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Eager to Lose

  • Theater, Comedy
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Eager to Lose. Ars Nova (see Off Broadway). By Matthew-Lee Erlbach. Created by Erlbach, Wes Grantom, Portia Krieger, Tansy. Dirs. Grantom and Krieger. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.

Eager to Lose: In brief

Classy burlesque star Tansy headlines a rowdy strip-club-set farce she cocreated (via Ars Nova's ANT Fest) with playwright Matthew-Lee Erlbach and directors Wes Grantom and Portia Krieger. The supporting cast includes the exceedingly handsome John Behlmann.

Eager to Lose: Theater review by Jenna Scherer

There’s a comforting predictability to the art of burlesque; we know that the fancy-lookin’ dress ain’t staying on, and that by the end of the song, the ecdysiast in question will be down to a G-string and pasties—no more, no less. The same is true of romantic comedy and rhyming poetry: The lovers will get together in the last scene; flight will resolve in night. All three are combined in surprisingly brilliant fashion in Eager to Lose, a farce that captures the particular gyrations and frustrations of old-timey romance—only with, y’know, boobs.

Real-life burly-Q star Tansy stars as the doyenne of a classy strip joint; she and the MC (the crazy-handsome John Behlmann) are secretly in love, and must hack through a tangle of crossed wires and cross-dressing before they can finally get that point through to each other. Meanwhile, Tansy’s two underlings (Emily Walton and Stacey Yen) are battling to see who will take over after she steps down. All of this is played out in rhymed verse that combines 16th-century-style language with pop-culture references and profanity, spoken between stripteases. Think a rated-R Comedy of Errors.

It’s all purposely over-the-top and adroitly executed, from the Tansy-choreographed dance numbers to the talented Richard Saudek's vaudevillian clowning as a mute stagehand. Everything about codirectors Wes Grantom and Portia Krieger’s production is polished to a bright sheen: from Mark Erbaugh’s scenic design, which transforms Ars Nova into a posh retro nightclub, to the live jazz quartet accompanying the show.

Eager to Lose is so silly it shouldn’t work, but its disparate elements combine much better than you might expect. It would’ve been nice to throw the straight ladies and gay men in the audience a bone by putting a male burlesquer in the mix, but other than that, I have very few qualms. This throwback comedy goes down like a glass of champagne.—Theater review by Jenna Scherer

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