Fresh Fruit Has Sex-A-Peel
Things are a bit more sentimental than usual at Club Café where Fresh Fruit has brought their latest revue, "Fresh Fruit Has Sex-A-Peel;" and with good reason: after thirteen years and nearly as many shows, the Fruits are removing their make-up and putting their wigs back on the shelf. Little wonder that there were moments that had the Fruits behaving as if they were in the final scene from "Dreamgirls." It's hard for them to say goodbye.
Still, don't think that they've lost any of their sass or ability to offend. Already in the show's run, which continues through Apr. 27, 2013, they've had walk-outs by those that take their wacked-out irreverence seriously; or too seriously, since as Fruit Michael Gautier (or Gootch) puts it, "we blow stereotypes up so large that you can't help but laugh." Some, perhaps, checked their sense of humor at the door.
In other words, they play with stereotypes - racial, sexual, and social. It is their calling card; that and their outrageous costumes, which have the flash of Vegas melded onto a Mad Magazine sensibility. Where else can you find Ruth Gater Ginsberg framed in a dollhouse mockup of the Supreme Court? Or sheep that morph into wolves to overtake an exquisitely appointed Marie Antoinette in a number that draws parallels to our growing economic inequality? The Fruits make their points through the synergy of pointed barbs and witty designs.
And they remain blunt, brash and unapologetic. They were that way in the beginning, and are that way now. What has changed is a more polished delivery. When they first appeared at the Institute of Contemporary Art, they were funny; but the shows had longueurs that mitigated the overall effect. Today the show moves along quite nicely, amazingly well considering the endless array of costume changes. The result is a revue that never lags.
They are also sensible, realizing that, much like the produce they evoke, that there's an expiration date. "These bottoms know when to quit while they're still on top," said one towards the end of the show; and, indeed, they're exiting at the top of their game.
Take, for instance, a number that has Peter Gaioni as the Virgin Mary complaining how she’s never gotten laid to the tune of "Proud Mary." It would be enough to raise the ire of the Catholic League, especially after Gaioni and his two Fruit back-ups rip off their robes and break into a Tina Turner-like frenzy. You may never think of Jesus’ Mom the same again.
Or a delightfully tasteless number called "The Great Divide," which has the Fruit appearing in 1970s-styled outfits that would have been right at home on the old "Sonny and Cher Show," while singing of visible "camel-toe." It’s the kind of over-the-top commentary that Joan Rivers might throw off on "Fashion Police."
Indeed, Rivers’ no-holes-barred approach to comedy informs the Fruits, who relish in playful offensiveness, most notably in the reprise of a video that has Maria Von Trapp singing of the social divide in Dorchester, or Gaioni and Rodney Van Derwarker returning as a pair of Quincy matrons who wear their prejudices on their sleeves. Gay culture also gets its share of barbs, from a commentary on aging to a song about bringing home a hunk that is deficient in a crucial department. "Nothing like a small cock song to get the show going," Gaucher said amidst laughter.
The Fruits are nothing if not opinionated, so such targets as Fox News, the conservatives on the Supreme Court and the do-nothing Congress are fair (and funny) game. They’re not afraid to get on their soap boxes, as when Vanderwarker (addressing his upcoming marriage) spoke passionately about overthrowing DOMA, if only for personal reasons: his husband-to-be works for the Feds. "If and when he slips in the shower," he says, "that pension..."
But despite this edge, this is a show with heart. At various times, various Fruits stepped forward to comment on their impending retirement. Dressed in a midnight blue gown, Gaioni has the most glamorous turn, serving up an impassioned "As If We Never Said Goodbye" with an assured belt. Van Derwarker offered a touching turn by referencing Carol Burnett’s exit song, sharing with the audience the fun he’s had over the years performing with the group. And a cameo appearance by retired Fruit Walter Hildner, whose witty costume designs have been one particularly good reason not to miss their shows, only added to the Fruits’ inclusiveness. When the Fruits appear for their finale, the colorful costumes are so eye-filling it’s difficult to take them all in at once. By that point, you wonder if there’s a van in an adjacent alley where they’re storing their costumes - where else could they put them?
There’s always been a loosey-goosey structure to the Fruits’ revues, so much so that an interpolated show tune can find its way in and be right at home. In the latest, the freshest Fruit Marc Guertin (in his freshman appearance) sang a droll "Don’t Tell Mama" (from "Cabaret"). Even when he slipped off the small runway, his massive beehive stayed in place, and he didn’t miss a beat. Like his sisters, he rolled with the punches, which may be the key to what has made the Fruits such a welcome part of Boston’s gay scene for more than a decade. Catch them while you can.
"Fresh Fruit Has Sex-A-Peel" continues through April 27, 2013 at Club Café, 209 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA. Tickets are $25. Performances Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm. There is an additional show on April 25 at 7:30 pm. Also, there is "Fresh Fruit Unpeeled - A Fresh Fruit Retrospective" in which group members Rodney Vanderwarker (April 11) and Peter Gaioni (April 18) offer cabaret-style retrospectives. These performances are free of charge. For more information and to reserve tickets, visit the Fresh Fruit website.