I never thought I’d get to see Davey Crockett eat out the goddess Artemis, but thanks to the magic of theater, the image is indelibly seared into my brain. I don’t know what else I expected going to a play called American Strippers. Especially a play called American Strippers by Kevin Broccoli.
Epic Theatre’s latest play follows the bachelorette party of the goddess Aphrodite at a strip club in Texas. The club, Americana, is staffed by American folk heroes like Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill. Hera, queen of the gods, is not about these shenanigans and goes to Texas to put a stop to it. There’s an orgy, some stripping, a hired murder and a slow dance — not to mention, like, a gratuitous, practically sarcastic amount of stripping.
The routines in American Strippers are ridiculous, and I say that with affection. The dancers get all up in the audience’s business, swing on poles and give out lap dances. At one point, Davey Crockett pulled a girl from the audience on stage and gave her a private dance. There’s a history lesson for ya’.
The play itself, a new work, was a pretty even mix of scenes and monologues (and stripping). The story has sort of an erotic fan fiction vibe, what with all the Greek goddesses and all the American folk heroes together in one location, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are real pearls in this play. Some very memorable lines, thought-provoking speeches and great big comedy. Broccoli chooses to play out some of the most intimate, sexual moments on stage in real time. I know we’re not as shocked by sexual content as we used to be, but it’s so different in real life. And if nothing else, I appreciated the choice to utilize the reality of theater to highlight the romantic themes of the play.
Epic assembled a strong ensemble for this show. As Aphrodite, Kerry Giorgi carries the emotional weight and has some real moments of tenderness as she confronts her feelings. Melanie Stone, as the hot and bothered Artemis, delivers moments of impeccable comedy. Ditto on the comedy for Tammy Brown as Hera. Jay Walker and Michael Puppi were particularly memorable for their monologues as John Henry and Johnny Appleseed, respectively.
If there’s a takeaway from American Strippers, it seems to be that in America, you get to be as fucked-up as you want to be and you get to choose who you love. You can be a pervert, you can be a stripper, you can watch, you can join in. It’s a totally debaucherous thunderfuck of a show, but it has a purpose, and it has heart.
Kevin Broccoli wrote and directed this play and to put anything you create out there, to do it yourself, is punk as hell. American Strippers isn’t for everybody. It isn’t a mainstream, squeaky-shiny play. And that’s precisely the appeal.
American Strippers will be performed through November 21 at Mixed Magic Theatre, 560 Mineral Spring Ave, Pawtucket. For tickets, go to brownpapertickets.com/event/1761401