An Evening With Quentin Crisp | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

An Evening With Quentin Crisp 

If any performer seems an unlikely choice for the opening of a gay leather/S-M museum, it's Quentin Crisp. The English-born, New York-based humorist epitomizes the faded-genteel poofter, a persona seemingly at odds with the leather scene's stereotypical strutting macho image. But the interaction of leather and lace may produce some exciting friction next weekend, when Crisp's one-man show inaugurates the Leather Archives & Museum's new digs at the Greenview Arts Center. Hardly the harmless old auntie his dandified style might suggest, Crisp reveals himself in this program--which blends epigrammatic discourse with sometimes cuttingly candid conversation with the audience--to be the queen of tart. He's a scathing, sardonic commentator whose demeanor, a strange mixture of humility and arrogance, recalls the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. In his Chicago debut at the Ivanhoe Theater 15 years ago, he enraged some activists by denigrating Oscar Wilde as a self-destructive fool; more recently he offended many fans by saying that Princess Diana "was trash and got what she deserved." ("Going about saying she wanted to be the queen of hearts. The vulgarity of it is so overpowering," he told Southern Voice newspaper in Atlanta.) Perhaps it's not surprising that this determined survivor, now 90, regards supposed martyrs with special disdain: he wore eyeshadow and fluffy scarves in public long before it was safe (never mind chic) to do so, as he recounts in his memoir, The Naked Civil Servant. That book and the film based on it brought Crisp celebrity, yet he retains the outsider's perspective he had decades ago, when he was a nobody earning a meager living as an artist's model. Far less glib in person than one might expect from his polished writings, Crisp onstage can be engaging, infuriating, troubling, and fascinating as he ruminates on the world's warped values with an attitude of imperturbable, almost contentedly nihilistic detachment. Greenview Arts Center, 6418 N. Greenview, 773-878-6360. Opens Thursday, October 21, 8 PM. Through October 24: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 7 PM. $20.

--Albert Williams

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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Henchpeople Jarvis Square Theater
July 09
Galleries & Museums
May 28

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