BWW Review: Company XIV's SEVEN SINS, A Lavish Feast Of Biblical Misbehaviors
As someone who has indulged in all the creations concocted by the genius director/choreographer Austin Mccormick for his spectacular mix of performing artists, Company XIV, since the early years of this century when they displayed their talents in modestly-scaled productions on East 4th Street, this reviewer will say without hesitation that SEVEN SINS, a lavish feast of biblical misbehaviors, is their most gloriously achieved blending of athleticism, artistry and eroticism.
McCormick ranks as one of the top distinctively-styled director/choreographers to grace this reviewer's 45 years of New York theatergoing, and yes, that upper echelon includes Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett and Tommy Tune.
For the uninitiated, Company XIV is named for the private court entertainments presented for royalty during the reign of France's Louis XIV, inspiring the troupe's visual trademark (costumes designed by Zane Pihlstrom) of 17th Century fetish wear enhanced with contemporary accents. Baroque meets Babeland.
Performances are at their own elegant showplace located on a nondescript industrial street in Brooklyn, a couple of blocks from the L train. Enter the dimly-lit lounge and fill your lungs with the fragrance of frankincense. Champagne and absinthe are the favorite choices from the bar and souvenirs for purchase include pasties and riding crops. A scantily-clad company member will guide you to your seat, though couples may prefer one of the love-seats for two.
But the sensuous atmosphere, enhanced by how Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew's lighting softly caresses every moment, would wear thin without some serious talent involved, and McCormick's ensembles are always made up of a jaw dropping assortment of dancers (ballet, burlesque, contemporary and classic), singers (operatic, bluesy and ballsy) and circus artists. Recorded music is cleverly curated to comment on the proceedings.
Dynamic belter Amy Jo Jackson, plays the devious Devil, who opens the show warning us, through the music and lyrics of Sam Tinnesz, of the dangers of playing with fire. This leads to a creation ballet, where Adam (Scott Schneider when I attended, who alternates with Cemiyon Barber) discovers himself, his surroundings and feels loneliness.
The type of contraption magicians use to cut assistants in half is utilized to separate Adam's torso for easy access to a rib (Louis Armstrong's recording of "You Are Woman, I Am Man" plays in the background) and he and the newly-created Eve (Danielle J.S. Gordon, alternating with Emily Stockwell) perform a romantic pas de deux to Dean Martin's crooning of "If You Were The Only Girl In The World (And I Were The Only Boy)."
Sensuous vocalist Lexxe warns of trouble ahead with Cherry Poppin' Daddies' "Here Comes The Snake" as the ensemble parades through the audience with a serpent puppet. After tasting the forbidden fruit, A&E shed their body stockings to reveal near nudity, and comically try covering up with a fig leaf while Paul Anka's "Adam and Eve" plays.
The second of the show's three acts begins a parade of the Seven Deadly Sins, beginning with one of XIV's most consistently stellar performers, operatic soprano aerialist Marcy Richardson, portraying Vanity as a colorfully-feathered bird who trills Donizetti's while maneuvering through a suspended cage. Later on, as Greed, she dances on a pole while vocalizing Cardi B's "Money."
Lilin performs a gorgeous classic striptease and lap dance as Lust, and the showstopping Jealousy sequence includes matadors Troy Lingelbach and Nolan McKew entwined above the audience on a double lyra while Pretty Lamé sings Bizet's "Habañera."
Perhaps the sexiest date night in town right now would include seating at two of the dozen Serpent VIP places, where each guest arrives to a plate of chilled lobster and a split of champagne. The serving of special drinks and treats are incorporated into the performance when company members reveal surprising ways to unlock compartments within each banquet table. But hold onto your glasses when Demi Remick, as Wrath, pounds out a maniacal tap dance directly on each VIP table, her furious feet inches away from your face.
With such an abundance of frisky fun and frivolity, it's wryly funny for Jackson's Devil to end the proceedings with Peggy Lee's blasé anthem, "Is That All There Is?" But one thing for certain with Austin Mccormick and Company XIV is that they continually satisfy the urge for more.