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[whitespace] Cyberotica
Hitchikers on the Information Superhighway: The Tuck and Roll Players come together for a hilarious take on the virtual void.

'Cyberotica' scores one for the underground

By Michelle Goldberg

One of the biggest problems with local late-night cabarets, circuses and scripted spectacles is that too many performers and producers don't realize that "underground" should never be synonymous with "amateurish." Half-done in-joke skits, sloppy off-key singing, interminable waits between acts--such laziness is enough to drive even the most committed warehouse-space habitué right back into the slick embrace of the tight-but-vapid mainstream. At least for me, after too many evenings of being too damn bored, social paralyzation takes over, and I start hearing those tired middle-aged lines coming out of my still-young lips: "Oh, I hate going out." "I have everything I need in my own apartment." "Clubs are so dull if you're not on drugs." "I'd rather have a quiet dinner with friends." "It's all just too much work."

If only more entertainers would take their cues from the geniuses behind the late Enrique and the current Tuck and Roll Players (made up largely of the same artists), soon-to-be stars whose infectious exuberance makes you remember why you used to get excited about trekking downtown every night. Cyberotica, Tuck and Roll's glam-rock musical debut, can't live up to the superlative standard of last year's fabulous Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls, but few things can. Despite some fixable flaws, this hilarious and gleefully deranged drag burlesque is easily the best ticket in town. Both a sendup of a Broadway musical and an homage to the form, its absurdist stance vis-à-vis millennial anxiety and cybersex makes these comatose subjects seem fresh.

Cyberotica follows a group of lonely souls and outright psychopaths who meet in a chat room a week before New Year's Eve 2000. Among them are Jodi, an undercover FBI agent posing as a horny minor, Trixie, "an agoraphobic exhibitionist crossdresser" with a JenniCam-style website, two tyrannical trannie revolutionaries and a fundamentalist Christian hatching a homicidal plot. Leading us through the madness is our narrator, Electra, the Goddess of Technology, played by Arturo Galster with flowing lavender hair, a hologram body suit and a sparkling cape (two girls in hot-pink bikinis hold electric fans in front of her during her opening solo for that mystical-diva Stevie Nicks effect).

The plot pretty much falls apart in the second act, but then again the plot really isn't the point: the joy of Cyberotica derives from the explosive energy of the performers and the deadpan passion with which they approach their parts. As Jodi, Laura LeBleu (who starred as Gerwürtzaminner in Valley of the Ultra Showgirls) brings a fabulous tough-bitch fervor to her role, especially in her show-stopping "Lookin' for a Perv," a song that puts lines like "pose as a teenage runaway/get a chicken hawk hooked" and "salivating sex offenders/hunting for their game" to a pumped-up Andrew Lloyd Webberesque score.

Leigh Crow, formerly known as Elvis Herselvis, radiates camp charisma as Trixie, a chat-room regular torn between identities as an ultrafemme webmistress and a butch leather daddy. A woman playing a man playing a drag queen, she's a real-life Victor/Victoria--when she belts out lines like "it takes balls to be a woman," she sounds like Liza Minnelli with John Waters' sense of humor.

If you've seen the posters for Cyberotica, then you may have been turned off by the maniacally grinning Teletubby that is the show's most unfortunate aspect. Like political sex scandals, Teletubbies are far too much in the domain of water cooler/Jay Leno humor ever to be really funny. Telling Teletubby gags is like cracking jokes about San Francisco's chilly summers or soigné mayor--such subjects are annoying in ways that are too banal and obvious to be worth laughing at. (Then again, so are the Internet, the millennium and Y2K, but writer and director Kitty Kelly is utterly inspired on these fronts, satirizing the very media credulity and lame sitcomedy that make it so hard to talk about the year 2000 without cringing.) Anyway, the few moments of talking-toy stupidity are redeemed by much longer stretches of twisted brilliance--and that's far more than can be said of an ordinary night out.

Cyberotica plays Thursday nights through July at the Transmission Theater, 314 11th St.; $10; 415.861.6906.

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From the June 7, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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