2018 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Chlamydia dell’Arte: MORE Sex-Ed Burlesque’

This review was originally published in DC Theatre Scene. Republished with permission.

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by Jill Kyle-Keith

Two unconventional beauties take us on a wild ride through sex, politics, and the politics of sex.

As the title implies, Chlamydia dell’Arte is a sort-of burlesque, with a sort-of sketch comedy framework, all bound together with some delightfully honest and funny video interviews with friends and family members of the two performers. Everyone’s represented in the video segments: gay, straight, genderqueer, undecided, old and young, and all the various shades of humanity, for a nice mix on what sex used to be and what it is now.

Written and performed by Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams, the show is at once irreverent, brave, and slightly embarrassing: exactly what you’d expect from a Fringe show with a sexually transmitted disease as its title. It’s borderline vulgar at times, but never quite descends into crassness, in large part to the zippy comic timing of its cast. Naglak and Williams are having a wonderful time, and it’s hard not to laugh even as you watch the sometimes overly explicit action with your hands over your face. It’s not a show for sissies or the prudish: there’s nudity in some of the scenes, but always with a smirk attached.

True to burlesque, the show includes a striptease of sorts, as feminist fashion takes the upper hand and two ladies in big-shoulder 1980s power suits get down to the nitty-gritty: belts fly off, stilettos get kicked to the curb, the ladies go Spanxless, and it’s freedom right down to the pasties and thongs. Though… it certainly could be argued that thongs and glued-on pasties are pretty uncomfortable, too, not to mention not so terribly feminist. If one wished to make a statement about fashion no longer making the woman, Crocs, yoga pants, and stretched-out t-shirts would be closer to the mark.

There’s a raunchy and silly fan dance with a surprise at the end, the requisite talking vagina puppet, an interview with Vice President Pence, you get the idea. I should mention here one of my favorite lines: at the very beginning, the audience was encouraged to “Set your phone to vibrate and put it somewhere interesting”. Honestly, this should be the new standard for Turn The Damn Thing Off speeches we hear at every curtain rising.

One of the funniest of the sketches followed two new parents trying valiantly to get it on of an evening, with both a baby and then a toddler waking up at very inopportune times. Great physical comedy with a cute twist: nobody sleeps or shtups: it’s family time from now on.

Yet for all the laughs, the show falls a bit short. There are missteps, such as an overlong monologue about the MeToo movement that isn’t quite stand-up and isn’t quite funny; it’s a semi-serious piece without a real point.

Perhaps the main flaw is that Chlamydia is essentially preaching to the choir.  It’s liberal- and I say this as a liberal- almost to a fault, pointing out the flaws in our society but not really addressing how we should go about fixing them. To fix these flaws, we have to talk to the opposition, not just to the folks that already agree with us, but then, what uptight conservative of any stripe would go see a show entitled Chlamydia Dell’Arte?

It’s a lot to ask of the marketing team for an hour-long Fringe show designed to be fluffy and silly, sure, but since the show goes out of its way to talk politics at every turn and the comedy is there, perhaps, while we’re laughing at ourselves, we ought to find a way to bring those who don’t agree to join in.

Rating: 

This review was originally published in DC Theatre Scene. Republished with permission.

Chlamydia del’Arte: MORE Sex-Ed Burlesque plays through July 24th, 2018 at Arena Stage – 1101 6th Street, SW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, go online.