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