Review: Arias with a Twist

Drag diva Joey Arias teams with puppetmaster Basil Twist.

  • Photograph: Steven Menendez

    Arias with a Twist

    Arias with a Twist

  • Photograph: Steven Menendez

    Arias with a Twist

    Arias with a Twist

  • Photograph: Steven Menendez

    Arias with a Twist

    Arias with a Twist

  • Photograph: Steven Menendez

    Arias with a Twist

    Arias with a Twist

  • Photograph: Steven Menendez

    Arias with a Twist

    Arias with a Twist

Photograph: Steven Menendez

Arias with a Twist

Arias with a Twist

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

"You've changed," Joey Arias twangs bluesily toward the end of his drag-puppet extravaganza Arias with a Twist, somehow channeling Billie Holiday and Joan Crawford at the same time. Arias is right: He's taken the audience on a mind-expanding musical odyssey through space, time and gender; who could stay the same after that? But even though Arias gets abducted by aliens, lost in a jungle and—if I recall correctly—double-penetrated by two demon lovers, he hasn't changed: He's still the plucky chanteuse with a killer vocal range. It's the universe, in Basil Twist's astonishing, eye-popping design, that keeps morphing around him.

Twist, whose credits include the bewitching Symphonie Fantastique and puppets for Peter and Wendy and The Addams Family, is a perfect match for the sweetly garish Arias. (Arias with a Twist had its first, extended run at HERE in 2008.) Both gravitate toward the weird yet delicate, new life-forms that tremble but bare their teeth. And it's only natural that drag and puppets should share the stage. Both imbue objects with fresh meaning: The puppeteer brings a strip of cloth to life, and the female impersonator uses a smear of lipstick or fake breasts to evoke the feminine. Together they create an adult yet childlike world of flying ice-cream cones, blooming flowers and, ahem, glowing emerald vaginas.

The plotless phantasmagoria takes Arias (in Manfred Thierry Mugler's fleshtone-and-garter S&M sheath) from a painful probing on a spaceship (while shrieking a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir") to tripping on a magic mushroom and rampaging through New York la Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, until he gets back to his nightclub act with the hand-carved Dream Music Orchestra. It's all gorgeously crafted and utterly silly; we wouldn't change a thing.

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Abrons Arts Center. By Joey Arias and Basil Twist. Dir. Twist. With Arias. 1hr 30mins. No intermission. See complete event information