What do a drag queen, a harp, Lady Gaga, sequins, “Mean Girls,” strobe lights, ballet en pointe and Shakespeare all have in common? They all feature prominently in Alejandro Bustillos’ ’11 senior project, “StrCrs’d.”
The show is composed of six short skits, each representing a different character from Shakespearean tragedies. The show offers a completely original take on the Bard, at least for Yale. It was completely gender-bending, mind-blowing and at some points just plain confusing. Bustillos describes it as “a spectacle,” which is, without a doubt, the only word that truly encompasses the nature of the show.
The canonical scenes have been set to the tune of Lady Gaga songs; Julius Caesar is matched with “Telephone”; quotes from “Mean Girls” are blasted to introduce a drag-clad “Caesar.” Each narrative is interpreted through six different kinds of motion; Bustillos conveys Ophelia’s struggle through a beautiful number en pointe.
The show finds its roots in gay culture. Bustillos spent time in London and said that “StrCrs’d” was inspired by Lady Gaga, the fashion shows in London (specifically “More or Lesque”) and Cabaret.
The first three scenes made me feel — in the best way — slightly insecure in my womanhood. There are two drag queens that are more feminine, seductive and sexy than I could ever hope to be. Bustillos’ ballet is surprisingly graceful and moving, things that I have never been able to master in years of training.
“StrCrs’d” also has a deeply personal element to it. It is not a replica of a Lady Gaga concert, and it also isn’t a night in a gay burlesque club. It makes the audience cognizant of the man behind the makeup.
For Yale students, Shakespeare represents a kind of shared vocabulary. Bustillos uses this common interest as his base and stretches it to its imaginative limits.
We’re all familiar with Brutus’ bloody betrayal of Caesar, but in Bustillos’ version, Brutus grabs the wig off Caesar’s head while he’s dancing up a storm in the club. We watch with a strange kind of alien satisfaction as Caesar dies a tragic, hairless death.
Admittedly, “StrCrs’d” lost me a lot of the time; the interpretation often wavering between the overly literal and the overly superficial. Needless to say, this is definitely a show on the outer limits — some will latch onto its campiness for the ride, but others may find the whole thing more than a bit much. Say what you will: “StrCrs’d” is built for visceral, emotional reaction, and it passes the test of fulfilling its function with luminescent, glittering, flying colors.
StrCrs’d will be showing through Friday, Jan. 22.