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Bambif*cker/Kaffeehaus: Theater review by Helen Shaw
The zany company Little Lord whips on its long apron, flips a napkin over its arm and serves up a nicely realized bit of perverse wackadoodle frivolity: Bambif*cker/Kaffeehaus, a higgledy-piggledy mishmash of texts and conversations about Viennese Jewish coffeehouse culture, the Austrian writer Felix Salten, glancing references to The Sound of Music and taxidermied deer. Inspired by the fact that Salten wrote both Bambi and (anonymously) Josefine Mutzenbacher—a fake erotic memoir of a child nymphomaniac—writer-director Michael Levinton and writer-performer Laura von Holt seem to have realized they can sexualize anything.
The Brick has been made over into an awkward boîte: a deliberately pathetic buffet (buy treats with Bambibucks!) stands against one of the walls, which are dotted with photocopied reproductions of a Klimt portrait. When Levinton talks midshow about having woodland fantasies at the Neue Galerie, you suddenly recognize your surroundings: Designer Elizabeth Barrett Groth has made us a glue-and-macaroni version of Café Sabarsky.
The cast is dressed as waiters, though they have forgone pants, and when they aren't playing randy rabbits (bunny ears and Easter-grass merkins) or prostituted fawns (antlers and high-heel hooves), they're coffeehouse attendants, reading us excruciating poetry composed for the occasion. “Beep beep beep / Who got the keys to the jeep?” intones one fellow. (Earlier he was pressing theatregoers to have another Toaster Strudel, and now, belatedly, we worry about his taste.)
Elsewhere Polly Lee, channeling Josefine, is murmuring into a microphone about how many “shafts” have entered her “grotto.” The pivots happen on a dime; we're simply being assaulted with anything flavored Vienna—Freud, Herzl, Schnitzler, Cabaret…even the canned mini-sausages have a cameo. It doesn't amount to anything in aggregate, yet the bits attain a velocity of weirdness that tips into charm.
The audience for this show may not be large—as is appropriate for a café-culture piece, Bambif*cker trades on in-jokes and the delicate claustrophobia of downtown. Levinton himself presides from a tech desk high up in the seats, and he'll sometimes interrogate Bambi (Joshua William Gelb) about his sexual proclivities, or he'll moan about the size of the house for tomorrow night. If you don't understand why actors would fuss over whether "Vallejo" checks his own email (a reference to the artistic director of P.S. 122), Bambif*cker may not hit your fun spot. But it gropes so hard to please and tries so many things! Surely it will touch something in you that will wriggle with pleasure.—Helen Shaw
The Brick (see Off-Off Broadway). By Michael Levinton, Laura von Holt and Little Lord. Directed by Levinton. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission.