When the ladies of the Tim Tam Room are not playing human-Shimmy Machine or stripping down to their thongs and pasties, they’re hatching tantalizing plots and finding love, all in rhymed and metered verse. Eager to Lose feels like a romantic farce plucked from the 17th century, sprinkled with some contemporary language and cultural references, and heavily soaked in the sexy, frivolous, yet always classy world of burlesque.
Drama and confusion strike the Tim Tam Room when its owner and leading lady, Tansy (a real-life burlesque performer who bills herself as the young Elizabeth Taylor of burlesque) reveals that tonight will be her last performance. She has been offered to tour the country with her act alongside a 90’s television star (to tell you his identity would soil the fun). Tansy announces that she will leave the club to one of the two other performers, Trixie (Stacey Yen) or Glinda (Emily Walton). Trixie immediately begins plotting her victory over Glinda, setting everything in her path awry. Tansy’s departure also affects the club’s MC (John Behlmann), who realizes he has always loved Tansy. MC enlists the help of the club’s mute janitor Peeps (Richard Saudek) to help him win her love.
Eager to Lose maintains a consistent, exciting energy and uproarious humor throughout its 90-minute run time The show’s excellent cast always keeps us on our toes with their genre-bending talent and lively character portrayals. John Behlmann has been a favorite of mine since playing Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps at New World Stages, and his MC is endearing and energetic. Tansy, Stacey Yen, and Emily Walton are all wonderful, bringing charm, humor, and nuance to their roles both on and off the burlesque catwalk. Richard Saudek, however, is the unexpected breakout star of the show. His vaudeville-like performance, including a scene in which he charades for several minutes straight, was easily a hilarious favorite.
The most remarkable part of the show is the script by Matthew Lee-Erlbach, who effortlessly transitions between conventionally high and low theatrical forms. It follows in a growing trend of democratizing theater by mixing low-brow and high-brow entertainment (now you can play flipcup with Romeo and Juliet). Gender studies aficionados have studied the artistic resonances of burlesque and it has become a much less stigmatizing, more frequently found art-form as of late. Yet in juxtaposing burlesque with the style of verse that one immediately associates with Shakespeare and his contemporaries, Lee-Erlbach works them together as one story-arc, playing them off each other as a fruitful, productive relationship.
Eager to Lose plays at Ars Nova through November 2nd. Onward for tickets!