Harvey Finklestein's Sock Puppet Showgirls
nytheatre.com review by Hope Cartelli
August 15, 2004
August 13, 10:15pm: The Studio at Cherry Lane Theatre was packed like an overfull underwear drawer. The audience was barely able to contain their excitement at the prospect of reliving the wonder, the beauty, the supposed hidden genius of the 1995 movie Showgirls, as seen through the sock puppet stylings of Harvey Finklestein’s Institute of Whimsical, Fantastical, and Marvelous Puppet Masterage. The HFI is making a career of unleashing its cavalcade of costumed tube socks on pop culture and classics alike, having already tackled such parody-friendly fare as Charles Dickens (A Puppet Christmas Carol) and American Idol (Uber American Poser). It is no wonder, then, that Finklestein and company have decided to set their sights on conquering the plot-light, sub-“B” story of one girl’s rise to a certain trashy fame—with socks, lots of socks.
Don’t know the anorexically thin plot of Showgirls? Don’t fret. Finklestein has provided a synopsis in the program. Still, the experience probably isn't nearly as fulfilling for those who haven’t witnessed the grand cinematic feat beforehand. I know it wasn’t for me. Nevertheless, the Friday night audience was reduced to guffaws in seconds with the mere first appearance of the sock puppet heroine of the story, Nomi Malone.
The HFI puppeteers are a fantastic ball of energy and humor. I had an overwhelming sense that the piece was developed by committee and that a hell of a lot of fun was had in the development. Nonetheless, the socks walk the easy route more often than not—the piece is rife with easy in-jokes and lame cameo appearances, including some easily recognizable denizens of Sesame Street at the strip club and the illustrious good girl puppet Lambchop as Nomi's best friend.
Despite the laughter I produced at the show, though, I left feeling nowhere near as satisfied as I hoped I would be, but instead that this simple rehashing of an already ridiculously simple story was not bound to remain fresh in my mind for the remainder of the festival. I even thought (okay, perhaps imagined, selfishly) I sensed a general tone from the audience along the lines of “Well, that was that…”
Maybe HFI will find the fame they seek with this by-the-books fringe crowd-pleaser. I just hope they use the attention to fill their socks with more challenging fare next time around.