Finding an ample supply of flesh on display at the Slipper Room is a given — but whether it’s shocking or sexy is purely in the eye, and quite often the groin, of the beholder. That’s what makes the decadent burlesque venue such a good match for the brief run of “Ubu Sings Ubu,” a satirical, skin-filled rock musical (whose run at Abrons Arts Center last April saw its liquor-fueled audience turning the curtain call into a mosh-friendly celebration).
Created from the French text of Alfred Jarry’s play “Ubu Roi” by way of the Google Translate engine, “Ubu Sings Ubu” is adapter, co-director, and co-star Tony Torn’s rowdy and profane gift to those not yet ready to head home after seeing an early show.
“Under the Radar and other downtown festivals have discontinued their late night lounges,” noted Torn, who asked, “Where will the hordes of late-night theater professionals go after the 8 p.m. shows have ended? If they have the guts to party with Pa and Ma Ubu, we’ll be ready to bathe them in sweat, absinthe, and kielbasa juice!”
Jarry aficionado James Habacker, who serves as the Slipper Room’s major domo, called the notorious “Ubu” playwright “one of the most significant and influential of modern artists, if not the most influential. When others were talking the talk, Jarry was walking the walk.” That walk was a short one: Jarry died in 1907 at the age of 34, and the original run of “Ubu” closed the same night that it opened: December 10, 1896. Although the basic plot was familiar (Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” set in Poland), Parisian audiences were apparently not yet ready for the combination of a surreal narrative, bizarre visuals, and Jarry’s flagrant disregard for social and political norms.
Flash forward to modern times, and Torn’s adaptation, with choreography by co-director Dan Safer, builds upon the once-scandalous play’s subversive spirit, while leaving much of the original content intact (including the presence of a menacing bear). Two notable additions give this version some claws of its own. Burlesque icon Julie Atlas Muz has a slinky form and a gift for rhythmic cadence that promises to function well alongside the “giddy, angular new wave rock” of a theremin-infused band covering the work of cult songmakers Pere Ubu, itself inspired by the play’s name and style.
UBU SINGS UBU | The Slipper Room, 167 Orchard St. btwn. Stanton & Rivington Sts. | Jan. 11, 11 p.m.; Jan. 12, 8 & 11 p.m. | $18 at slipperroom.com or 212-253-7246; $22 at the door