Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Shit and Champagne at The Oasis
At the corner of 11th and Folsom Streets, a nightclub with one of the stranger, checkered histories in San Francisco has been revived with its original name, The Oasis. As the press materials note, "The Oasis has been a bathhouse, S&M leather bar, a private sex club for a magazine, a discotheque and a Latin salsa club. The club featured a large swimming pool and a retractable roof for many years. The pool may be gone, but the legacy remains!"
Though it was never a personal hangout, I have probably visited the place during all of its incarnations over the decades, and its current revival as a combination nightclub, drag performance space, and dance hall strikes me as the liveliest and most charming version of all.
The performance space is being inaugurated with a revival of Shit & Champagne, written/starring/co-directed by D'arcy Drollinger above, a towering drag queen with Las Vegas showgirl legs perched on stiletto heels who can kick villains in the head with perfect vertical extensions.
The two-hour, two-act play is certainly ambitious, packing in enough plot, characters, costume and wig changes, not to mention choreographed high heeled kung fu fights to stuff a half dozen 1970s blaxploitation action movies. One of those seminal films was undoubtedly Cleopatra Jones, which featured Shelley Winters as a heroin lord who tries to destroy Tamara Dobson, the 6'2" super agent. In Shit & Champagne, the criminal mastermind is the boss woman of Mal-Wart, played with deadpan brilliance by Matthew Martin in a scary pantsuit, aided by the hardworking, amusing James Arthur M. and Adam Roy as her henchmen, two of many roles they undertake.
The script is relentlessly scatalogical, silly, and raunchy in equal measure and won't be everyone's cup of tea (my date for the evening was seriously unamused), but I enjoyed the entire evening. From the sordid looking pole dancers warming up the crowd to the political references where drug-addicted, Mal-Wart half-price hookers are being sent out as call girls to Mayor Ed Lee and Mark Zuckerberg, it was transgressively funny. (Drollinger and Steven LeMay are pictured above, an infiltrator with a Consumer Capitalism true believer.)
Gender throughout is fluid, with women and men playing both sexes, which can become pleasantly, disturbingly confounding.
A special shout-out goes to Nancy French above as a stripper emcee who has a new look of contempt, boredom and disgust every time she appears onstage, a cumulative joke that gets funnier as it goes along.
The great lighting and sound design are by Michael Blythe, and the endlessly inventive costumes are from Tria Connell.
The audience on Saturday night spanned all ages and genders, and they were lively and appreciative. Seeing a 1970s spoof in what was once a seedy 1970s sex club performed by and for young people 40 years after the fact felt like a world coming full circle. The show is only being performed four more weekends through February 14th, Thursday through Saturday at 7PM, and it already feels legendary. Click here to buy tickets.