Theater review by Raven Snook
Nightlife veteran Paul E. Alexander’s techno musical, set in the ’90s Meatpacking District, celebrates a time before tranny became a dirty word. A cross between Sweet Charity and a queer community revival, it focuses on a band of fierce—in all senses of the word—trans prostitutes who have formed a makeshift family. Innocent newbie Strawberry (Mercedes Torres), sassy dom Blondie (Antyon Le Monte), super femme Janet (Jay Knowles) and den mother Diva (Honey Davenport) are all looking for the same thing: a sugar daddy who will let them retire from the life like their pal Trinket (Kita Updike), who owns the eponymous local club where the queens congregate.
Emceed by NYC drag legend Kevin Aviance, who also cowrote the music, the club Trinkets is reminiscent of Jackie 60, a beloved party of the period that routinely brought together the glitterati and the gutter. It’s where Alexander got his start onstage, and like the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-hot-pants performances mounted there, Trinkets is consistently endearing, with flashes of fabulousness, especially in its costumes (many supplied by David Dalrymple) and wigs (by Steven “Perfidia” Kirkham, of Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch).
Trinkets would benefit from editing, non-canned accompaniment and more rehearsal time; it frequently feels amateurish and clichéd. But it’s also refreshingly honest and raw. Unlike some other recent LGBTQ history shows, it doesn’t try to infuse its tale with today’s gender politics. Although that may be jarring to younger audiences, those who experienced this scene should appreciate its authenticity. When Aviance, in a bejeweled nun’s veil, asks us to “Bless This House,” anyone who remembers the era will want to shout, “Amen, girl!”
Gene Frankel Theater (Off-Off Broadway). Book and lyrics by Paul E. Alexander. Music by Laurent Caillat, Eli Escobar, Rami Ramirez, Kevin Aviance and Uri Dalal. Directed by Alexander. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission. Through Sept 13.