Club Dada/Kabaret Kaput

Club DaDA/Kabaret Kaput

Club DaDA/ Kabaret Kaput is appearing for five performances at Dixon Place in NYC. It calls itself "a 'cabaret' in the Kurt Weil Weimar sense of the word". But audiences expecting the Kit Kat Club from Cabaret will be disappointed. The two performers haven't bothered to hire a trio or even a pianist; they sing accompanied by recorded instrumentals. When an audience buys tickets to a cabaret, they expect cabaret, not karaoke. Singing to recorded tracks is unacceptable at open mike night; in cabaret it's unknown. They've played a bait-and-switch trick on the audience. 

Ellen Foley and Robert I Rubinsky are senior singers who take on the characters of bedraggled, stressed vaudevillians, "always singing — never stopping". "Nobody likes old people," they tell us, "We'll be exiled or worse."

They sing a string of pop/rock songs from the 1960's onward. Not all these songs lend themselves to the cabaret stage and within the above limitation the duo succeed to varying degrees. They keep finding themselves in "an indeterminate time"; from time to time they put on funny German accents; but the songs are modern. It's quite confusing.

They're tolerably good singers but, inexplicably, they sometimes sing with mikes in their hands or on stands although they're wearing body mikes. Ms. Foley looks like Lotte Lenya and that is great. From time to time she reveals herself and makes contact with her audience. But she lacks dynamic differentiation and almost always sounds the same.

Mr Rubinsky lays on the dejected mask so heavily that we hardly ever get to know who he is. He's at his best singing Laura Nyro's Poverty Train, a great choice, one of the best and weirdest songs of the 1960's: "I swear there's something better than — Gettin' off on sweet cocaine." For a moment at least, the singer reveals himself instead of wailing.

At another engaging moment they sing What a Piece of Work is Man, the Hamlet soliloquy sung in Hair (Mr. Rubinsky was in the original Broadway production). And they sing White Rabbit — another weird song — intertwined with Cream's In the White Room. Other songs are less well chosen.

A disembodied voice interjects every now and then over the sound system — "Things have really changed since the last ice age," it tells us. But it remains unclear who the speaker is. 

And there are jokes. "Who needs the young when we're spending the rest of our wonderful lives learning to die." What? One joke — about a hospice — is inexcusably tasteless.

In the encore the two performers finally make contact with one another and he finally smiles. But they need to redesign this show.

— Steve Capra

May 2023

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