- Associate New York Theatre Critic
Once again Company XIV lifts up the velvet curtain of their Baroque-Burlesque theater. This one of a kind New York collective, led by the artistic director Austin McCormick and named after the intimate and decadent private performances at the Louis XIV's court, makes the cold Fall nights in New York hot and sexy again. Their newest production, “Paris”, based on the ancient Greek myth “The Judgment of Paris”, consists of the company’s signature mixture of dance, circus, opera and burlesque.
This season, XIV hosts the audience in The Irondale Center, former Sunday school auditorium in the historic Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church. The religious remnants peak out from behind the stage and a grandiose stained-glass window serves as a backdrop for the open-to-view dressing room of the goddesses in the gallery. Sofas and armchairs fill the orchestra and the balcony. Despite the misfortunes, which caused the company to change venues frequently, XIV makes any place warm and cozy and makes you feel like a welcome guest. From the dim pink light in the bathroom, to the silky cushions on the couches and tart pinching of champagne in your mouth, XIV tunes the mood through every element that accompanies the theater viewing experience, making it truly immersive.
Once you enter the theater, you are immediately immersed in the atmosphere of Paris cabaret, where the 17th century aesthetics infuses and blends together aristocratic arts and down-to-earth entertainment. The host for the night is lustful Zeus (Charlotte Bydwell), dressed in a black tuxedo but only halfway. The other, half of the two-faced master of ceremonies is dressed in a semi-transparent gown and is called Fifi. To hide the female half of her costume while being Zeus, Bydwell is constantly hanging on the corps-de-ballet dancers and occasionally engages in a dialogue with herself.
“The Judgment of Paris” serves as the narrative outline for the show, though occasionally the Roman names are used. Paris (Jakob Karr), a Trojan mortal is assigned by Zeus to choose “the fairest goddess” among three contestants: Athena (Marcy Richardson), Juno (Randall Scotting) and Venus (Storm Marrero) and reward her with a golden apple. Paris is seduced by Venus’ promise for love of the most beautiful mortal woman, Helen (Lea Helle), and picks the goddess of desire.
I must say that the choice would be very difficult if I was asked to pick the most fascinating performance. “La Fille Au Roi Louis” sang by the soul-piercing soprano Marcy Richardson while doing elaborate acrobatics on the pole; Leonard Cohen’s “I‘m Your Man” performed by Randall Scotting in a provocative and sarcastic dance with scared Paris; mesmerizing rendition of Bjork’s “All is Full of Love” by Storm Marrero under the pouring glitter… It’s wonderful that you don’t have to choose and can enjoy every number equally.
PARIS runs through November 12 in a limited 5-week engagement playing Tuesdays - Saturdays at 8pm. The show contains partial nudity – 16 & over admitted. Performances take place at The Irondale Center, located at 85 South Oxford Street between Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, NY. Tickets for PARIS from $25 to $175. To book seats, couches and VIP tickets visit http://CompanyXIV.com or call 1-866-811-4111. Photo by Mark Shelby Barry