2015 Capital Fringe Review: ‘The Last Burlesque’

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The Last Burlesque is a fun, sexy romp with much to delight – from spirited performances, creative dance numbers, eye-catching costumes, to (of course!) good old-fashioned titillating burlesque. Produced by Pinky Swear Productions, which dedicates itself to creating theatre with strong roles for women, this very fine production lives up to the company’s mission with its two strong female leads Katrina Clark as Darcy and Emma Hebert as May. The play, written by Pinky Swear Company Member Stephen Spotswood, comes to raunchy and hilarious life under Amber Jackson’s direction.

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The play is primarily set backstage at a burlesque club named the Valley. Part boudoir, part dressing room – the set design by Brian J. Gillick, with props by Karen Lange, is sultry and just right for the entertaining antics of the family, both inherited and acquired, that inhabit this space. The drama centers on Darcy, a very-covered-up and straight-laced academic, who returns home to find her family’s burlesque in dire financial straits. The burlesque cast pulses with talent – side-show tricks like escape artistry, flame-swallowing, and suspension as well as of the tassel-wearing variety – both in the Valley and in real life.

Choreographer Katrina Hilleard interweaves a range of engrossing dance numbers seamlessly throughout the play, from group pieces to solo performance, some teasing, others humorous, still others nakedly emotional. Emma Hebert’s dance performances in particular are spectacular; she blends the sex appeal of the “fancy stripper” vision of the burlesque dancer with the raw vulnerability and intensity of the other side of burlesque, that of artistry and illusion.

The sensuality and humor, both inherent in burlesque, are heightened to great effect by the fantastic costumes designed by Liz Gossens. We don’t often expect to see a lot of costume changes at Fringe performances, but this one has costumes in spades – think leather, lace, fur, American flags, ropes, billowy scarves, and you’d just be beginning to get the picture.

The palpable flirtation between Darcy and a new member of the burlesque; the future of the Valley, the future of Darcy – what is to become of her and her old friends?

Run, don’t walk, to go find out and enjoy, as one of the characters says, your every minute here before “going back to your boring lives”!

Running Time: Approximately One hour and 40 minutes, with no intermission.

The Last Burlesque plays through Saturday, July 25, 2015 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center’s Sprenger Theatre – 1333 H Street NE, in Washington, DC. For performance times and to purchase tickets, visit their Capital Fringe Page.

RATING: BEST OF THE 2015 CAPITAL FRINGE: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS11.gif

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