Queen of Hearts, currently playing through November 2, is everything I’ve come to expect from a Company XIV show, in the best way possible. Whenever I hear that Company XIV has a new show, I expect a stage filled with sexy people doing high kicks, acrobatics, and inventive covers of my favorite pop songs. It’s a few hours of escape from the real world into one of decadence and light-hearted debauchery. Queen of Hearts was all of it, but there was something more this time around that I wasn’t expecting.
Queen of Hearts loosely follows the story of Alice in Wonderland, hitting on its most memorable moments. The Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dum/Tweedle Dee, and the title character Queen of Hearts all make appearances, though not in a way that they’ve been seen before. The White Rabbit is a seducer in a thong and coattails with a Freddy Mercury-esque voice. The Caterpillar is a submissive who is carried out on stage in a full bondage suit and emerges as a butterfly. Alice drinks from mysterious bottles that make her shrink or grow, towering over the stage. Dancers pass out chocolates to the audience and encourage them to buy small bottles of absinthe. Indulging and letting go of inhibitions is the point, but here is where Queen of Hearts didn’t feel like the usual Company XIV show.
During the Mad Tea Party sequence, the Mad Hatter is pontificating about the topsy-turvy world. Suddenly, the focus switches to the outside world and back to reality, back to the madness that is Trump’s America. It is something that Company XIV has superficially touched on before in their shows with the stray “F— Trump” on a costume or written on a dancer’s body. This is the first time I’ve seen a whole sequence, however, that brings the audience back to the troubles of the world and made it part of the show.
My guest for the show and I discussed the sequence during one of the intermissions, and we ultimately disagreed on whether the segment belonged in the show. For her, she didn’t like the reminder of Trump. This show was a needed break, and she wanted to enjoy the sexy dancers and the imaginative costuming in peace. While I see her point, I see the segment as essential. Company XIV’s productions are filled with men loving men, women loving women, men wearing can-can skirts, women wearing strap-ons, and people beyond the binary. It would feel wrong to have this beautiful celebration of music, dance, the human body, and love without acknowledging the forces at work trying to suppress its existence.
This serious moment aside, Queen of Hearts is everything I’ve come to love about Company XIV, and the Alice in Wonderland theme is a good entry point for the uninitiated. I suggest springing for a champagne couch for 2 and taking a date or a couple of friends for an opulent night out. Also, the cocktails are well worth the price. I tried the Queen of Hearts – Champagne Brut and Blackberry Liqueur – and all of the themed cocktails were tempting to say the least.
Queen of Hearts is currently playing at 383 Troutman Street in Brooklyn, NY. Tickets are available online, including three special Halloween Mad Masquerade performances.