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At Least It's Pink

Theatre Reviews by Matthew Murray

You’ll face two formidable challenges during the first five minutes of At Least It’s Pink: Not falling out of your chair from laughing, and convincing yourself the dead can’t really come back to life. From the instant she steps onstage at Ars Nova, Bridget Everett is actively attempting to channel the last of the red hot mamas herself, Sophie Tucker. With a husky oboe of a voice, a cartoonishly stocky stature, and a penchant for singing of every shade of the bluer side of life, the comparisons make themselves - and the sheer, ribald entertainment they evoke doesn’t hurt.

But as the evening unfolds, you’ll struggle with something else entirely: downing a steaming plate of crow. The longer Everett’s act lasts, the less it resembles a dazzling showcase for a glamorous comedienne with a suggestive naughty side and the more it becomes a jambalaya of nastiness existing only to heap cheap thrills upon even cheaper thrills. After nearly an hour and a half of “big girl really, really loves sex” talk and singing, you’ll long for the coyness and subtlety olden-day stars like Tucker employed to keep you titillated without getting explicit. Believe it or not, less really can be more.

It’s hard to imagine this excessively excessive performer ever reaching that conclusion on her own, however. Everett, strapped into a tight black-leather corset containing a wide assortment of props (Metrocards and condoms are just the tip of the iceberg) as well as her own copious assets, spends much of her time gluttonously redefining the traditional meaning of “letting it all hang out.”

She has to, though, to maintain the properly giddy-grotesque tone her show thrives on; if her body didn’t match her bawdy, something would feel very amiss. “Tender” offerings like “2 for 1 Special” (about the psychological and economic impact of aborting twins) and “Back-Stabbing Bitch” (self-explanatory) demand demi-dominatrix dress; a “love song” called “Canhole” about… oh, never mind… just wouldn’t be the same in a floor-length gown and pearls. (The costumes, such as they are, are by Angela Wendt.)

The songs, which Everett wrote with Kenny Mellman (of Kiki & Herb infamy, and who takes a turn accompanying Everett) aren’t displeasing; they’re mostly solidly constructed tributes to a drag production of Cabaret late Saturday night in the Meatpacking District, and they’re fine fits for Everett’s leather-bar-backroom voice. But the majority of the numbers just move in for the quick hit then move out before the cops show up, leaving you with laughs and, five seconds later, a nagging uncertainty about what you were laughing about.

The sole exception is the finale, “A Lovely Shade of Pink,” a cleverly affecting exhortation to look beyond outer stereotypes that utilizes as many of those stereotypes as possible. Its title, like the show’s, derives from one of the more memorable reminiscences Everett, Mellman, and Michael Patrick King (also the director) have worked into Everett’s patter: Her day job is as a Ruby Foo’s waitress, and she once had to contend with a customer who refused a steak that appeared charred to a crisp but deep inside was visibly (if vaguely) the medium rare he requested.

The script could use more of these kinds of connections, so all the outrageous obscenities would have a greater purpose than merely to shock. When that’s all there is, it loses it impact quickly, and that happens about 30 minutes into this 80-minute show. Everett the performer isn’t to blame: She has no trouble relating to the audience when confronting them directly during a brief accompanistless period, or finding endlessly inventive ways to unlock unexpected humor in anecdotes and songs about anonymous, drunken sex acts. At Least It’s Pink is unquestionably stomach-churningly entertaining. The problem is it’s still mostly stomach-churning.


At Least It's Pink
Through March 11
Ars Nova Theater, 511 West 54th Street
Running Time: 1 Hour and 20 minutes
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: Smarttix