Rollin’ Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque
Vaudezilla's "Rollin' Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque" is brimming not just with affection for the Coen brothers' movie, but with their sense of the absurd and their knack for finding humor and pathos in unexpected places. It's funny and sexy, although its pacing and framing are problematic.
The show comprises 19 numbers ranging from dramatic scenes to straight-up burlesque numbers to less easily categorized performances (e.g., one number might be described as self-affirmation Credence karaoke, and another as aborted auto-erotic asphyxia with countertenor and melodica).
The sequence in which the numbers appear contributes to some of the awkward pacing. For example, The Stranger's monologue sets the audience up well for what to expect, and the slo-mo bowling alley scene prepares the crowd for more than a little surrealism with their pasties and G-strings.
A spoken scene between The Dude and Brandt follows. It's not entirely clear whether it is scripted, improvised, or some combination of the two (an issue common to the other non-dance numbers). This, together with its length slows the pace down a great deal even though it is arguably the beginning of the show proper.
Many of the dance numbers are enjoyable from start to finish. Better still, from the Nihilist's "I [Heart] Nothing" panties and stuffed marmot to Maude's-as-dominatrix painting on another dancer's body to Walter's undulating struggle with his pregnancy padding, the show offers great variety in why and how they're enjoyable.
I would be remiss if I did not single out "Nobody Fucks With The Jesus" for special mention. It is pointless to try to describe it. It simply must be experienced in all its ball-buffing glory. Likewise, "Just Dropped In" was a showstopper, as it must be.
Unfortunately, a few of the dance numbers seem to suffer from a similar problem to some of the spoken scenes: There simply does not seem to have been much thought, planning, or choreography put into them. They feel like filler and tend to drag on the show's momentum.
Some of the issues with scripting/improvisation are also complicated by the fact that not all the cast members seemed to be equally up to speed on the material. For example, Brendan Yukins positively carried any scene that Brandt was in, regardless of strengths or weaknesses in the material, with his uncanny ability to channel Seymour Hoffman. Trixie Sparx (Nihilist) and Mister Junior (Jesus Quintana) were also very strong in all their scenes.
As The Dude, Logan Conner has the look and many of the mannerisms dead to rights. He appears in most of the longer spoken scenes, which are when the show starts to lag, whether from material in need of editing or actors faltering through improvisation.
In contrast, Red Hot Annie's performance as Maude was excellent in some scenes (particularly in her dance numbers, her icy self-possession was perfect), but she struggled in others. Keith Emroll (who also directs) finished strong, but in a long spoken scene opposite The Dude (Logan Conner), the two seemed to stumble through awkward pauses.
Scenes with Bunny (Mia D. Vine) and Mr. Lebowski (Matt Leuck) were consistently lackluster, although it's not clear if the fault lies with the performances or the material. Uneven material and pacing issues aside, though, what the show does well it does so well that it is definitely worth seeing.
"Rollin' Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque" plays through September 22 at Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N Western Ave, Chicago. For tickets call 773-558-0081 or visit http://Vaudezilla.com.