“There is no goodbye in Hell.” But there is an open mic night. There’s another thought that lets you know you’re in Hell — as long as we’re here we might as well make the best of it.
Writer/Performer Alexandra Tatarsky certainly does. She makes Hell seem like a white-collar prison with talent show that never starts and never ends.
Upon entering, you are immersed in total darkness (good luck finding a seat). A man hunched over an accordian plays a creepy melody that perfectly sets the mood. Tatarsky enters as the evening’s host, the Devil herself. She is cool and oh-so over it all as she introduces the first act, Miriam, a psychologist from Queens. Miriam has no actual act or talent to present, nor do any of the evening’s characters really (perhaps this is what makes it an open mic night in Hell) so she fills her slot with chatter about her life. Next up is a French woman who used to be a part of her husband’s magic act but she doesn’t know any magic herself. She is followed by Johannes Von Frankenstein, alchemist and accidental inventor of Prussian Blue (he was trying to make gold of course). Johannes tells us about his wild (west) years as he discards jackets related to his life story. Next is Selena, a white girl who thinks she’s Puerto Rican. Her first order of business is to put on her giant hoop earrings. Selena actually raps for us! (finally an act!) The final character is an indistinct mound. It’s name is Francis. It ends the show on a rather odd, deflated note.
I found Tatarsky’s performance to be endlessly entertaining. She is charming and cozy every minute she’s on stage. She’s not afraid to be silly or completely absurd. She’s not afraid to be silent either. There are moments of just expressions and gestures that are hysterical. Not everything works, there are bad puns and jokes that fall flat but Tatarsky’s commitment to her characters makes up for all of that. Selena stands out among them. This character is like an extra limb to Tatarsky. Sassy and funny, she poses on stage with one shoulder forward and a hand on her hip telling us about her crazy family. I was a little disappointed that an open mic night in Hell didn’t really have any talent acts. The show is mostly character monologues that have no connection to one another. The production might benefit from some sort of overall meaning or theme that would bind the show together in some way. But there isn’t one. Its purpose is to make you laugh and in that, it certainly succeeds.
The show’s title, Beast of Festive Skin, is appropriately, a quote from Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is a perfect title for this production. Tatarsky is a beast on stage and she pulls on and peels off layer after layer of the festive skins of her characters. It is a lot of fun to watch.