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THIS ART IS TRASH: A high-brow celebration of low culture – New Ohio Theatre, New York

Writers: Cole Escola, Ziwe Fumudoh, Sudi Green, Matt Rogers, Peter Smith

Reviewer: Carrie Lee O’Dell

Part of the New Ohio Theatre’s ICE Factory Festival, Fridays On ICE is a late night salon series featuring work “more typically… perform[ed] in nightclubs, bars, and private apartments” than in traditional theatrical venues. Each night of the series is hosted by a different artist who presents work connected to their chosen theme. The July 21 salon, THIS ART IS TRASH: A high-brow celebration of low culture, is hosted by SNL writer Sudi Green and focuses on American popular culture.

Green and her co-host Matt Rogers use the style of a TED talk to frame the evening, presenting video clips to illustrate baffling trends in popular music, such as ridiculously high pitched or extended notes that appear out of nowhere (the “big sing”) or ten-year-old girls appearing on talent competitions with voices like they’re in their forties (the “tiny big sing”). Green and Rogers have nice stage chemistry and play off of one another well; their comedy serves as a solid framework for the featured acts.

As with any collection of unrelated performers, some of the acts were stronger than others. The first featured comedian, Ziwe Fumudoh of Baited on Above Average, is the weakest performance of the evening. She starts with a smart focus—what does it mean to be a sexy celebrity and also a feminist—but her execution falls short. Mostly she yells into the microphone and points at memes on a screen. Fumudoh is followed by one of the funniest performances of the night, Matt Rogers performing a monologue that imagines what a screaming reality show-style cat fight might sound like on the Titanic. Rogers’ performance is wildly funny, not least because of the improbable premise of his monologue: that a group of well-off gay men in 1912 might choose to ride steerage to cruise for hot guys. 

Rogers is followed by Peter Smith, a gender fluid comedian whose set starts by examining the rigid gender roles enforced by major department stores and ends up pondering arch villains in a Queer Marvel Cinematic Universe as determined by cologne samples. Smith’s starts slowly, but quickly grows stronger. The last act of the night is Cole Escola of  Hulu’s Difficult People. Escola talks about sex parties as he changes into a women’s suit, heels and wig, then launches into an impressive lip-sync of Christine Ebersol singing “Pink” from War Paint. This is absolutely delightful—Escola really drives home the connection between what we consider high art and low culture without being pedantic.

Certainly, the conceit behind Fridays On ICE offers a fresh and welcome approach to summer festival programming. The bar at the New Ohio offers half-price drinks after the show and the audience is encouraged to stick around to drink and mingle. On the whole, THIS ART IS TRASH was a fun evening, if uneven. Not much is said that we haven’t heard before, but serves as an entertaining part of a Friday night out in the West Village.

Reviewed on 21 July 2017

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The American team is under the editorship of Adrienne Sowers. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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