What's worse than a dilettante? Those who are passionate about their artistic pursuits even when they lack certifiable talent. Usually, folks who fall under this category are the self-proclaimed artists (can I get an "amen"?) who force audiences to bear witness to their dreadful work. Diane Karagienakos and Todd Pickering, sweethearts of this year's San Francisco Fringe Festival, humorously comment on the phenomenon of self-obsessed artistes in Come Fly With Me Nude, a play that's just as much about farce as it is about art. But then again, who can separate the two?
Admission is $15-20
Karagienakos and Pickering respectively play Bella Hagen and Dom Casual, two wannabe performers, poets, and pen pals linked by the letters in which they gush uncontrollably about their failures and successes. As they wax poetic about their solo performance pieces (sometimes in iambic pentameter, no less), they execute numbers inspired by all things cheesy and deep: Ann-Margret, the band Queen, the Ice Capades, Bob Dylan, and The Exorcist. As Bella and Dom tackle increasingly difficult art forms and their careers progress, they're propped up by their star-struck tour promoter, Taffy (Cara Newman), and the confessional anecdotes they share about their work and aspirations in the mode of VH1's Behind the Music. Overall, the play has the snarky and voyeuristic appeal of a reality television show. It even has a satisfyingly happy ending, as the duo find a cult following that ultimately leads to their discovery by a Hollywood executive looking for a cable TV act, forcing Bella and Dom to make a choice between mainstream success and avant-garde adulation.
Karagienakos and Pickering based their characters on real-life incidents, when the two met in North Beach in the early '90s and amused themselves by exchanging overwrought verse in the personas of Dom and Bella. They eventually printed and sold their zany impromptu literature at the North Beach Fair and City Lights Books, using the noms de plume of, you guessed it, Bella Hagen and Dom Casual, before getting the bright idea to translate their badinage to the stage.
Not to kill viewer expectations, but I should mention that there's no flying or nudity in this production -- simply a bunch of nicely choreographed musings by a vibrant pair who will wow you with their ice skating, even in the absence of ice. Their "tsunami of Byronian Ferlinghettis" is sometimes satirical, sometimes earnest, but always hysterical. Through a medley of characters who inspire nostalgia for the early-'90s pre-dot-com nirvana of San Francisco, Karagienakos and Pickering make cappuccino-sipping, all-black-wearing, name-dropping pretensions downright endearing -- and help you believe, even if just for a moment, that perhaps their art might be meaningful and important after all.