REVIEW: Bad Heroine

August 9, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 46

Varla-new-2017by Rebecca M. Alvin

It’s been an unsettling year, with the political climate in this country taking us on a surreal adventure we never wanted to go on. But when your spirits are down and you need an escape and maybe a little inspiration, Jeffery Roberson’s creation Varla Jean Merman is all you will need.

The latest Varla show, written by Roberson and Jacques Lamarre and directed by Michael Schiralli, is as absurd as it is sharp. The show’s title Bad Heroine is a play on words: heroine as in great women we admire and heroin as in the opioid epidemic. Yes, Varla shows us that these two things can be hilarious.

She opens the show with a delightful rendition of Ozzy Osbourne’s classic “Crazy Train,” both as invitation to the wild ride we’re about to embark upon with her and as comment on the current state of affairs in our country, which is even crazier. Throughout the hour, we are treated to a comedy show with nothing off limits. Everything from fart jokes to clever puns to insane song-and-dance numbers and a slideshow of great women throughout history who inspire Varla “to think about becoming inspiring” come flying at us in rapid succession.

There is a little audience participation, but for the most part, Varla is glad to have all the attention on herself. Accompanied by Gerald Goode (a wonderful performer in his own right), Varla makes sure the spotlight stays on her at all times. Although Roberson is a trained opera singer, the show is light on singing, with the focus squarely placed on comedy. That being said, Varla’s version of the Dreamgirls showstopper “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going” will bring a tear —from laughter— to your eye.

The central girl-power theme is not only focused on the notable women we all know and admire. Varla tells us about the woman who invented the paper bag (and thanks her for making it easier to drink in public). She gives us an extended lesson on Josephine Baker. She also doesn’t skimp on contemporary women, including Melania and Ivanka Trump. And she does it all in a fabulous Wonder Woman costume.

I can truly say I went in with the baggage of that particular day and left feeling lifted up by the ridiculousness of the character and especially by her off-color Gone with the Wind remake featuring Brian Johnston in the role he was born to play. If you’re looking for an escape from the bizarre reality of our times, go see how Varla plans to “put my crack on the glass ceiling.” It is truly a very funny show.

Varla Jean Merman performs in Bad Heroine at the Art House, 214 Commercial St., Provincetown, Tuesdays through Fridays at 9 p.m. For tickets ($30/$40 VIP) and information call 508.487.9222, go to the box office, or visit ptownarthouse.com.