Divas fly in ‘Blackbird’ 

Pride takes on entertaining, enlightening, highly theatrical and delightfully economical forms in Seth Eisen’s robust solo show “Blackbird.”

Onstage in the tiny Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory and subtitled “Honoring a Century of Pansy Divas,” the performance is a tour through the history (and lesson of sorts) of gay artists from the early 1900s through modern day.

Assisted by the superb team — music director Sean Feit, multi-instrumentalist Jesse Olsen, costumers Jack Davis and Laura Hazlett, and director Brian Freeman — Eisen, who wrote the script, literally becomes the seven performers he’s chosen to showcase.

Largely underground, and representing aspects of the gay experience, they are: 1930s speakeasy era’s Jean Malin, the narrator; actor Danny Kaye; San Francisco drag queen turned Zen practitioner Issan (Tommy) Dorsey; Brazilian bombshell Ney Matogroso; San Francisco disco icon Sylvester; German New Waver Klaus Nomi; and Bulgarian gypsy Azis.

With a plush sofa and dim lighting, the atmospheric setting combines a dressing room and an early 20th-century funeral parlor.

The show begins with Malin, decked out in tails and heavy makeup, carrying a blackbird, which signifies the need to be free and fly — a quality embodied by all of the show’s subjects.

From there, Eisen ingeniously morphs into his other equally colorful characters, telling their stories not only in song and poetry, but also with shadow theater effects, puppetry and video.

Eisen’s characterizations are nothing short of mesmerizing, and his instinct for the theatrical (clearly on a shoestring) make “Blackbird” a performance piece full of wonder.

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

 

THEATER REVIEW

Blackbird

Where: Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory, 1519 Mission St. (at 11th Street), San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; closes July 10

Tickets: $20 to $25

Contact: (415) 786-9325, www.brownpapertickets.com

About The Author

Leslie Katz

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