Dandy Darkly’s “Myth Mouth” is billed for a two week run at Under St. Marks Theater as an especially fun show for the Halloween season. It’s more than that, though: it’s also a show equally entertaining any time of the year. The solo show, featuring several distinct sections in verse and a near-continuous soundtrack, is perfectly designed for the intimate theater at Under St. Marks, a basement venue of the sort that feels like it pushes fire safety codes to their limit. Though the initial description –– a solo show from a Stonewall Inn-veteran once called “New York City’s King of Halloween”–– portrays the piece as a light-hearted gay romp, there’s far more to the show than meets the eye.
Darkly structures the show around a “sissy” caveman and hallucinogenic mushroom cultivator, Cha-Cha, who later becomes the inventor of theater, organized religion and cocaine. Cha-Cha, hungry for some giant sloth meat, begins joking about and mocking the larger men in his tribe in an effort to get some food without having to kill it himself. Cha-Cha is much like Darkly, who has written three stories that fit within the frame of Cha-Cha’s somewhat lonely and frustrated existence, though his scenes often break boundaries in time and space.
His resetting of the Persephone myth, for example, keeps the characters’ names and roles in the Greek pantheon, but gives each many modern twists. Persephone nurses a cocaine addiction and Hades gets a submissive sexual fetish. This was perhaps his most successful story of the night. His narration weaves in and out of verse deftly, recalling the mostly-lost tradition of epic poetry performance. Darkly almost makes you think that it would not be shocking to find the Homer of the 21st century in an East Village basement, wearing styrofoam cones on his shoulders under a silver, form-fitting one-piece.
In fact, the comparison to Homer is openly invited by Darkly. He brackets each show with references to Walt Whitman, and in his final fable tosses all of history’s great artists into a wonderfully gay party, featuring Willi Ninja, Oscar Wilde and Andy Warhol. With Darkly’s willingness to dive into references to 19th century poetry and Greek mythology, he creates a history which argues that all of art came from homosexuality and divergent sexual and gender identities. The solo show is more nightclub than academic paper, but he makes the case entertainingly well.
Darkly’s second story takes a far more absurd and comic tack, focusing on Laika, the first dog launched into space, and the secret mission that she fulfills while in orbit. The many layers of Darkly’s first story are substantially flattened in this sequel and it is perhaps the weakest portion of the evening. The story strays farther than any of its partners from the framework of Cha-Cha as an entertainer. That said, it is certainly no death blow to the show as a whole.
Darkly’s performance is, in sum, well worth taking the time to see on a weekend before he leaves Under St. Marks, and will leave you clambering out into the East Village with a bit more flair in your step than when you entered.
“Myth Mouth” is running at Under St. Marks Theater at 85 E 4th St. through Oct. 25.
Email Michael Landes at [email protected]