The 1995 Joe Eszterhas film Showgirls offers a big fat target for parody. Harvey Finklestein's Sock Puppet Showgirls, which is playing Saturday nights at the Ace of Clubs on Great Jones Street, takes up the mission with antic glee—and a dirty mind. The show is a fresh rendition of the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival crowd-pleaser. This raunchy puppet comedy's five puppeteers enthusiastically riff off the movie's basic plot about a young drifter named Nomi Malone who hitchhikes to Las Vegas to become a dancer and claws her way up the slippery pole from lap dancer to Vegas showgirl.
This is downtown theater with all of its coarseness and raw energy. Reinterpreted as a sock puppet, Nomi (played in the movie by Elizabeth Berkeley) has a mane of frizzy blond hair, false eyelashes, and anatomically correct breasts. Her gold-hearted friend, Molly, has been aptly reincarnated as the innocent Lamb Chop.
Encapsulating the essence of the movie character, Nomi erupts periodically in a temper tantrum, screaming, "I am not a whore!" in response to the snide and not unjustified remarks of people she meets.
The movie is rife with scenes and dialogue calling out to be lampooned. The best takeoffs in the puppet show occur when Nomi pole-dances before four ogling Sesame Street muppets waving cash and when Nomi and her mop-haired lover Zack have sex in the pool to the tune of the Captain and Tennille's "Do That to Me One More Time."
The show is stuffed with juvenile gags and lowbrow humor featuring the whimsical puppets with fabulous hair and occasionally a human hand to hold a cigarette or a French fry.
The show's bare-bones puppet theater has no backdrop. Crude cardboard cutouts denote key design elements, including the casinos of Las Vegas, the erupting volcano in the "Goddess" show in which Nomi gains a starring role, the bookend mileage signs for Las Vegas and Los Angeles (the film's producers were thinking optimistically about a sequel), and the staircase down which Nomi pushes her rival, Crystal.
While familiarity with Showgirls is recommended, the evening is not devoid of entertainment if you are not acquainted with this camp classic. The show clocks in at a spry 55 minutes, which is about as long as this sort of humor can sustain itself—and as long as most people can tolerate the uncomfortable fold-up chairs provided in this basement club with a bar.
A word to the wise: avoid the front row, where you will find yourself dodging spray-can Silly String and water-gun spray. Otherwise, have a few drinks and enjoy the pleasant buzz that this show provides.