Showgirls | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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Showgirls, Harvey Finklestein's Institute of Whimsical, Fantastical and Marvelous Puppet Masterage, at the Side Studio. Paul Verhoeven's cinematic expose of the Las Vegas skin trade is the inspiration for this puppetry parody. After an avalanche of bad press greeted the film's release in 1995, Verhoeven tried to represent his cheap porno as an "ironic" commentary on the Hollywood studio system. But the hilariously awful script, bad acting from all the principals, and crappy production values suggested that Showgirls was indeed a cinematic Frankenstein's monster, cobbled together from the absolute worst Hollywood has to offer.

The movie is ripe for a scathing send-up, which Harvey Finklestein's ramshackle troupe of puppeteers provides, hitting all the right notes with its obnoxious, profane interactive show. Finklestein's Showgirls is 100 percent id, as astonishingly elaborate sock puppets delight in baring their boobies and dry humping one another. A fast and loose reduction of the screenplay--in which every third word is already "whore" or "bitch"--manages some great additional zingers: "You smell like...gym class," moans one sock during a re-creation of the film's infamous sex-in-a-pool scene. Hats off to the troupe for its execution; this relentlessly mean-spirited Punch-and-Judy show draws its audience into the fray and makes something that's easy to ridicule even more fun to hate.

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