Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Girlie Show

April 12, 2012

Ayana Hampton
How much do I love Ayana Hampton? Let me take a stab at answering that one. Funny, gutsy, and dare I say outright sexy, Miss Hampton is doing what might be described on RuPaul’s Drag Race as “serving up cabaret realness” right now in Los Angeles and you, dear reader, should pull yourself away from the TV and get over to the Bootleg Theater for her Friday and Saturday night performances this weekend of The Morning After Show. Hampton is a comedian, actor, singer and all around performer, making her way in the big city for years now, and The Morning After Show is the latest incarnation of her cabaret act that last surfaced here during the CalArts REDCAT New Original Works Festival in 2009. But this year’s model is a different beast with a sharper, more organized look and feel to her performance. The boundless energy of the hour is the same, but now the material flows more systematically through any number of the issues Miss Hampton sees outside her window. She's joined in this performance by a three-person band and directed by her longtime collaborator and savvy provocateur Clayton Farris.

There is no lack of clever commentary about issues of sex, class, and race that give the show its bite. References fly fast and furious, so the slow and methodical should be warned to listen up the first time because this isn’t The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. (Don't believe me? Check out these free samples.) Hampton hits on the questions everyone is asking themselves these days: What were those American Apparel models thinking to begin with? How does one go about getting a supporting part in a Tyler Perry movie? And what would the lives of Mimi and Roger from Rent be like today without all the drugs and AIDS and stuff? Perhaps the high point of the evening is B.Y.O.B.G.Y.N., a love letter to low-cost women’s health services and doing self exams that revisits the tune of Elton John’s “Your Song.” Hampton is up and down, back and forth, dancing and singing throughout the whole show with hardly a pause for breath and is incredibly engaging as a performer.

Best of all the characters she plays on stage are beginning to coalesce into a more unified whole. The influence of Sandra Bernhard’s work is clear, but Hampton delivers something less brooding whose sometime thematic bleakness is packaged in a deceptive smile and giggle as well as all that comes with the glitter and feathers and glamor. She’s less starstruck, but has no trouble demonstrating that sexy women are very capable of being very, very funny. Catch her now on the way up this weekend.


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