At 81, chanteuese-comedienne D’yan Forest is, if anything, picking up the pace. Her latest solo show, A Broad Abroad, mixes sentimental charm with uncensored raunchiness, all with a homespun sort of panache. With the aid only of her ukelele, a few props, her fine accompanist Richard Danley’s pianistic skills (along with her own), and her voice – loaded with character if not youthfully strong – Forest takes us on an hourlong autobiographical tour through decades of romance and travel, casting her sharp eye on societal evolution as well as cultural contrasts.
Since she jokes about her years, it’s no sin to remark upon her feisty energy relative to her age. She’s got no problem slinking into the audience, or lying down on stage to dramatize a sexually arousing Turkish bath she experienced (in her seventies). But just as important as her persistent energy is the long-view perspective she reveals on the wide world and her life in it.
To illustrate her peripatetic journey as a performer, teacher, lover, and traveler, Forest gives us songs ranging from before her time (“Lili Marlene”) to Piaf (“La Vie en Rose”) to musical theater (“Don’t Tell Mama”) to 1970s camp (The Rocky Horror Picture Show). From her ever-ready carry-on valise of tricks she also draws an octogenarian’s take on 21st-century digital culture, with hilarious reinterpretations of acronyms like BTW and FYI.
With all her well-timed comedy, you probably wouldn’t guess that standup is a relatively late addition to her stage repertoire. If late, then welcome. In Forest’s sure hands, comedy, storytelling, and song flow together in a wave of warmhearted, dirty-minded, unexpurgated humanity.
Apropos of today’s reality TV stars she roars, “but back then you had to have an act.” At least live on stage, you still do. If anyone knows that, after eight decades on this planet, it’s the inimitable D’yan Forest.
Forest has finished her FRIGID Festival performances in New York City. Next up: Orlando and Edinburgh.