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The Lost Lounge

Split Britches' charming performance art cabaret examines nostalgia and a changing New York landscape.

Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver
in The Lost Lounge
(© Lori E. Seid)
A wall comes tumbling down in the opening moments of The Lost Lounge, Split Britches' performance art cabaret about a changing New York landscape, now at Dixon Place. Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver's latest collaboration is not always successful, but it nevertheless retains a certain charm.

Running just over an hour in length, the piece is loosely structured as a lounge act in which the audience sees both the musical numbers and the backstage bickering between the performers. Songs are often punctuated not by applause, but by a thundering sound effect accompanied by the image of a collapsing building projected onto the screen behind the performers.

The (literally) deconstructive approach to the show doesn't require the duo to be spectacular singers, but since so much of the performance is told through song, there are moments when you might wish they were better than they are. Shaw still comes across okay, as most of her numbers are delivered as patter songs and because, within a certain range, her voice sounds quite good. Weaver occasionally strays from the pitch, and at times, her voice is a little too thin.

But whatever their limitations as singers, the pair have an easy onstage chemistry together, a result of a nearly 30-year performance collaboration. In this piece, they stay rooted within an archetypal butch/femme dynamic with Shaw sporting a tux and Weaver in a black and white cocktail dress. Their interaction can be both sexy and hilarious -- and occasionally both at the same time, such as an instance in which Weaver breaks a kiss by singing out of the side of her mouth before eventually breaking free of the lip lock that Shaw seems determined to maintain.

The piece also contains some beautiful writing, particularly in a sequence in which the pair contemplates the idea of nostalgia. Their observations include the thought that sometimes it's not the loss of a particular building that we mind, but instead what replaces it. Prior to the start of the show, Shaw mixes with audience members in the lobby and asks them about the things they miss about New York. The answers are incorporated into the performance in an engaging manner that allows for a bit of audience interaction.

In addition to Shaw and Weaver, The Lost Lounge also features composer and accompanist Vivian Stoll. While she mostly stays behind the keyboard, she sings backup and in one segment even steps out to dance with Shaw. The tunes she plays include original compositions and also preexisting songs like "Just a Gigolo." Stoll also contributes the effective sound design, which mixes in discordant sounds with construction noises to reinforce the show's themes.


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