phile under: TBA
Review: Her’s A Queen and DEEP Aerobics
Neal Medlyn strips pop stardom naked
Within ten minutes, Neal Medlyn’s exploding candy g-string struck me in the chest. But honestly, how else would a mock Britney Spears tantrum end?
Medlyn, whose previous pop deconstructions include Kanye West in the collaboration "Why Won’t You Let Me Be Great!!!" and Prince in "Neal Medlyn’s Unpronounceable Symbol," took on the image of arguably the most important female pop act of this past decade, Britney Spears, in "Her’s A Queen," part one of his Britney/Hannah Montana epic (his words, not mine).
He began as Britney circa 2005 to 2008—insane, strung out, generally off-putting. Strutting around in a nightie, he cried out non-sequiturs such as, "Hello Sacramento!" "All I wanna do is drink beer and cause damage," and another line that this family-friendly site can’t print (but can link to easily). Carmine Covelli, his drummer in other productions, pranced around the stage in inside-out shorts and a hat shaped like a bear acting out the part of paparazzi, snapping photographs that were displayed on a screen behind them. Then Medlyn launched into screaming rendition of Spears’ newest hit (and one of the least veiled double-entendres in pop history) "If U Seek Amy" over a new metal mix. As the song came to a close, Medlyn lifted up his nightie, exposing his candy thong, and ripped it off, causing candy shrapnel to pelt the audience, and then did a hand-stand to expose his penis as Medlyn demonstrated that most infamous aspect of the pop breakdown: the endless barrage of pantyless paparazzi photos. Basically, Medlyn did everything short of shaving his head and beating up an SUV with an umbrella in reenacting Britney’s breakdown.
After a wrestling match between Covelli and Medlyn, the show took on the surreal tone it would use for the rest of its duration; a fallen pop star version of Alice in Wonderland. Covelli, as a bear spirit guide/child of Medlyn named Pea Pod, aids in Medlyn’s journey to find purity, that great milk whiteness, a nostalgic time that probably never existed to begin with. Through this, they interlocked their bodies, and even had a purity ring ceremony with an audience-participation cuddle party. This is where the show somewhat stalled for me. If the point was to satirize the over-the-top Christian bent that pop music has recently taken and the sexual marketing of pop music through virginity (the Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, Britney Spears’ early career), it was made well, as Medlyn illustrated the absurdity of the purity ring and the cuddle party expertly, but the joke overstayed its welcome and the point was long made before the performance moved on.
After this, though, the experience became much more hallucinatory, as Medlyn left Pea Pod, which caused Covelli to break into a fuzz-backed performance of Justin Timberlake’s Britney break up classic, "Cry Me A River," a song which marked both severely damaged Britney’s viability as a pop star, and launched Timberlake to the SNL-hogging force of nature he is today. After this, Medlyn stabbed Pea Pod in the stomach, causing a stream of Bit o’ Honey candies to fall out (he’s a bear, you see, so his stomach would be filled with honey).
It got pretty hazy after that as Medlyn returned to Britney train wreck mode, doing "Gimme More" covered in rubber snakes in an homage to another famous Britney performance and eventually realizing his folly with Pea Pod which led to a raucous "Hit Me Baby One More Time."
Medlyn did an incredible job of analyzing depths of Britney’s pop star psyche that I doubt she ever even realizes she has. His Texan drawl even helped to add an air of authenticity to the proceedings, as it only seems right that a Southerner could portray Spears. Most importantly, though, did he do justice to Britney’s media-fueled rise to fame and subsequent downfall? Completely.
Following that performance was Miguel Gutierrez, who collaborated with Medlyn on the acclaimed Last Meadow, and his Death Electric Emo Protest Aerobics aka DEEP Aerobics. This consisted of Gutierrez dressed as an Jazzercise-ready version of Dr. Frank N. Furter leading a group of TBA-goers in their eighties athletic apparel best in a series of body-movement activities, such as jumping around, self-fondling, and parades throughout the theater. Basically, if DEEP Aerobics were a class offered locally, it would be knock out kickball as Portland’s next great excrcise fad.