In his cabaret-style revue at P.S. 122, Lustre, a Midwinter Trans-Fest, Justin Bond somehow manages to be both edgy and ingratiating at the same time. He tells several raunchy stories, sings some rather obscene lyrics, and invites onto the stage with him numerous performers who bare flesh and perform routines that are not for the easily offended. And yet, Bond is always congenial and charming, the perfect hostess for an evening of decidedly queer entertainment.
Bond — best known as one half of the Tony-nominated performance duo Kiki & Herb — starts the evening off with an a cappella rendition of the folksy gospel tune, “Uncloudy Day.” That, however, is the most traditional of his musical selections, which also include a pair of terrific songs by transgender prostitute, songwriter, and performer Bambi Lake. The first of these numbers, “Viking Dan,” is a powerful song-story that Bond endows with a sense of longing, sadness, and desire. He’s accompanied on guitar by the beautiful, slender, and nearly naked Nathan Carrera, who joins Bond on vocals for the second Bambi Lake tune, “The Golden Age of Hustlers.”
Another of Bond’s guest artists is M. Lamar, an African-American transgendered performer who sings one of his own compositions, “White Pussy.” His haunting counter tenor is reminiscent of the vocal stylings of Diamanda Galas, and the experience of listening to him sing about “white pussy for sale” is rather unsettling. Even more unnerving is the oddly compelling act performed by trans-man Glenn Marla. The raw, passionate, and inelegant performance combines stand-up, tap dancing, and burlesque while addressing body issues in both a physically and emotionally revealing manner.
Additionally, a group of dancers billed as “Pixie Harlots” — comprised of Jonathan Bastiani, Matty Crosland, John Grauwiler, Machine Dazzle, and Darrell Thorne — provide plenty of attitude and sexy gyrations. Dazzle’s costume designs have the troupe in high heels and skimpy outfits that emphasize gender bending rather than crossing over into complete female drag. Bond’s outfits include a range of dresses and more unusual creations, such as one that incorporates fringe made out of multi-colored ribbons, and another that is a see-thru mesh concoction accessorized by balloons (many of them popped).
While giving plenty of time over to his guests, Bond — who sings to the piano accompaniment of music director Our Lady J, and a trio of onstage musicians — remains at the center of it all. For those familiar with his work as Kiki, it sometimes seems like you’re witnessing a younger version of the boozed up chanteuse, as Bond’s distinct vocal delivery isn’t all that different from that of his most famous creation. The charismatic performer also tells several amusing anecdotes, and delivers quips such as “Slightly retarded men make the best lovers, because they believe love can last.”
Lustre itself came about because Bond received the Ethyl Eichelberger Award, named after the legendary downtown performance artist. As Bond tells us during the course of the show, one of the stipulations of the award is that he had to produce a performance at P.S. 122 that could be anything he wanted. We should all feel lucky that the result is a fantastic evening that pushes boundaries while never ceasing to be entertaining.