‘Pasties & Popcorn’ at DC Shorts by John Harding

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FOUR STARS
The VisArts Center in Rockville is a rather respectable venue for a program titled Pasties & Popcorn. But there you are, amid a nearly full house in the upstairs convention room on Friday, June 28, for the first of two nights of short risque films and live burlesque acts designed to massage and titillate the fraying fringe of respectability.

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The program is built around seven crowd-pleasing films from recent DC Shorts festivals. While only one of these features  even a dash of nudity, all seven earn their adult credentials with tame treatments of fetishism, onanism, sado-masochism, and what might loosely be called the joy of sex.
Pasties & Popcorn harkens back to the final years of vaudeville as it gave way to the edgier acts of burlesque, and on-stage performers were interspersed with the filmed entertainment. But this is not your grandfather’s idea of burlesque, as the five female dancers and one male comedian would more likely consider themselves performance artists or “post-modern vaudevillians” than strippers or exotic dancers.
Only two of the ladies show enough skin to justify the promise of “pasties” in the title. Overall, the acts seemed so charmingly innocent that one wonders why they even bothered to change their names.
“Mourna Handful” set the mocking, neo-burlesque tone for the evening, arriving in a glittery cow costume complete with working udder (patrons in the front rows, beware!). “Malibu,” a producer of D.C.’s Tilted Torch variety shows,  came closest to fitting the definition of professional stripper, while always remaining very much a lady.
“Shaell” earned enthisiastic applause for her Moroccan approach to traditional belly dancing “Surprise!” remained fully clothed even though her dance performance with two electrified hula-hoops seemed ideal for the managed exhibiting of human flesh. And Baltimore’s “Maria Bella” did an energetic semaphore routine with banners aglow from blacklight.
No burlesque show would be complete without a tasteless comic, and “Swami YoMahmi” filled that bill with an homage to the sideshow geek tradition.
Also giving customers a taste of old-time burlesque was ribald emcee “Shortstaxx,” a member of Baltimore’s Sticky Buns Burlesque.
Whatever our expectations, “Pasties & Popcorn” delivered variety, laughs and some welcomed surprises. No doubt having an open cash bar in the room also helped ease adult customers into the receptive good cheer of the evening.
Running Time: Two Hours and 30 minutes.
DC Shorts and Tilted Torch’s Pasties & Popcorn will be repeated just once more TONIGHT – Saturday, June 29, at 8:30 p.m. at VisArts Rockville, 155 Gibbs Street behind the Rockville Town Square. Tickets are $15 and also admit one to the after-show blues club upstairs