Thrillpeddlers’ Jewels of Paris

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Birdie-Bob Watt as Pierrot. Photo by David Wilson
Birdie-Bob Watt as Pierrot. Photo by David Wilson

Thrillpeddlers, Jewels of Paris at The Hypnodrome March 12–May 2

Tickets: hypnodrome.org or 415-377-4202

This review appeared in The Piedmont Post on March 25

Although Jewels of Paris: A Revolutionary New Musical Revue may be described as infantile at times, I don’t think you want to bring the kids to this show. Thrillpeddlers is a troupe with roots in Grand Guignol, a theatrical style aimed at shocking (or liberating, depending on your view) polite society, and their transgressive humor has more recent roots in San Francisco’s legendary Cockettes. Scrumbly Koldewyn, who wrote the music and lyrics for Jewels–a  series of musical comedy sketches about bohemian life in Paris a century ago–is a former Cockette and a stalwart in the Bay Area theater scene. He also provides musical accompaniment, and the show reveals his infectious joie de vivre. Throughout the absurd shenanigans involving the big players in the Paris salon scene Gertrude Stein (Hayley Nystrom), Pablo Picasso (Michael Soldier), and Erik Satie (Jack Crow) as well as gods, goddesses, sailors, lovers, and animals, the ensemble cast radiated good humor and warmth. Pierrot (Birdie-Bob Watt), the sad clown who may be lodged somewhere in your unconscious, served as a marvelous guide to the absurd underworld the troupe created at the Hypnodrome. He managed to transmit a sense of fragility and delicacy that offered a sweetness that contrasted nicely with the salt of these sketches. We can all relate to Pierrot’s dissatisfaction with life, with his poetic desire to put the moon in his pocket, and his disappointment as a jilted lover. The costumes (by Tina Sogliuzzo and Birdie-Bob Watt) are colorful and sometimes furry, and the clever set (by James Blackwood) coughs up many visual puns. There is something very pleasing about the interplay of sugar and salt in this show. The humor is very broad, but there is a light touch of longing and sorrow, also offered up nicely by Noah Haydon as a long-lashed and elegantly gowned nightclub singer. I am you, she sings, and her vulnerability feels real enough that it seems she might be right. We can all use a laugh at ourselves and night of entertainment that reminds us we have a bit of the gods in us, right alongside our hairy animal.

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