Photo of the company by Peter Yesely
In the real New York City of the 1970s, the council for public safety distributed a brochure called Welcome to Fear City: A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York. It prominently featured a skull on the cover and was used to dissuade tourists. Crime was at an all-time high—along with many of the residents—and the city’s finances were flimsy.
For Nora Burns, it was a utopia. Although the metropolis was flagging, The multi-hyphenate personality arrived here in 1979 and has been artistically creating ever since. Her latest work, The Village, A Disco Daydream returned to Dixon Place earlier this month after a sold-out run in the fall.
Burns’ whimsical and poignant show, directed with a keen eye by Adam Pivirotto, is indeed a daydream where time and place toggle between past and present and characters break out in dance to Van McCoy’s “The Hustle.”
Glace Chase serves as the Stage Manager, the narrator who introduces us to the cast. Old George (Chuck Blasius) is an affluent businessman who is a sugar daddy to the aptly named Trade (Antony Cherrie). Trade dopes and hustles with few strings attached until he falls for clean cut, studious Steven (Jack Bartholet) and experiences heartbreak. Even in daydreams, romance is complex.
Most of the action occurs in George’s apartment, where the doorbell chimes to the tune of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby.” Enter Petey (Eileen Dover), a sassy and cynical drag queen who channels Bea Arthur, Lisa (Ashley Chavonne), Trade’s loyal, straight lady friend, and Jock (Valton Jackson), Cade (Richard JMV) and Jason (Antwon LeMonte), three incredibly attractive people who simply show up be incredibly hot and dance. Robin Carrigan’s funky choreography infuses sheer joy into the piece. Burns herself appears in a hilarious turn as Junkie Jane, the next-door neighbor who shows up to borrow a cup of sugar, only to pass out on the floor. The entire cast is delightful and it’s easy to see that they are all having a blast with the material.
As a writer, Burns has made sure to check the boxes on this irreverent tale. For older folks who thumb their noses as nostalgic depictions of New York, the stage manager playfully pokes fun at their remembrances of “the good old days” For the younger sect who wince at depictions of inappropriate touching, sexual objectification, and laughing at substance abuse issues, that is also addressed.
In other words, The Village caters to anyone who has ever loved or remains in love with New York City. It evokes a time of true community, particularly among the LGBTQ+ community, when friends just “dropped by” and precious moments were spent simply through the act of spending time with one another. It also serves as a tribute to the lives that were prematurely snuffed, having flown too close to the sun.
While the jokes don’t always land, there are enough humorous moments throughout and, at a brisk and breezy 70 minutes, there is never a sense that the party has gone on for too long. With a bar upstairs and free shots passed before the disco unfolds, Dixon Place is the ideal spot for joy-filled downtown theater piece.
The Village, A Disco Daydream
Through February 24
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater, food, and nightlife journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a contributor to EDGE Media Network, The Broadway Blog, Queerty, Metroweekly, and LGBTQ Nation. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.