Cabaret Festival Review: Carla Lippis, Brenta’s Bad Thing

Artspace Gallery, Saturday, June 7

Artspace Gallery, Saturday, June 7

Local cowgirl Carla Lippis has a clear predilection for the southern states. With her alt-country band The Martial Hearts she delves into deep heartaches and dark rendezvous with bleary-eyed wisdom. Brenta’s Bad Thing treads similarly dusty ground, perhaps minus the maturity of her original songwriting. It’s a jukebox joyride from an Italian wedding to a deserted crossroad, with a quick pit-stop in Dallas where J.R. hitches a lift. The show sees Lippis pay tribute not just to her bloodline, but soul sisters Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and the broken-hearted broads of vinyl. Emerging from the rear of the Artspace Gallery like Effie 2.0, Lippis is bridesmaid Brenta; more drunk than dumb doing Luna Mezz‘O Mare at cousin Antoinette’s wedding. Falling down the glory box/rabbit hole, Brenta wakes to the mirage of one J.R. Ewing, oil magnate of Dallas repute. He promises her fame and fortune if she’ll keep it country, pulling the trigger on a spitfire run of country(ish) classics like 9 to 5, Rhinestone Cowboy and Stand by Your Man. The Alabama acid trip reaches its apex with Brenta singing both parts of the Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra duet Some Velvet Morning while J.R. tries on the cowboy’s ritual mating dance. Giving him the boot, she’s back at the wedding to close the show with Shaddap You Face. There’s no denying Lippis’ power as a strong and strict vocal performer. At her finest, her presence invokes mild terror in the best kind of way. Still finding her feet as a playwright, the story suffered from jokes and asides that didn’t further the plot. An unsatisfying sound mix sat her vocal mic too low, making the dialogue hard to engage with. Though the story was a little laboured, the song choices and arrangements were spot-on, supported by a solid band. Lippis is one lone star worth watching. Rating: ***

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