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Friday, July 1, 2016

Review: The Killing of a Lesbian Bookie

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 1:53 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY EDWARD CARTER SIMON
  • Photo by Edward Carter Simon

The title of Jim Fitzmorris’ latest drama, The Killing of a Lesbian Bookie, is racy, but it isn’t long enough to accommodate all the crime, vice and prurience that quickly spill onstage at The Theatre at St. Claude. Burlesque star Triple Lexxxi is preparing for the opening night of her bar and club a when beer purveyor, nicknamed Irish, drops by with what turns out to be an offer that’s hard to refuse.

Lexxxi (Bunny Love) has worked long and hard to save money and build up the fame she’s leveraged to open her own club. She wants to cash in on the dues she’s paid, including trading sex for favors, and make the most of the time left in her performing career. Her lover and business partner is a bookie (Kimberly Kaye), who has complicated relationships with her clients. Irish (Justin Welborn) is interested in more than stocking the bar with craft beers, including selections from Rogue Ale, if you were looking for easy clues.

The action takes place in Lexxxi’s dressing room, and there’s brief nudity. Lexxxi has a collection of classic crime films on a shelf, and she and Irish are both crime movie junkies. David Raphel’s stylish set, hung with vintage crime movie posters, and banter about genre classics by director John Cassavetes — and a few pointedly dropped titles (The Godfather, Chinatown) — spell out exactly what type of drama Fitzmorris has in mind.

References to 1970s organized crime movies abound, but the drama resembles Pulp Fiction and other Quentin Tarantino movies. There’s a lot of dialogue, philosophizing and creative thinking with guns drawn. One of the strengths of Fitzmorris’ story is that the fast-talking characters command attention more compellingly than the easy drama created by putting a gun onstage. The tension builds, but it doesn’t seek easy resolution.

Irish is a former corrupt cop who gravitated toward protection rackets, trading favors with influential people and hanging out with crooks, strippers and whores. It’s not a story of fallen virtue, as all three characters have been involved in criminal and exploitive enterprises and survived all sorts of dirty deals to get ahead. Corruption is environmental in this demimonde. The drama explores the trade offs of pursuing love and money and warns against trusting anyone without an identifiable personal stake, preferably business interests. “Take care of yourself,” Fitzmorris writes.

Lexxxi and Irish also share an ironic appreciation of the burlesque concept of “the reveal.” Fitzmorris’ script is characteristically aware of and calls attention to language, often conspicuously savoring a double entendre or turn of phrase. At times the piece is too wordy, but the crime scheme is complicated and compelling, and the show breezes by in 75 minutes without an intermission.

It’s never really convincing that Lexxxi and the bookie love each other in other than superficial ways, though the drama seems to need their bond to be meaningful and at times heated. The acting is generally sharp, and Welborn had brilliant moments handling Irish’s entertaining deal-making under duress as well as a couple of stumbles keeping up with its pace. Bunny Love is an experienced burlesque performer and is comfortable in Lexxxi’s skin, though her burlesque costume seems odd, splitting the difference between glamorous old burlesque and neon stripper ware.

The Killing of a Lesbian Bookie is a fast-paced, fun dive into the underworld. It's got a smart plot, enough surprises to keep it lively and plenty of guilty pleasures. There are a few shows left before the gig is up.

Through July 3
The Killing of a Lesbian Bookie
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 6 p.m. Sun.
The Theatre at St. Claude, 2240 St. Claude Ave., (504) 638-6326

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