Theater review by Raven Snook. Elektra Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Jonathan Van Gieson. Dir. Van Gieson and Jeremy X. Halpern. With ensemble cast. 1hr 30mins. One intermission.
Ostensibly a parody of over-the-top, obscure yet ubiquitous cirque spectacles, Pinchbottom's Pretençión is, at its heart, a burlesque revue that lovingly sends up itself. Following the Wizard of Oz template, a ringmistress (the wonderful, wide-eyed Tansy), an unstable clown (boylesque legend Tigger!) and an ordinary man (Murray Hill, the ultimate quipster) go on a magical journey to the land of Imaginaçión in order to regain their pretension, because without it, they fear, their burlesque is just plain old stripping. Along the way, they’re misguided by a none-too-helpful Fairy (Broadway Brassy) and four affected Jonny Porkpies, all played by writer, codirector and Pinchbottom Burlesque cofounder Jonathan Van Gieson.
Like the characters, Pretençión seems to exist between two worlds: high and low, theater and nightlife, smart and stupid. There are scripted bits that leave a lot of room for improvisation, containing references to Proust and Godot as well as deliberately awful jokes about croque-monsieur. Between scenes, special guests perform superb yet seemingly unrelated acts. (Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz, Jo "Boobs" Weldon and Angie Pontani—luminaries all—performed on the night attended.)
Scenesters will rightfully be seduced by Pretençión, and those on the lookout for top-notch burlesque should enjoy this feast for the senseless. But if a cohesive show is what you’re after, this one slightly misses the mark; it might leave you feeling some frustraçión.—Raven Snook