In 1990, in response to Senator Jesse Helms' obscenity witch hunt, New York performance artist Penny Arcade submitted the semiautobiographical Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! for an NEA Fellowship. It was denied, of course. In no way did the life of Ms. Arcade fostered by gay men, a member of John Vaccaros Playhouse of the Ridiculous at 17, an art star in Warhols Women in Revolt at 19 speak to the Moral Majority. Still, the play became a tremendous Off-Broadway hit and ultimately toured the world, putting local erotic dancers from Cork to Calgary on theater stages long before the neo-burlesque movement made it okay to do so. It might be difficult to imagine little Irish ladies in the audience smiling as strippers and leather-clad club boys threw barbs at the Vatican, the military, the left and the right, and every sacred cow in between, but Penny Arcade has a way about her. Despite the focus on sex and censorship, the show neither shocks nor teases; it moves and inspires with hilarious character studies and confessional monologues that reveal more about the audience than about the players. By the end of each show, whether in Galway or L.A., the entire audience dances to Gloria Gaynor. This is the San Francisco debut of B!D!F!W!, and even as Arcade inches toward 60, you can bet she still gets her knickers off.
Previews start tonight at 8 (opening night is Feb. 27, and the play continues through March 7).
Feb. 25-March 7, 2009