March 19th, 2014
REVIEW: Hasty Pudding Theatricals 166: Victorian Secrets @ Hunter College's Kaye Playhouse (3/15/14)
by Logan K. Young
NO GRRRLS ALLOWED: Slum's the word in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals' 166th touring production, 'Victorian Secrets.' (Photo : Logan K. Young)
When one thinks of Harvard--Hasty Pudding Theatricals, specifically--one's mind is usually in Cambridge, Mass.
Why shouldn't it be? HPT has roots there dating back to September 1, 1795.
Yeah, it's the antepenultimate oldest club for nancy boy theater geeks in the white man's world, preceded only by the Comédie-Française and the Easter-loving Oberammergau Players in Bavaria.Today, in the age of Indianapolis' NCAA nazis, you couldn't find something even approaching a troupe like HPT.
No, not since Title IX.
In 1973, women officially joined the company; HPT was now fully co-educational. (Dames had been ushering and selling tickets for performances since the '30s.)
Here's the thing, though, about Hasty at Harvard. Ever since 1882, with the ensemble's first non-burlesque show, Dido and Aeneas (a farcical French operetta, not the lament by Purcell), Hasty Pudding Theatricals has been a touring show.
And, dudes, don't all straight men want at least one woman while on the road?
Regardless, HPT's XX Dido travelled as far south as Philadelphia. Come 1964, because of the Somer Isles' popularity as a Harvard family destination, William Had the Words made it down to Bermuda.
In fact, that's where Harriet Upinthere (Johnathan Stevens, Senior, Applied Mathematics), Ella Mental (Karl Kopczynski, Junior, Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality) and certainly Sharon Secrets (Ethan Hardy, Senior, Loving Kindness and Cast VP)--that is, those standouts of HPT 166, Victorian Secrets--are right now.
So wicked queer Bermuda's been, what with its uniquely dragged out hazing like burning down Church Street to the Ice Queen in water balloon tits à la Les mamelles de Tirésias, many Eastern Seaboard cities can't book the Pudding.
New York City is not just another city on a hill off I-95, of course. And I, for one, am glad that 12 lads dressed as ladies stopped by to can-can at Hunter College's Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse on their way to spring break.
After all, Hunter, one of the oldest public colleges in America, was a girl's school there in Lenox until LBJ's decree of 1964.
All the classic Pudding tropes were there. Puns? Check. Puns on stack of puns? Ibid.
Some were as old as fellow HPT-er John Quincy Adams. Some were as clever as JP Morgan, HPT 1886 (i.e. Rich Pudding Spice).
Only a few, however, fell as dead as JFK and Teddy (HPT '40 and '56, respectively).
The best lexical gag of the matinee, you ask? Well, the Dickensian street urchin, Spiny Tim (Bobby Flitsch, Junior, Mechanical Engineering [SB]), proved to be an actual urchin.
Likewise, a lot of Ivy League in-jokes worked well. A subtle jab at the Radcliffe Pitches, a snide slagging of Wesleyan, a big ol' bite me to Yale--each boy got 'em off real good, soggy biscuit-style.
And the songs of true sophomore music major Dylan MarcAurele (Quincy | East Granby, CT), such as Messrs. Hannibal and Colby's pas de don't in "Acquit While We're Ahead" and the anti-necrophilia anthem "You've Got a Live One Here," are fantastick. "O Brothel, Where Art Though?" is ready for a professional venue in New York City with a seating capacity between 100 and 499.
Sure, HPT has a lot of help.
For starters, each of these jerks goes to Harvard. So, they're, you know, loaded. And there are faculty members that turn away good publishing just to oversee pretty much every aspect of the production.
True, there were some serious intonation problems with the live band (most egregious in the trumpets and bari sax), although Cynthia Meng's (Junior, Computer Science) baton was precise as the 1s and 0s she studying.
Remember, too, like the cast of the MIT Orchestra back home, these kids are majoring in things like anthropology, computer science and regenerative biology. They ain't gone to woodshed like the automatons at the New England Conservatory, much less the mimetics hole up in a Berklee College studio.
With a solid book by Petey Menz (Junior, English & Art History) and Brian Mendel (Junior, Mechanical Engineering), OK lyrics from Ian Nightingale (Computer Science), Victorian Secrets tells you everything you need to know about HPT (e.g. bewitching, bothering and bewildering to standard issue gender equality, women still nary not during this 166th iteration of the theatrics).
And so long as boys clubs at institutions of higher learning like Harvard, Yale and even the Methodists at Wesleyan exist, some guys will get all the chicks.
A half-full audience on a cold Saturday in New York is just that--miles away from Bermuda, in other words. Victorian mores were fleeting. But as James Franco reminded us, spring break is forever...bitches.