Stage

-- Michael Scott Moore

Kinsey Shtick
The Balled Sopranos: At Home With the Kinsey Sicks. Written and performed by Benjamin Schatz, Irwin Keller, Maurice Kelly, and Jerry Friedman. At the New Conservatory Theater, 25 Van Ness (at Market), through June 26. Call 861-8972.

"Kinsey Sicks" is almost a good pun: It's the name of a drag quartet. It would be perfect if there were six of them, but with only four you have to be happy knowing that the official designation developed by Alfred Kinsey for someone who's totally gay was a 6 on his self-named scale. (A Kinsey 0 is totally straight.) The Kinsey Sicks played a show last year at the New Conservatory called Everything But the Kitsch 'n' Synch; the no-less-pun-infested show on now is called The Balled Sopranos. As usual, they leave aside lip-syncing -- the Kinseys are unique among queens in that they actually sing -- but this time they've hired a consultant to clutter up the stage with kitsch. Their "home" is decorated with a stuffed boar, a bust of Caesar, a stool with high-heeled feet, and four frames with each of the ladies' features painted horribly into famous portraits from different periods of history. It's unsettling. Winnie, Vaselina, Rachel, and Trixie (who's kind of buff) dress up like Truman-era society girls in pearls and gloves and appalling hair, chatter a bit with the audience, and then sing.

The Kinseys are essentially a barbershop quartet, so their harmonies are professional and pure, but if they knew what was good for them they would stay away from blues and most of the Creedence songbook. The numbers are raunchified a cappella versions of old standards: "(You Give Me) Beaver," "Proud Marys," "Where the Goys Are," "Bad Hair Day Blues" (really awful), and "AZT" -- to the tune of the Jackson 5's "ABC" -- a tasteless but perfectly rhymed song about medicating AIDS. One surprise is a Yiddish ballad that isn't funny or tasteless at all (from what I could make of the Yiddish), but minor-toned and hauntingly beautiful.

The songs are the reason to see the Kinseys. Their chatter between numbers exists only to hold the revue together, like the plot of a porno film, and some of it commits the ultimate sin of being boring. Winnie's Tupperware party is kind of funny; Rachel's scat chat is full of good puns; the rest of the interludes are tolerable. What you want from drag queens is scathing wit, hysterical bitchiness, and constant energy -- the last of which co-director Danny Scheie's other show, Up Jumped Springtime, has -- but too much of The Balled Sopranos is merely outrageous.

-- Michael Scott Moore

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