The Performant: Deck this!

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Aggro Yuletide fun with Will Franken and Satan’s finest

It’s a common misperception that the sensory-overload of the holiday season is an even greater irritant to the committed misanthrope than the ennui of the everyday, but I beg to differ. Actually the holidays are when misanthropes tend to shine: while everybody else is getting their longjohns in a bunch because of the line at the post office, the ever-increasing price of java logs, or Christmas carol earworms, misanthropes, accustomed to weathering the seas of perpetual annoyance, seem comparatively serene. Also, because everyone around them is suddenly on edge, their caustic observations and one-liners are more relevant to and therefore more appreciated by their usually more-sanguine acquaintances.

But like it or not, the holidays are still a time when even misanthropes yearn to come togetherin some fashion, and that’s what makes a show like Will Franken’s “Texas Chainsaw Yuletide” ideal for the Christmas curmudgeon. A refuge, if you will, for the defiantly unsentimental. A dazzling mirror-ball of sharp-edged vignettes, Franken’s show began with the unlikely appearance of a rat killer educated at the Sorbonne then morphed into familiar bits involving a pair of long-winded television commentators, that perennial favorite “The Condom Lady,” a pompous priest at Westminster Abbey presiding over the end of Christianity, a champagne-swilling fire chief, and a couple of gangland thugs, Sammy Salt and Petey Pepper.

A typically Frankenian evening of non-sequitur and contrarian observation, “TCY” nonetheless managed to sneak in a couple of twisted takes on home and hearth with a shaggy dog story about impersonating Michael Caine visiting his parents in “Talia Shire” (name that pop culture reference, kids!), and a surrealist homily about his own father taking twenty years to finish falling out a window. “I refuse to set foot on this earth,” is a quote he attributes to his old man, but taken out of context, beautifully encapsulates the essence of Will’s own approach to performance and to the status quo.
 
Pushing the surrealistic envelope even further, Karla LaVey’s 13th annual Black XMass at the Elbo Room featured a whole lineup of alternate-reality-makers, including the hard-to-categorize Los Murderachis and the even-harder-to-categorize Fuxedos, who are frankly the main reason I keep coming back to the Xmass every year now that they’ve stopped providing bacon-wrapped latkes (the devil’s food)!

Local boys Los Murderachis dressed in their Dia de los Muertos-inspired finery and played an eclectic mash-up of pseudo-salsa, mock-metal, and rogue rock, while The Fuxedos, clad in bloody tuxedo rags, played jazzy carnival music tinged with rage—a manic hybrid of Frank Zappa, Zippy the Pinhead, and The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. As frontman Danny Shorago churned through a truly staggering number of masks, props, and outfits, (“we’re prop rock” quipped a member of the band) the spandex-tight ensemble laid a solid musical foundation beneath the mayhem. And as a special treat, they even beat the crap out of Santa Claus onstage, which is really about as much holiday sentimentality as any misanthrope, congenital or seasonal, can bear by December’s end.

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