by JK Clarke
If Devo’s Booji Boy character decided to cross-dress he might look something like Dina Martina. But it’s doubtful he’d be as riotously funny. Ms. Martina, performing her show Flat & Lacking this weekend at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in the West Bank Cafe, is a drag cabaret delight, dwelling in the excesses and grotesqueries of self-indulgence. And it’s all so guffaw-inducing that you’re liable to snort a risotto ball through your nose.
Ms. Martina starts out over-the-top and stays there throughout the show. She begins her set covering Janet Jackson’s 1986 mega-hit, “When I Think of You,” which she performs wearing epaulettes that might look more comfortable on a curtain rod and a full-sized microphone attached to her head by a large metal cable. Her performance is not unlike that of an awkward teenaged girl singing into a hairbrush in front of her vanity. But this Jan Brady wannabe sees nothing less than a superstar in the mirror. The number brings down the house, of course, and Martina’s in-between song patter is brilliant parody of a typical cabaret act. She has, she says, “a song in my heart and a shard of glass in my foot,” before launching into a deliriously off-key rendition of Eugene McDaniel’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (made famous by Roberta Flack) punctuated by gagging. This lounge singer has no idea what the actual lyrics are (“during surgery . . .” rather than “when you’re touchin’ me”), but her version is a thousand times more entertaining.
Flat & Lacking is interspersed with phony commercials (to allow for Dina’s numerous and inventive costume changes), spoofing products and fads of the 1980s (“What a time!”), or reminiscing about incorrectly remembered catch phrases and TV shows or offering painful, unnecessary cosmetic surgeries.
Though Martina’s persona starts as a sight gag—she has enough over smeared lipstick and mascara to make Tammy Faye Baker tut tut—her real skill is in her perfect comic timing, terrific material and a strong enough singing voice that allows her to sing badly very well.
Perhaps the best way to sum up Martina’s style and personality is through her repurposing of the dreary Depeche Mode song, “Blasphemous Rumors” (which starts out “Girl of sixteen/Whole life ahead of her/Slashed her wrists . . .” etc.) to an up-tempo, happy beat. There are no sacred cows for Dina Martina. She’s going to slaughter them all. The only shortcoming of the evening might have been time. With the Beechman’s notoriously overworked waitstaff and Flat & Lacking clocking in at around an hour and 15 minutes, one could scarcely get a drink in (which seems counterintuitive for the venue, quite frankly). Ultimately, the only thing lacking was additional show time. True to any great performer, Dina Martina left ‘em wanting more.
Dina Martina: Flat & Lacking. Remaining Shows: September 25 (7 PM), 26 (7 PM and 8:45 PM) & 27 (7 PM ) at The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between Ninth Avenue and Dyer). www.westbankcafe.com/beechman_theatre.html