BWW Review: Company XIV Sexes Up Halloween with QUEEN OF HEARTS
Company XIV's seductively queer-flavored burlesque Queen of Hearts is celebrating Halloween with an end-of-month blowout of adult fun that outstrips anything Las Vegas pretends to offer. The final 4 performances of Queen begin October 30th and run through November 2nd. Each night is framed as an out-of-this-world playground destination for sexy-folks of all persuasions who are looking for a safe place to get debaucherous without any of the accompanying shenanigans that NYC can throw one's way.
On top of the delectable show, the final 3 performances (October 31st-November 2nd) will include a complimentary cocktail, savory treats, and a costume contest with the winner for Best Costume receiving a gift bag of XIV swag. If you're into it, come dressed to impress!
I saw the show with my partner on Friday and was titillated beyond belief, not only by the opulent production but by the sexy bodies of all varieties doing their darnedest to coax the audience to a collective orgasm. While sipping on champagne I found myself screaming, "I'm over-stimulated and I'm loving it!" Our straight neighbor was feeling similarly inclined and looked like he was learning new things about his orientation anytime a jewel-encrusted codpiece sashayed by. His girlfriend certainly approved: She was ready to eat out of the operatic aerialist's lap (Marcy Richardson) anytime she opened her... legs.
Maybe it was Nolan McKew's ever-insouciant smile that seduced my neighbors. Just as likely, it was Josh Hobbs' f_ck-me rock growl that did the honors, as he worked the mic with a slinky glam-rock sneer. One thing is for sure: we were all frothing at the bits during Cristina Rae's set. This is how Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood is supposed to sound; her RnB groove version as the titular queen was worth the price of admission by itself.
The evening is filled with exquisite costumes, nonstop bawdy humor, operatic aerial arts, genre-smashing choreography, a BDSM contortion act, and a birthday cake celebration, which will have you standing up to shake your rump for weeks to come. The show's tricked-out production values are fabulously gay in the best way possible, to the point that your sex drive will hit overdrive within the first 30 minutes: everyone I've spoken to who has seen the show mentioned (unprompted) that they had crazy exciting post-performance sex. Let me say it a little louder for the people in back: do not see this show if you're trying to play it celibate this week.
But if you're looking for a night of sensual delights, I can suggest no better locale than this bawdy affair.
How does a show of this sophistication come together so flawlessly? I sat down for an exclusive interview with Company XIV's founding artistic and executive director, Austin McCormick, for all the details.
McCormick shapes each show around the talents of his company members in service of making sure the audience is driven to sensual bliss. If the experience feels seamless, that is because he's worked out the production and dramaturgical elements before rehearsal even begins.
Having Théâtre XIV: 383 Troutman Street in Brooklyn as a permanent home has allowed him to dig deeper into creating the experience that he wants for his audience. Instead of running from place to place or following someone else's schedule, "We're creating the shows in the environment where they're being performed, which is just an incredible luxury."
Luxury is the precise word to describe the vibe. Every aspect of Company XIV's production has been masterminded by McCormick to deliver an orgiastic overload of titillation. That includes the descending goodies-filled chandeliers, delicious cocktail menu, re-orchestrated song lists, and jaw-dropping specialty acts.
When asked if there is there anything that he doesn't do on the show, McCormick laughs, "Actually, literally no. I think in order to do this you have to be willing to do everything from fixing the toilet to bar-tending to learning how to read a lease. You gotta be willing to wear all of the hats." In that sense, Company XIV's impresario is Queen of Hearts' invisible Mad Hatter. "Most of the audience doesn't know what I look like so I get to be anonymous and see how people interact with the show."
Thinking back to when he used to perform in the shows, McCormick reflects, "That was so crazy. Switching the hat from performer to director and choreographer daily was a tricky transition. I feel like the work is better with with an outside eye." When asked if we'll get to see him in a codpiece anytime soon he emphatically demurs. "Oh, my God. Only if I get like three years to prepare. But hey, I would totally do some kind of fully clothed cameo." What about a striptease? "Only if it's wrist to ankle."
Luckily the performers are not as attached to their clothing as McCormick. While the show's burlesque element is fully committed to the tease, when it's time to bare their flesh, this cast is all in. "A big philosophy of the company is, 'The way you do something is the way you do everything.'" This includes set changes and bar-tending; both tasks are executed by the performers in full character, so you might find yourself listening to LEXXE crooning her heart out on her original song Blue one minute, then buying a shot from her the next.
"I think that's part of what's really special about the visual aesthetic and values of the company; we're all contributing to producing the show and engaging the audience in this super intimate space." That might explain why Queen of Hearts is the Company XIV's longest running production, having been extended from 8 weeks to 12. In fact, the day after Heart closes, rehearsals for the annual Nutcracker Rouge, which opens November 15th, will begin.
So if you find yourself unable to catch Company XIV's Halloween Celebration, be sure to come for a winter pick-me-up. Especially if you're starting to date someone. "Taking a partner or someone your dating to XIV is a really good gauge of what they're into." Get your stockings, swings, codpieces, and riding crops ready...
Company XIV's Nutcracker Rouge returns for its annual celebration on starting November 15th and runs through January 26th, 2020. For the full schedule of performances, visit: