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New York Theater

Mary, Like a Virgin: A Divine Musical Experience

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Transgender performer Braden Chapman sparked a mini-controversy when in his drag persona, Mimi Imfurst, he played the Virgin Mary in her cabaret debut. A sizable contingent of protesters appeared in front of Dillons Lounge during performances of Mary, Like a Virgin, objecting to what they considered its blasphemous content.

At the performance attended, there were no religious placard carriers outside the club and only a small crowd inside. The hourlong confection of parody lyrics and biblical satire may have set off easily offended Catholics, but for aficionados of ribald irreverence, it produced only mild smiles and the occasional chuckle. Mimi's first entrance inspired hope for a delightfully nasty evening. Costumed by Elizabeth Fruschetti and Kirche Zeile in a Madonnaish shift with a halo the size of a pizza platter on her head, Mimi as Mary bursts onto the stage declaring, "If Elaine Stritch, Chita Rivera, and that gay midget Mario Cantone can have their own one-woman shows, why not me?" There are some choice zingers: "Do you like the dress? It's Salvation Armani" and "Lepers. Nice people, but so thin-skinned." But the humor is mostly confined to pop songs with predictable alternate lyrics. Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" becomes "You Got a Fast Mule." "Meet the Flintstones" morphs into "Meet the Wise Men." The joke is made in the first few bars and the song drags on.

Chapman starts out telling Mary's story and manages to mine some veins of Jewish-tinged humor about the Virgin's family and her relationship with Joseph. But the act soon loses focus as the targets become less specific. Chapman has a serviceable voice and solid delivery. Mike Pettry provides vibrant backup vocals and piano accompaniment. There could have been more of a Kiki-and-Herb dynamic between Pettry and Chapman, which would have added a spicy dimension of flouting religious authority. But, like the rest of the act, they didn't dare to be outrageous enough.

Presented by Sanctuary Productions, Eric H. Schwartz, and TJ Micallef

at Dillons Lounge, 245 W. 54th St., NYC.

March 23-June 1. Thu., 9 p.m.

(212) 352-3101 or www.theatermania.com.

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