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Tanya Gagné and Adrienne Truscott
in The Wau Wau Sisters
(Photo © James Julius)
"Fabulous" does not even begin to describe The Wau Wau Sisters. The cult favorite sister act consisting of Tanya Gagné and Adrienne Truscott mixes vaudeville, circus, burlesque, and rock and roll. After wowing audiences downtown, in Brooklyn, and in a host of other places, the talented twosome have gone Off-Broadway with their new show at the Ars Nova Theater in midtown.

Their opening number is one of the most audacious acts I've seen in a theater. Clad in Catholic schoolgirl uniforms, the duo perform an hysterically funny, unabashedly blasphemous striptease to the tune of the '80s rock band Night Ranger's "Sister Christian." It's a highly athletic affair complete with handstands, back flips, and balancing acts. They also do things with communion wafers, portraits of Jesus, and a cross. If you're easily offended, you should probably pass on the experience; however, those with a more adventurous spirit will find plenty to thrill and delight them as the Wau Waus launch into routine after hilarious routine.

The show is peppered with a few original songs by Gagné and Truscott that range in style from country/western to hard-driving rock and roll. A highlight is a little ditty that interprets the phrase "Jesus is coming" in a way that the Bible surely did not intend. The sisters describe a sexual encounter with Jesus, exclaiming, "If this is how you save a soul, Lord, then I've been saved before." Their irreverent attitude is inflected with a high level of camp; the Wau Wau Sisters are so over-the-top that they get away with some of the most sacrilegious, tasteless jokes imaginable.

Although biologically female, the sisters mimic a certain drag queen aesthetic. With an assortment of wigs and tacky outfits designed by Alejo Vietti, they play around with gender and sexuality; femininity is constructed and deconstructed before our eyes. They undercut their stripteases with broad humor so that the routines are less about eroticism and more about sending up conventional notions of sexuality. There's also a strong lesbian undertone to several of their bits that makes the show seem very, very queer.

Without a doubt, the most impressive sequence in the production is the duo's trapeze act. The Ars Nova is a very small theater, so performing on a trapeze there isn't easy, yet Gagné and Truscott do a highly athletic routine to the song "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses. They strike a series of poses requiring both strength and balance, not to mention a good deal of coordination and trust in each other.

The Wau Wau Sisters make a good team and their performance is infused with a raw feeling of joy that's electrifying. Both are proficient musicians, comedians, and acrobats, and are endowed with magnetic stage presence. Director Trip Cullman has no doubt contributed to the crispness of the act as well as to the rather bizarre yet sublimely entertaining transitional sequences, including one that incorporates singing and dancing daisies in a flowerpot.

Obviously, the sisters' brand of humor is not for everyone, but it is attracting an impressive mix of audience members. At the opening night performance on May 20, the crowd included Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman (a.k.a. Kiki and Herb), Broadway actor Jeffrey Carlson (who won raves for his performance in Taboo), Tom Murrin (the Alien Comic), and members of the women's dance and performance art troupe Lava. The Wau Waus' move to midtown will hopefully gain them some new devotees and prompt their established fans to venture above 14th Street for a daring, eclectic, and highly entertaining show.

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