Thrillpeddlers, well-known for blowing dust and gristle off Grand Guignol plays from early-20th-century Paris, have set their sights a bit closer to home for their Theatre of the Ridiculous Revival. Forty years ago, the Cockettes a lurid, shimmering, acid-soaked theater troupe composed of gay men, fag hags, and babies rose like a phoenix draped in thrift-store finery from a dilapidated movie theater in North Beach. Praise for the resulting exuberant midnight musicals spread like easy thighs across America, enticing Truman Capote and influencing everyone from David Bowie to the New York Dolls. Before the Cockettes imploded three years later, the word genderfuck had been coined to clarify original productions like Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma and Journey to the Center of Uranus, and glitter was a household word. The Cockettes crowning glory, Link Martin and Richard Scrumbly Koldewyns Pearls Over Shanghai, was loosely based on a disreputable Broadway play written by John Colton in 1926. A mock-opera set in China among opium addicts and singing sailors, Pearls Over Shanghai deals with subjects near and dear to Thrillpeddler hearts: white slavery, prostitution, gangland grudges, and supernatural interference. Tonight's "pay what you can" show is a benefit for the Castro Country Club, a safe haven for LGBT people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction.
Sun., Jan. 16, 8 p.m., 2011