Tango, Cabaret, Love! is not for the faint of heart nor lack of appetite.
Conceived, directed by and starring Cecilia De Feo, Laura Quiroga and Lorena Sabogal, the show is a bilingual escapade mixing classic Latin buffoonery and absurdist slam poetry. Bonus: These aim-to-please showgirls are serving triangular, angel-white, crust-free SANDWICHES 10 minutes in.
If the way to an audience’s heart is through its stomach, then people, meet your soul mate.
There are no subtitles, though, so it helps to either bone up on your high school Spanish or take a crash course in Argentine “evolutionary” tango chart-toppers, such as “Nostalgias” by Juan Carlos Cobian, “El dia que me quieras” by Carlos Gardel, and the patter song “Se dice de mi” popularized on Ugly Betty.
If none of these ring a bell, this South American-meets-Parisian entertainment might not be for you. But if you’re into expanding your vistas and value the edgy education of Fringe, prepare a flight of cocktails and dive in.
These long-pedigreed actresses all have ties to Gala Hispanic Theatre. To put it bluntly: They are glam hams with gams.
De Feo (Kiki) is ravishingly 1940s-style cute with tulip cheeks, mischievous glances and recording-artist pipes. Sabogal (Chipi) is the ringleader with a real mouth on her. And veteran gypsy Quiroga (Bombon) plays the sadder-but-wiser, caustic, callous clown who comes across as “a lady who lunches.” When she dons those rhinestone sunglasses and takes a drag on the fake cigarillo, all that’s missing is the sports car and the handsome, mysterious stranger. No, wait. He’s on her like a bee to honey.
Quiroga is an obvious artiste, whose sense of form and theatrics is riveting. Her dance interpretations and miming “business” steal every scene. She’s definitely been around a few blocks. Beyond the sandwiches, she delivers the meat of the show and the closest thing to a show-stopper.
Another quintessential artist is barefoot accompanist Mari “Mariposa” Paz, who glides over the keys (using not sheet music but what looked like charts) as if she’s wedded to them and it happens to be her honeymoon.
Meanwhile, the trio are like reckless bridesmaids, getting faux drunker as the evening wears on. That’s OK, because the audience on opening night was as snappily dressed with just as many tumblers in hand.
The gags may fall flat, but perhaps it’s only getting lost in translation. My Puerto Rican heritage helped me understand the words but not always the point.
What’s not lost on anyone, though, is the music – the tantalizing tango. Quiroga’s dance with a dinner jacket is simply jaw-dropping.
Good thing the Atlas is air-conditioned, because unlike the performing spaces at Fort Fringe, the only thing that may make you the least bit uncomfortable here is the avant-garde, wanton material.
Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission, but a short snack break
Tango, Cabaret, Love! plays through July 27 at Atlas Theatre Lab II–1333 H Street NE, in Washington, DC. For information and to purchase tickets, visit the production’s Capital Fringe page.