If you're one of the beautiful, martini-sipping crowd, you already know what Shag is. Mix some dancers, a trendy illustrator, high and permanently stiffened hairdos and blazing bright clothes. Serve them all up at a theater and you have a slyly dry, melodic entertaining mix: "Shag with a Twist."
Josh Agle and Cynthia Bradley's "Shag With a Twist" at the Los Angeles Theatre Center is not a musical or a play, but a story told mostly through dance, a slight, amusingly whimsical murder mystery big on style and flavored by Shag aesthetics.
What is shag? To some, shag is a type of carpet, slang for sexual intercourse according to Austin Powers' groovy world, a hairstyle once worn by a more radical Jane Fonda or a type of dance. To a select group, Shag is an artist Josh Agle who, using the last two letters of his first name and the first two of his last name, has created paintings that affectionately parody a time when women wore pointy bras made under the lift and separate mantra, cinched their waists with girdles, hairsprayed their helmet hair to new heights and wore false eyelashes thicker than caterpillars. It was a time when men wore medallions, colorful dinner jackets and drank martinis as a matter of course.
Yet the Shag-scape also includes some more fanciful characters and an edge of danger. Wolves show up in men's clothing, minotaurs guard men embalmed in presentation capsules, monkeys with fezzes commit vices, various ghouls appear, skeletons play musical instruments and tiki gods are worshiped or seen crying. If you've been to Trader Vic's, Shag also celebrates the Polynesian tiki décor and the relaxed bar culture of such places and the bright tropical colors, even when the scene is transported to Europe.
A picture if worth a thousand words, and "The Bottomless Cocktail: The Art of Shag" can provide you with enough pictures to clue you in.
Done as a collaborative effort between Jetsetter Productions with the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and the San Pedro City Ballet, Bradley and Agle's "Shag with a Twist" tells a simple who-dunit story through dance much in the way Michael Bourne did with his "Swan Lake" and "Cinderella. Yet "Shag with a Twist" doesn't have the darker, snippy undertones of Bourne's works. Even the murder victim gets to dance away post-mortem blues when she arrives in Shag Heaven.
The murder scene happens at the house of the perfect couple, Othal (Katie Russell) and Eldon (Jamie Benson), as they host a swanky Tupperware party. Perky Othal is a former stewardess who hasn't given up the cheery helpfulness and the uniform. Eldon is a relatively conservative guy, at least as conservative as you can get in a plaid orange dinner jacket. Their maid, 7 (Brianna Walker), is a young boy's wet dream—short skirt, flirty ways and full, pouty lips. Their friends include debonair Foot (Ryan Jones), bespeckled Mercurochrome Head (Tina Graves), Siamese twins Shimmy and Shake (Jeneane and Shannon Grant) who are joined at the top of their tremendous beehive do, seductress Kitty (Katie Malia) who has black ears and a long black tail, Latin lover Dodge (Jordi Ribera), the bird-loving Slinky (Ashia Myers) and a Tupperware-loving hunchbacked coroner (Jesse Schoem).