Cherdonna and Lou: A Whole Night WON!

Written by Kaitlin McCarthy
Cherdonna and Lou
Photo by NARK MAGAZINE
Seattle’s favorite comedic dancing drag duo was back last night with their latest production, Out Out There (A Whole Night Lost). This was the fourth evening-length show put on by The Cherdonna and Lou Show, Cherdonna and Lou being the alter egos of performers/choreographers Jody Kuehner and Ricki Mason. The one-night only run at Velocity Dance Center was hardly enough to contain Cherdonna and Lou’s fans, and last night’s performance was a fine example of why the two have earned such a dedicated following.
The show began in the dark with a recording of Lou calling Cherdonna’s name over and over with fluctuating levels of impatience, urgency, and boredom. The recording evolved from funny to strange as the sound was distorted electronically and it welcomed the audience to the creepy, hilarious, manic world of the piece. Plaster replicas of Lou’s and Cherdonna’s heads (trademark giant ponytail included) slid eerily across the stage with horror movie delight. The duo donned gruesome Halloween masks over their pink and yellow ‘70s outfits and performed abstract dance moves. Another repetitious dance sequence was built entirely around stabbing each other with prop knives. All of these vignettes were peppered with moments of clever character dialogue and hilariously non sequitur transitions that used music and lights beautifully. The sound design, by Matt Starritt, ranged from ultra-lounge jazz to classical symphonic to remixed horror movie soundtracks and was right on pitch with Mason and Kuehner’s unexpected choreography.
One of the more surprising moments in the piece was the entrance of a giant, glittering, cardboard female reproductive system following an audio clip of the “No Wire Hangers” scene from the 1981 film Mommy Dearest. The uterus, worn by anonymous lady legs, was then pelted with wire hangers from offstage. Cherdonna and Lou entered dressed as tampons, and later Cherdonna is revealed completely naked to Lou’s great mortification. This was a wonderful moment of clarity and contrast, with Kuehner’s nakedness looking so natural compared to her overly made-up face and enormous false eyelashes, yet it was so embarrassing to Lou’s character. The section of the work that delved into women’s issues was successful in itself, but felt slightly out of place with the horror-tinged rest of the Out Out There.
Cherdonna and Lou
Photo by NARK MAGAZINE

Most of the abstract dance vocabulary was not that intrinsically interesting, but the expertly performed character nuances revealed deep humanity and frailty beneath otherwise benign dance moves. What might be more widely recognized as “dance” sections tended to have a lot of unison and felt as if they lasted a bit too long, but in some ways the excessive repetitions were what made the movement so funny when it finally shifted. A device Mason and Kuehner seem to use frequently and with great success is pursuing one idea so far that what is at first comical transcends, becoming an action abstracted from its own meaning. One particularly great example of this was Cherdonna struggling to screw a lid on a jar as the audience watched, mesmerized.

For the finale, stagehands rolled out the grand piano, and Lou and Cherdonna pretended to play and sing (respectively) along with a recording of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.” Watching these two in drag perform the emotional ballad brought unexpected new meanings to several lyrics, and laughs abounded as Kuehner’s trembling and outlandishly large mouth lip-synched along. Hilarity is to be expected with The Cherdonna and Lou Show!, but the surprise was how deeply moving it still was—the regret, anger, and hurt shined through the laughter to reveal a performance that was so much more than comedy.