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The New York theater season will be hard-pressed to find a more topically audacious, satirically vicious musical than the Off-Broadway TEETH. Its premise is vagina dentata, the legend found in primitive cultures that a woman's vagina has teeth. Michael R. Jackson, Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner for “A Strange Loop”, and Anna K. Jacobs wrote the book based on (more inspired by, actually) a 2008 indie film of the same title about a teenager who discovers how her anatomical peculiarity can inflict fatal consequences on undeserving boyfriends and sexual predators. The movie plays like a black comedy crime melodrama. But in the hands of Jackson (no stranger to social satire) and Jacobs, TEETH becomes a musical fantasia that hilariously savages concepts of sexuality, gender, morality, religion, and most of the precepts of Christian-based Western civilization.

Our heroine Dawn O’Keefe (Alyse Alan Louis), a teenage virgin, leads her girlfriends in a chastity group called Promise Keepers. Her half-brother Brad O’Keefe (Will Connolly) hangs with his bros in a group called Truthseekers, where they wrestle with young manhood in the modern world. Dawn and Brad’s father (a wickedly funny Steve Pasquale) is pastor of a Christian fundamentalist church called New Testament Village that sponsors the two youth groups. Brad hates Dawn; he’s been traumatized since childhood, when playing doctor with her, when his finger got bitten. Dawn disbelieves Brad when he confronts her with the accusation her vagina bit him when they were kids. Only when her boyfriend Tobey (Jason Gotay) goes too far with her and her vagina reacts offensively (yes, dismembers his penis) does she recognize her plight. Her problem becomes her power, especially after being duped into consensual intercourse by her closeted gay bestie Ryan (a hilarious Jared Loftin), one of the Truthseekers. The Promise Keepers become her sisterhood in a global emasculating bloodbath of all Truthseekers, i.e. manhood. Dentata rules.

It’s all way , way over the top. Still, ”Teeth” has its theatrical antecedents. It recalls: “Three Penny Opera” for its subversion of social norms; “Carrie” for its bloody carnage; “Little Shop of Horrors”, for its nerds as heroes (also the plant, Audrey Jr., had teeth); and “The Vagina Monologues” and “Puppetry of the Penis” for their explicit celebration of sex and frontal assault on the suppression of sexual freedoms.


All these themes are articulated by Jackson’s lyrics in 15 musical numbers (2 reprised) composed by newcomer Jacobs, who ingeniously applies pop rock idioms to underscore the satire. Before things turn bloody, the chaste Dawn and the not-so-virginal Tobey, taking the Bible lesson of the fall of Adam and Eve to heart and, at the same time, bursting with teenage hormonal frustration, celebrate their sexual abstinence in a crazily funny number called “Modest is Hottest”. The most wicked number is a solo by Pasquale, who also plays gynecologist Dr. Godfrey, whom Dawn sees to confirm her condition. In this scene (directly lifted from the movie) , Godfrey ghoulishly sings “Girls Like You”, a predatory sexist view of his patients, as he explores Dawn ungloved. He’s soon missing his fingers. Jared Loftin almost steals the show as the closeted Ryan in “I'm Your Guy”, which deliciously sounds like a 90s Whitney Houston dance hit, in which he cajoles Dawn into helping him “go straight".

Dawn’s sister Promise Keepers function as the Greek chorus; depending on the musical number, they perform as back-up singers, floozy showgirls, femme fatales or avenging warriors. Costumes and scenery accentuate the vulgar (common) aspects of American pop culture, which visually emphasizes the satiric nature of it all. Raja Feather Kelly’s choreography is rather cliched but that fits the satire, too. Director Sarah Benson, who distinguished herself with the complex race drama “The Octoroon” a few years back, is comfortable with challenging, heady material; she ensures no one is spared in this outrageous musical even after some of their vital parts go missing.


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