BWW Review: JACK FERVER Mistakes The Kitchen for Camp
Jack Ferver never let up on his drag delivery. Switching arbitrarily from bad French to English or from danse to dance passed for plot in this cabaret act. The scantily clad men in the audience - I attended the June 30th, 2016 performance - lapped it up before they even had a chance to hear the next line. It was all good fun, though if there is an art to telegraphing intention it was not on display here. That was "I Want You to Want Me": a surrealistic B movie romp ruled by a character with mystical abilities for no other reason than "just because". File it under lazy craftsmanship. The world that Mr. Ferver inhabited was self referential, sassy, and imbued with magic, not unlike a gay lounge. One felt badly for his victims. By victims I mean fellow actors who were all in search of something to do beyond behave like dithering ingénues. Granted they were all better dancers than Mr. Ferver, but who cares about dancing when you're competing with a wily imp who can and will do anything - including rewrite the rules of reality - to come out on top?
For the audience there was not much to do but cheer the ridiculousness and sail on the gay vibes towards the closing zombie dance party. The only time this didn't work was during an extended dance solo that begged to be taken seriously. Someone forgot to remind Mr. Ferver that this was a sitcom; serious art belonged on the back burner. The evening got back on track with an intentionally awkward love scene, a murder, a blinding, and an impersonation that made Shakespeare's "bed trick" look like high art. Tricking a straight ballet boy who is too dumb to realize that you are not his fiancée even though your voice and size are off turns out to be funny. Some clever things were said; more often than not, some mundane things were said cleverly. Of course it was terrible - a travesti even - but sadly not quite a scandal. An immortal witch lures two young American dancers in search of art to France and then murders the one in order to nab the other; that old gag. For all the melodrama and hysterics on display - Mr. Ferver's "M" was a veritable drama hag - one longed for more shock and bite. We had to make do with camp affectations that one could almost sing along to before the tune had been played. The only thing more disappointing than the predictability was how tame it turned out to be. If this is queer materialization - the program helpfully described it thusly - then I think I'll stick to the drag bars in Chelsea and down a pitcher of Manhattans while I'm at it.
The dancers hit their marks - they didn't have much to do - with the pleasingly facile choreography. Once again, we saw where it is going - as well as its classic quotes - even when it descended into camp. Mr. Ferver's impersonation of Martha Graham aside, what really amused was Reid Bartelme's bitter henchman "Dukor" aka "Reid". In this meta-commentary on being gay and fabulous, he was the bitter Max Von Mayerling to Mr. Ferver's Norma Desmond and the only person onstage whose inner life registered as authentic. I wish I had tickets to the show in which he was starring or to Flemming Flindt's " The Lesson", on which this piece was essentially riffing. The audience gave it an ovation. That's how high the bar for entertainment is these days; if they sit through it until the end, they applaud it. "I Want You to Want Me" was amusing enough, which is as damning a statement as one can make about a bad cabaret act. Back to the drawing room; preferably onto the discothèque.
Photo Credit: Paula Court