Both raunchy and tongue-in-cheek, C’est Duckie! is a delightful interactive burlesque show that should appeal to a cross-section of patrons. You’re asked to dress up for the event, which takes place at the Lower East Side’s CSV Cultural Center. Men in suits and women in fancy dresses give the evening a rather upscale look, but this Olivier Award-winning London hit, presented by P.S. 122, has a decidedly downtown sensibility.
As you enter the space, made to look like a nightclub with numerous large tables, you’re greeted by a well-dressed gentlemen who asks if you prefer dancing girls or dancing boys; he then makes an effort to seat you with like-minded audience members. Once your table is complete, you’re given a certain amount of “duckie dollars” and a menu of burlesque acts to choose from, and everyone at the table must decide which acts to spend your limited amount of duckie dollars on. Titles range from classical allusions like “Unsex Me Here” to provocatively billed acts such as “Boobolina.” There are also specials of the day, featuring guest artists from New York. At the performance I attended, we were lucky enough to get the always fabulous Taylor Mac.
If you take too long to make your decisions — as our table did — some of the acts may be sold out by the time your waiter takes your order. So, while we were disappointed that we did not get the “Backroom Sex Party” we had been hoping for, we were instead given an “Art Class,” that proved to be quite fun.
Many of the acts are interactive, so if you’re adverse to talking with or being touched by a performer, then this experience might not be well suited to you. When Mac stopped by to perform “Drag Queen Under the Table” for us, one of my table mates got his toe sucked, while two of the women weren’t quite sure what happened to them, and could only describe it as “wet.”
The length of the acts range from ten seconds to several minutes, and are performed by Marisa Carnesky, Joshua Sofaer, Kazuko Hohki, and Miss High Leg Kick, as well as the evening’s special guest (additional guest performers who will be participating on select nights include Jessica Delfino, Dynasty Handbag, and Peggy Shaw). Despite the overt sexuality of several of the acts, they’re played more for laughs than titillation. It’s as if the performers are giving you a knowing wink even as they do some truly outrageous stuff.
One of the highlights at my table was “BARBICANCAN” featuring Miss High Leg Kick. In addition to her own lovely legs, she had a pair of Barbie appendages attached to her groin area that kept time with her kicks. Not all of the acts are as exciting as others. I was disappointed in one that had Sofaer speaking aggressively in various foreign languages, and Hohki’s “Japanese Housewife” was initially amusing, but didn’t really go anywhere.
At times, it was more exciting to watch the action going on at some of the other tables. Sofaer performed a duet with himself, singing Phil Collins’ “Separate Lives” while dressed half in drag, and half out. At another table, a performer with a power saw did something that I couldn’t quite see, but apparently involved an audience volunteer. Yet another table got to bounce up and down on cushions that blew up balloons, until one of them popped. It looked so fun, that I was extremely pleased that our table got to do this during the bonus round, even if we hadn’t ordered it initially.
Since the experience does depend somewhat on the gameness of the people at your table, it might be best to go with friends or loved ones. However, even if you’re on your own, you’ll more than likely get to know a little about the people around you, and still have a good time.