EAGER TO LOSE: A FARCE IN BURLESQUE
511 West 54th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Extended through November 9, $30
The fantastically inventive Ars Nova — home to 2011’s crazy The Lapsburgh Layover and 2012’s wildly successful Tolstoy adaptation Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, pulls off another amazing transformation, this time into the Tim Tam Room, a burlesque house where the utterly delightful Eager to Lose takes place. Tables and benches for patrons cluster around the Tim Tam’s glittering stage and runway, where the tall, handsome MC (John Behlmann) makes goofy jokes while introducing burlesque performers Tansy (Tansy Tan Dora), Glinda (Emily Walton), and Trixie (Stacey Yen), in addition to a guest dancer every night. But when Tansy, the star of the show and owner of the club, suddenly announces she is quitting in order to jet off on an international burlesque tour with Friends star David Schwimmer, Eager to Lose morphs into a Shakespearean farce told in ribald iambic pentameter as Trixie and Glinda fight over which one of them will take over and the MC realizes he is in love with Tansy and must profess his desire before she leaves, entrusting his oddball buddy, Peeps (Richard Saudek), to deliver a heartfelt note to her. But, of course, nothing goes quite as planned.
Written by Matthew-Lee Erlbach and directed by Wes Grantom and Portia Krieger, Eager to Lose is an immense amount of fun, mixing ample doses of sex and silly humor into its deliciously decadent tale. The plot evokes such Bard works as Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and A Comedy of Errors while incorporating classic vaudeville and silent-film bits referencing Buster Keaton, the Three Stooges, and the Marx Brothers. Walton is sweetly innocent as Glinda, Behlmann (The 39 Steps) is endearingly charming as the MC, part Jim Carrey, part David Duchovny, and cocreator and choreographer Tansy, known as the Elizabeth Taylor of Burlesque, has a field day as the sexy diva in the middle of it all. Even the band — musical director Cody Owen Stine on piano, Ben Arons on drums, Chris Bastian on bass, and Danny Jonokuchi on trumpet — gets in on the action. But Saudek virtually steals the show as the mute fool Peeps, displaying impressive pantomime skills that bring down the house several times. Mark Erbaugh’s set design and Tilly Grimes’s flashy costumes add to the many pleasures, as does a bar that remains open throughout the show. Be sure to arrive early for an extra little bonus.