By J. Scott Hill
The groundhog’s six extra weeks of winter have passed. The wildlife and the nightlife are returning to the neighborhoods. The Beast Women have stuck their heads out of the safety of their burrows (somewhere under the Greenhouse Theater Center) and have seen their shadows, securing for Chicago seven more weeks of all-female cabaret.
Throughout the course of the 2011 Spring Series, more than thirty women rotate onto the Beast Women stage, so each show is unique. The producers of Beast Women 2011 Spring Series, Michelle Power and Jillian Erickson, are clearly dedicated to continually developing new performers: more than half of the opening-night acts were new to Beast Women. New foals or seasoned fillies, the beasts in this stable were nothing but thoroughbreds.
Jennifer Kaesheimer related the horrors of existence after the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of an undead single woman trying to date. Sultry songstress Holliwood Monroe re-conceptualized Anthony Newley’s standard “Feeling Good” with regard to her glorious baby bump (Congratulations, Ms. Monroe!), without giving up an ounce of the sexy.
Jillian Erickson took the audience on a winding emotional journey through manic depression, perverts, her mother, and the limits of faith. With Massive Attack’s hypnotic “Angel” coming through the sound system, Sandy Galiano gave a performance that is hard to categorize — maybe contemporary Burlesque, interpretive dance, or waist-down striptease — but it certainly made the rude dudes in the rowdy late-night crowd settle down and watch carefully.
Brittny Congleton sang a warm and funny a cappella song lamenting the lot in life of the poor foodie, done in the style of Andrew Lloyd Webber-y musical theatre. The belly dance of Kamani Raqs shimmied and shook and delighted.
The standup of Kristin Clifford was deadpan and hilarious; her act is like your favorite episode of The Office, rolled up into one person.
A surprising new addition to the Beast Women was recognizable film and television actress Mariann Aalda, in the guise of her Ginger Peachee-Keane persona, a Sex-Ed evangelist. Aalda’s sex-positive message and personable character gave the younger members of the audience new hope for the futures of their sex lives, and gave the older members of the audience a few new ideas about what to do after the show.
Scarlett DeVille danced a Burlesque in the classic style: Bettie Page hairdo, gambling-themed showgirl costume, and musical accompaniment from Sinatra. The pasties flew and the dice rolled. The audience sighed at the sight of her, and tittered under the influence of her titillating undulations.
Mostly, this was a rowdy, fun, sexually charged opening for Beast Women 2011 Spring Series — and then there was comedian Kelsie Huff. Huff came to the stage and instantly the audience was at The Kelsie Huff Show. She shredded the troublemakers, silenced the loudmouths, and even managed to poke fun at the sexual crackle in the air without making it dissipate. She seemed to more or less abandon her set and just go rogue, riffing off the room. People were screaming and gasping with laughter at themselves thanks to Huff’s sharp comic insight and invective.
This time around, Greenhouse Theater Center plays host to a down-and-dirty incarnation of Beast Women. They really are animals, powerfully talented animals. This is an excellent late-night zoo of fierce femme beasts ready to pounce.
3 ½ STARS
(“Beast Women 2011 Spring Series” runs Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. through May 21 at the Greenhouse Theatre Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago. 773-404-7336)
Beast Women 2011 Spring Series production photos by Hunter Matthews.