Over the past two decades Julie Queen has earned her ballsy-woman stripes. She's played truck-driver killer Aileen Wuornos in Carla Lucero's opera Wuornos and the lead in Robert Rodríguez's Frida, based on the life of painter Kahlo. In the '90s, as a member of the Qube Chix, the avant-garde singing trio lead by Pamela Z, she belted out heady Karlheinz Stockhausen atonality and defiant riot-grrrl lyrics at the same time. It never struck me that she would be as likely to go out on a limb with Shirley MacLaine as to take a leap with Ann Magnuson, the former queen of New York's '80s underground scene who has also set her life to song onstage.
Unfortunately, with her solo show Ten Dollar Destiny, an hourlong multimedia performance, Queen lends her operatic voice to a series of songs that map her midlife soul search through the all-too-familiar territory of self-help experts shrinks, psychics, and astrologists as she tries to figure out where she got lost on the path of life and how to get back on track.
As Queen appears onstage, her opening song prepares us for a gauzy look through the pages of her life. The crew of scene designers and set constructors who formed the pop-up book of said life by creating a series of walls that pivot across the stage, each exposing a new leaf, are fantastic. The endless "I'm stuck on the road of life without a map" metaphors in every song of the five-part cycle are not.
Yet for all of her incisive criticisms of the self-help industry (her "You need yourself today" jingle for a little pill, Assurezen, is perfectly pitched at the false promises of medication), I can't help but wonder why she's wasting so much time worrying about where she went wrong. Queen has gone from boldly careless to overly careful, and I badly want to see a woman at the crossroads who just says "Fuck it," buys a bitchin' car, and gets the hell out of Dodge.
TEN DOLLAR DESTINY
Through Jan. 27
Thurs.Sun., 8 p.m.
1695 18th St., SF