes of boldly athletic dances choreographed to a1980s/90s soundtrack of techno, disco, club and pop tunes (some re-mixed). Montana is joined by an ensemble of six - four men and two women - with backgrounds in modern dance and gymnastics. The themes of sexual exploration and drug experience stay woven tightly in the 55 minute show even when the loose narrative thread that stitches the vignettes together unravels. No matter. The propulsive mix of sound and movement and dazzling exhibition of lighting, costume and prop design is nonstop.
KINK HAUS never ceases being theatrical. It makes the erotica in the most risqué Spiegeltent, which it resembles in format, look innocent. Its visual imagery is often stunning: a lone figure in a see-through hoodie with its lining wired with Christmas tree lights cavorts solo through a pitch dark house. Drag gets patriotic with a vengeance: Montana as a flag-draped Lady Liberty lip-syncs a country/western diva’s rendition of “God Bless America” clasping a large dildo as hand-held microphone.
Sex - homo, fetishistic, S&M - abounds, sometimes with inspired, satiric wit (the gym number turns a Jane Fonda workout carnal), sometimes with astonishing, technical finesse (a G-stringed Stephi Lyneice performs a dance solo sliding on the floor of a small space awash in baby oil to “Addicted to Love”). Wild gymnastics inform both a drug-crazed pas de deux around an ottoman piled high with a pyramid of cocaine (remember Pacino in “Scarface”?) and a violently sexual, male pas de deux between Montana (as top) and an amazingly flexible Avi Borouchoff (as bottom).
Nothing tops, however, Jessica Daley’s dance solo in, out, over and around an old, rusty bathtub. When she gets tied to the tub with a long metal chain on one wrist, she buzzsaws her release with a chainsaw held by her free hand. Sparks fly.