Theater XIV, named for the decadent King of France Louis the XIV, is a raucous and lively theater company and dance troupe that put on an amazing variety show on Thursday, February 15, 2018. The theater is on Troutman street in the heart of Bushwick. This area is a razor-bleeding edge of cool and this part of Bushwick is also called Morgan-town or East Williamsburg. This neighborhood produced the pop star Halsey, who named herself after the “Halsey” stop on the L and J-Z trains, perhaps like certain famous rappers. The neighborhood is also known for the rock band Parquet Courts, who played at DIY venues in Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bushwick’s Queens sister, Ridgewood. The graffiti in Bushwick is always much better than anywhere else in the city because of its graffiti band, the Bushwick Collective. Finally, Bushwick’s critically acclaimed Roberta’s pizza and Arrogant Swine restaurants are also part of this renaissance, and the neighborhood is just all around exploding with life, color, and rebellious spirit.
At Theater XIV’s February 15th show, the company put on its weekly variety act, which is different from its Burlesque renditions of theatrical productions, such as the company’s upcoming version of Cinderella. This show meant sword swallowing, juggling, opera-singing, drag queen dancing, specialized gymnastics, magic, and yes, strip teases down to pasties and tassles. These performances were electric, sensual, emotional, and very often professionally athletic.
Matthew Holtzclaw had two performances during the show of about 10 minute acts, and was glad-handing the audience before the show with elaborate card tricks. Before the show, he said, “This is one of the best shows I’ve been part of. It’s some of the most skilled and talented people I’ve met. I’m proud they asked me to be part of it.” Holtzclaw, in addition to his radical last name (Ravenclaw, anyone?), has a magician’s suave charm and promptly disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Hotzclaw’s routine didn’t involve any dancing, but maybe in keeping in line with his inspiration from other performers at this show, he was extremely graceful and smooth during his routine, just like a dance.
In two acts, Luna LaRosa used the trapeze and separately did an amazing routine with dozens and dozens of hula hoops. “I’m part of this company but I’m also a freelance artist,” she said. “I do all of my own choreography, but my trapeze at home is normally 10 feet long.” LaRosa wore the most beautiful sequined and sparkling outfit, and had her red-orange hair spiked above her forehead.
Marcy Richardson, who might be considered one of this company’s most versatile stars, did several acts, including a burlesque striptease to Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe,” sung in a vaudeville New Orleans jazz, of course. But the discerning art critic might be more moved by the singer’s later act, whereupon she contorted her body in a gymnast’s ring while singing Italian (possibly Latin) opera. Here the discerning art critic might have a hugely empathetic emotional experience where the emotions cause tears to fall, all the while still hypnotized by the beauty of the acrobatics and the pure aesthetics of the song. This is similar to Ann Patchett’s portrait’s of opera’s healing abilities in Bel Canto and State of Wonder. Richardson said, “My favorite part is definitely being on stage and feeling the energy from the audience. This is one of the best shows in New York City. This is my third year with the company. It’s been a lot of practice, it’s been a lot of trial and error.” This last admission was surprising, because Richardson’s performances were so very perfect.
Marisol Cabrera said, “As the company manager, I really like it when it all comes together, the colliding of the universe, the colliding of experiences, the bar experience, the stage experience, the audience experience.” She pointed out a gigantic glass tree that heretofore would have gone unrecognized, as its placement is in the audience, not on the stage. “The company’s been around for 10 years, but we’re in a position to curate the experiences. The company is expanding.
“The company director Austin [McCormick] works also as an opera director. Austin soon is heading to Columbus, Ohio. He’s a perfectionist, curating the entire experience from what you smell to what you see. This [brick and mortar theater] is a dream come true. There aren’t many dance companies that have their own theater.”
In communion with all burlesque shows, this variety show’s master of ceremonies sang “Hey Big Spender” in her costume of a bodacious and bawdy voluptuous opera singer in 18th-century Marie Antoinette clothing. Here, the song was a mashup with JKwon’s “Tipsy” and the audience enjoyed the accessibility of the rap and the vaudeville.
In variety, professionalism, craftsmanship, humor, and surprise, Theater XIV is such a wonderful and incredible troupe of eccentric performers. Their excellence cannot be rated as merely five stars, because they so clearly would be so much more, and so much higher above the highest praise of critics. In this, the company is figuratively speaking very similar to its beautiful acrobats as a sight to behold and finally appreciate with quiet wonder when the show ends and the music stops. This show reminds one of the beauty of life in the present, and that the highest authority of love is because love works in the present and the future, but emphasizes and focuses on the present. For Theater XIV, the old king is dead, long live the king.