In Sean Gill’s Go-Go Killers!, we find ourselves in a New York City of the future, a post-apocalyptic landscape (both financial and environmental) into which stomp a legion of rogue go-go chicks, who have created an underworld of their own, in response to the wealthy white male-dominated society which rules them. At once retro and futuristic (like comic books of the 1950s), Rachel Klein’s proficient direction and skilled choreography channel the cult films of Russ Meyer, (largely Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill!) complete with cinematic transitions, mod costumes and make-up, and a 1960s-era surf music soundtrack. This is the latest Gill/Klein collaboration, and again, their styles and sensibilities seem to blend together perfectly. We follow one girl gang called the Furies, led by Electra, and played, well electrifyingly, by Elizabeth Stewart, as they seek revenge against their former captors and venture into the “Old Jersey desert.” By her side are a feisty Pam Grier-esque Pandora, played by Reagan Wilson; the romantic Godiva, played by Jillaine Gill; and newbie Marietta, whom we watch earn her new name – Bloody Mary, played by Kari Warchock. With a cock of the hip, a toss of the hair, stomp of a boot, or even taking hits as well as they dish them out, these women are fierce; and moreover, they know it. Much amusement ensues as they attempt to upset the balance, taking two of their blue-blood tormentors, Kevin G. Shinnick’s smarmy Nelson, and the sheltered Eugene (and Marietta’s former fiancé), played by Joe Stipek, captive and into the wilds of old New Jersey.
In this new/old world, the girl gangs are aggressive and competitive, amongst themselves and others, leading to many entertaining dance-off beat-downs along the way. Their main rivals are the sassy Gorgons, appropriately dressed in sparkling sea-green and blue tones, who give them a good run for their money. Featuring Dana Perry as Gypsy, Robyn Nielsen as Ginger, Megan O’Connor as Jezebel, and Marna Kohn as Georgette, the tough Gorgons keep popping up at the most inopportune moments, adding to the conflict at hand. There are also golden go-go’s (led by Dance Captain Michelle Cavallero), silver go-go’s, and even boy go-go’s, played by Preston Burger, Freddy Mancilla, and Brian Rubiano, all dancing with aplomb. These multi-chorus assemblages are also evocative of the cult film genre and are fun to watch as they layer and/or unfold from every direction. Don DiPaolo gives a great, goofy performance as another supporting character, truly earning his “wife-beater,” as The Wop. And for effect there’s also the ubiquitous butler, Godfrey, embodied by the lithe Michael Porsche.
The dialogue is snappy and amusing. Gill’s script sounds equally stylized, even with hints of more emotional depth for the characters than one might suspect. However, by the third act, with the arrival at the Queen’s Lair, the narrative kind of falls apart, as does the kick-ass road movie vibe by way of too-long speeches involving backstory and a certain amount of tidying up, which feels unnecessary. Even the once-fierce main characters seem dulled down. It’s understood that they’re now in the manipulative hands of the reigning underground monarch, but the loss of Electra’s power and strong lead, for example, saps the energy and leaves us hanging. The Queen is played extravagantly by Leasen Beth Almquist, but the character feels more out of a Kenneth Anger film landscape, showing more style than substance. Or maybe it’s just a switch of leads too late in the game.
The go-gos' 60s-style costumes, designed by Emily Dorwart and coordinated by Jillaine Gill and Rachel Klein, and the hair and make-up are all put together wonderfully, with the gangs coded by color and/or theme. The rousing surf music soundtrack, designed by both Klein and Gill, further reveals their “wonder-twin” powers and complements the vibe and motion. The spacious set-up of the Sage Theater, with some nightclub-style seating up in front, nicely frames the stage’s extended runway, to fully exploit the space for dancing and flourished entrances/exits. The minimalist props, designed by Lizz Giorgos and Joey Nova, like the cocktail glasses/serving trays; cacti/tumbleweeds; and scads of flying money, blend well into the choreography, while also providing maximum impact.
The Sage Theater is an interesting venue for this piece, used for off-Broadway theater, comedy shows, and other events since about 2002. Before that time, according to the Cinema Treasures website, it had a bit of a checkered past (as do many theaters in New York City), serving since the 1970s as a Spanish language movie theater, gay porn house, commercial cinema twin, and then back again to a porn theater, before the legendary Times Square clean-up beginning in the late 1990s. Go-Go Killers! brings back a fun and less-naughty shimmy-shake into the once-grimy Times Square, with a strong sense of nostalgia, a simultaneous nod to past and present, and all just a few kick-steps off-Broadway. So what are you waiting for, Pussycat? Go-go!