Wednesday, August 28, 2019

From the Ruby Lounge—Theatre Berk—SE Portland


“Life’s a Cabaret, Ole Chum”



This original production about the lives of exotic dancers ,is created and directed by Sarah Andrews and Athena Aura Nova, choreographed by Rachael Singer and produced by William Thomas Berk.  It is playing at the Shoebox Theatre space, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through September 7th.  Warning:  This is adult subject matter and contains partial nudity.  Also, half the proceeds are donated to SWOP Behind Bars  www.swopbehindbars.org  For more information on the show and tickets, visit www.theatreberk.com

No, this is not the Kit Kat Klub of 1930’s Berlin, but it does have its pedigree from there.  “Cabaret,” and this show were, in part, meant to reflect a microcosm of life in any country/city and its people.  The incidents mirror society in this exclusive atmosphere, showing the inhabitants as “normal” people, with all the same hopes, and peculiarities, as anyone else, which is exactly the point…they are us!

Life as an exotic dancer/stripper is a job with people who have families, worries, conflicts and dreams, just like anybody else.  And, because of the unique nature of their work, they do have a strong bond with their co-workers (much like Carnival folks, which I got to know one summer) and, like any close-knit community, does have its ups and downs.  And the business does attract some low-life men, thinking these women, because they take off their clothes, are offering themselves as “toys” for men and should be treated as such.

Actually, nothing is further from the truth, as these women are in a perfect position of Power and can reveal, or not, as much of themselves as They Choose, which is not such a bad position to be in.  Also, as in this case, they are extremely agile in their movements and damn good dancers.  The story centers around Sterling (Kylie Jenifer Rose), who longs to be a professional dancer but is tired of auditioning and being turned down, as she does have an ailing mother to support, too.  And so, when the offer surfaces to become a stripper at the Ruby Lounge, she embraces it.

Her boss is Mallory (Heidi Hunter), tough as nails on the outsides but a bit of a marshmallow inside.  Sterling is taken under the wing of Bianca (Bryn Butler), who helps her adjust, but does have a secret passion.  Diamond (Maya Seidel) ,comes with an attitude, feeling she is top gun of this troupe, but does evolve from a less-than-stellar background.  And Riley (Taylor Jean Grady), married with a child, who must hide her profession from the outside world and it will cost her.  Although good pay for all these ladies, there is a price to pay in a blind society that demands a world to be molded to their specifications, or be shunned.  So, what’s the going price for self-respect?  Join the crowd, the lemmings, or be as so much gravel under their feet.  The choice is yours!

A side note, I knew a lady who was an exotic dancer and she wanted me to write a screenplay of her life in this field.  She labeled the title of it as, I Am Not A Whore, which she said was another label that people like her were forced to bear.  I started her story but then she decided she wanted to be a Roller Derby Queen.  Now, I believe, she’s working on a fishing boat on the open seas.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But the kind of passion she has for Life, I do envy.  And that’s what these ladies of the Ruby Lounge have, too, a Passion for Life/Living, not merely content with just existing…taking up space…you go, girl!

Andrews, Nova and Singer have created a raw slice of life that is hard to ignore.  And their cast of ladies are exceptional and vibrant, not only as a powerhouse in dancing and movement, but also in creating characters, which are all too real and should be embraced, not shunned.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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