Corrections or additions?

This review was prepared by Simon Saltzman for the May 11, 2005

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

New York Review: ‘Planet Banana’

For years bananas have remained synonymous with the tutti-frutti

headdresses that adorned Carmen Miranda, the famed Brazilian

songstress who pepped up many a film musical in the 1930s and ’40s.

Now that phallic, insinuating golden fruit – a staple of monkeys and

mankind since Eden – is the centerpiece, more provocatively the

centerfold, for married-to-each-other co-creators and performers

Brazilian-born Silvia Machete and Princeton native Clarke McFarlane in

their ultra-silly show "Planet Banana."

Be forewarned that this is outrageously sexy entertainment – propelled

by a ribald spirit and romantic heart. Far be it from me to divulge

the mere wisp of a plot device threaded between the utter foolishness,

songs, and dances, but it involves the passion of a doctor for a sexy

chanteuse. Machete and McFarlane are attractive multi-talented

performers, who are earnest about showcasing their comedic versatility

through a multitude of disciplines ranging from circus stunts,

vaudeville shtick, bits of bawdy burlesque and lots of imaginative

juggling. But it is their delectably skewed uniquely outre performance

style that props up a hilariously nonsensical fast-paced 90-minute

romp, fancifully set in a cabaret called Heaven. Without making much

sense, Planet Banana, under the direction of Virginia Scott, is as

tenaciously funny as it is irresistibly naughty.

Except for an excellent accompanying rock jazz trio (Jon Spurney,

musical director/guitar/keyboard/vocals; Jeremy Chatzky, bass; and

Clem Waldmann, drums), McFarlane, as the cabaret’s host and others,

and Machete, as the chanteuse and others, are the sole performers

whose flair for en travestie invites some hilarious impersonations as

well as switching of roles. Although the show is little more than a

series of silly skits done with tongue-in-cheek and other places, it

is also a performance piece of great skill. Machete, a curvaceous

looker with an appealing singing voice, who caresses a couple of

songs, notably "The Girl from Ipanema," in her native Portuguese, is a

wonder as she incorporates shades of the Kama Sutra in her sensual, if

unsubtle, contorting on a trapeze that drops quite unexpectedly from

the rafters.

Wiry in build, McFarlane may not have the curves of his partner, but

he is as agile with his pelvis as Elvis. When it comes to sheer

derring do, I can assure you that Errol Flynn never fought a duel with

swords that can be compared to the mouth to mouth duel of diminishing

bananas (don’t ask) fought by McFarlane and Machete. Not surprisingly,

audience members are lured into the fray and the fun to everyone’s

delight. The whimsically plush cabaret atmosphere created by designer

David Korins at the venue Ars Nova is as much of an enhancement to the

show as is that infamous fruit. ***

– Simon Saltzman

"Planet Banana," through June 25, Ars Nova, 511 West 54th

Street, New York. $20. 212-868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.


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