The beauties of “The Kinsey Sicks” are back in town and they’re ready to take on — or maybe that’s take down — the incoming administration. Their signature show, “Oy Vey in a Manger,” has revved up Theater J audiences at the Edlavitch Washington DCJCC before, but Kinsey Sicks chief writer Ben Schatz reports that the show has required major rewrites to satirically puncture the latest headline issues.
And what better place to rattle the rafters with a beauty-shop style a cappella quartet of drag queens sporting big hair, big smiles and big (fake) breasts than the JCC, just up 16th Street from the White House? The group makes a quick stop Dec. 20 through Dec. 28, just in time for Chanukah, and that other big December holiday.
“Oy Vey in a Manger” has become a classic, Schatz observed. “It’s a holiday tradition, like overdrinking and depression.” It retells the typical Jewish story about a boy born to poverty in a ramshackle manger, who makes it big, and his mother, Mary, is so very proud. “Oy Vey” is ribald and raucous and most definitely R rated with its four “dragapella” performers — Schatz as Rachel, Nathan Marken as Winnie, Jeff Manabat as Trixie, and Spencer Brown as Trampolina — relish the opportunity to poke and prod the current — and incoming — body politic with jokes and parodies that will make your mother blush.
If you’ve seen “Oy Vey” before — it’s been at Theater J twice already — get ready for new and unrepentant material. Schatz said, “Steve Bannon will be making an appearance,” and who knows where that might lead. “Plus,” Schatz added, “it still has some of our old favorites. We used to do a version of ‘Santa Baby,’ which we changed to ‘Satan Baby,’ but post-election it is now called ‘Anchor Baby.’”
That’s just for starters. He also has an open invitation out to Vice President-elect (and avid theatergoer) Mike Pence. “We have a few memorable words (and songs) we’d love to share with him from our stage,” Schatz said.
As chief writer for the quartet, which had its first public performance in 1994, Schatz noted that he is responsible for what the audience sees and, as he terms it, “what they are likely to walk out on.” It may be one of the first live shows in Washington to tackle and comment on the election in the age of Trump, he said.
A reformed lawyer and activist, Schatz, a Harvard Law School grad, started the first national AIDS legal program and later served as executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. He was
appointed to President Bill Clinton’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Yet, “my family was deeply ashamed of my decision to become a lawyer and I finally gave in to family pressure and became a singing drag queen instead. Now my mom can finally kvell.”
Can biting satire help or heal the pervasive post-election depression that has settled over more than half the country? “That’s a serious question to ask a comic,” Schatz said. “I’m not a therapist. I’m a comic and a writer who attempts to be thoughtful and to provoke. We always try to make audiences have a wonderful time in part by making them uncomfortable. We’re not entertainers as much as performer provocateurs.”
Since their start more than two decades ago, the Kinsey Sicks have always infused their shows with a heavy dose of social commentary, or as Schatz said, “There’s something in each of our shows for somebody not to like. We’re not pre-fab. We’re not pre-formulated. We’re not market-driven. We say what we think is important and what will deliciously and delightedly shock people.”
The Kinsey Sicks in “Oy Vey in a Manger,” Dec. 20 -28, Theater J, Edlavitch Washington DC-JCC, 1529 16th St. NW, Washington. Tickets $22-$60. Call 202-777-3210 or visit edcjcc.org/center-for-arts/theater-j.