I put out a homo bat-signal about BenDeLaCreme's extra performances of Cosmos yesterday, and after seeing the show, I'm glad I did. If you're a fan of performance or drag or jokes or enjoying yourself it's absolutely worth the ticket price.
And if you're a BenDeLaCreme fan specifically, and you're going to really love Cosmos, because it's all BenDeLaCreme all the time—running around grabbing his own props, doing his own costume changes onstage, interacting with other characters via fake video feed (he plays all the other characters, too, including an uptight hippie, a bearded fag, Norma Desmond...)
There isn't a single other person in the show. And the jokes are good. She refers to the venue, West Hall, as "the West Hall Center for Alcoholic Research." She tries to deliver a talk about space because she says all her shows have been about her and she wanted subject matter that other people are interested in this time, even though, she added, "Other people's interests are not really one of my interests." She starts up a slide show about space and the first two lines in the slide show are:
Who's some other planets?
I could go on and on but I don't want to give away any of the other jokes. You will enjoy yourself, you will laugh. Go.
The one thing I would say that could be filed under "constructive criticism"? It's this...
Ben is so good at being funny, so good at doing a hundred things at once, that sometimes I want him to relax into the glamour of being so dang talented. I want some quiet time. A joke every 20 seconds has its tiresome side. Ben doesn't need to be worried about losing the audience. Ben is a star. What would be amazing is if this omni-talented performer found room in BenDeLaCreme's nervous, flighty giddiness to relax a little, to take longer pauses, to exude Ben's natural sexiness and power and talent instead of nonstop nervous energy.
At the point when Ben was dressed like a fish and tap-dancing while doing a striptease, I thought: I wish he were doing Norma Desmond right now instead. "Oh my god, cast Ben as Norma Desmond, someone!" I wrote in my notebook when he was playing Norma Desmond in conversation with BenDeLaCreme, because Ben can act. You can't tell when he's dressed as a fish and doing a striptease while tap-dancing (and not even tap-dancing but fake-tap-dancing—the sound cues were so plentiful and so often slightly off that you couldn't help but notice) that he can act, that he can sing, that he can command a room without all this hyperactivity.
There's a piano in the corner of West Hall, and before the show started I was dreaming that it might be put to use—maybe Ben would have an accompanist tonight? No dice. All recorded music, and Ben sprinting from one joke to the next. If anything, for all the jokes in the show, the ticket prices are a steal, but what I loved most were the occasional glimpses of Ben's range, the characters that showed dimensions other than BenDeLaCreme's nervous, giddy non-stop-ness. Hewing tightly to the premise of a character who's kind of dumb makes the actor who inhabits her constantly disguise his intelligence. I hope as his drag persona evolves, and his solo performance evolves, he will take more time for himself, and for the audience, and really draw out the power of what he does, instead of constantly burying it in blizzards of jokiness.
"I'm not really into effort," BenDeLaCreme insists, but everything she does contradicts that.
At the very end of the show, there's an amazing moment. A cart with a chemistry set on it is wheeled out, and a microphone is placed right next to all the test tubes, and Ben knocks a rudimentary melody on the test tubes while singing a quiet, low-voiced concluding number.
It's not a dizzying whirlwind of puns, it's something slower and stranger and strangely affecting. But, as if nervous that she's losing her audience, Ben abruptly interrupts herself, more than once, exploding spastically/ironically into kicks and saying, "Science is fun! I love fun! Woo!" during this otherwise magical moment. I wish she hadn't. I can't wait for the day BenDeLaCreme lets go of the sheer number of those ironic spasms, those overly self-conscious efforts to jam as many jokes into a moment as possible. That could be the next frontier in BenDeLaCreme's art.