The art of baring it all

You’ve heard of Burlesque: voluptuous vixens, teasing flesh in lace corsets and satin pinchers. But unless you’ve previously encountered Batman, Robin and a whole motley crew of villains stripping down to regain control of their city, you’ve never seen a burlesque show quite like The Society of Sin’s.

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Holly Combs, A’12, also known by her stage name, “The Queen of Obscene” Xena Zeit-geist, has transformed her love of Batman into a self-written production, “Arkham ASS-ylum: A Batman Burlesque Play,” where she stars as Batman.

The show, performed in the intimate Shadowbox Theatre, also features The Riddler, played by Richard Mayer, who is the owner of The Shadowbox Theatre.

“It’s really the show that started it all for us together,” Mayer said.

The show is presented by The Society of Sin, a company created by Zeit-geist. The Society includes a number of Loyola alumni who perform Comb’s original shows.

“This show was the thing that created The Society of Sin,” Zeit-geist said.“I love Batman and I thought it would be really cool to do the cell block tango with Batman, and have the villains tear off his clothes.”

From there, an entire play was created. Despite the fact that the show is heavily doused with beautiful, scantily-clad women and men who each have their shining moments and dance, the audience is also subjected to well-written, plot-driven, tongue-in-cheek theatre.

Mayer welcomes the audience as inmates to the Asylum, which holds the likes of the infamous Penguin, Poison Ivy, Cat Woman, Scarecrow, Joker and few other surprise inmates.

The plot unfolds as a strange gas leaks into the vents of the institution and causes all the inmates to start stripping, a crime that The Riddler is desperately trying solve before the arrival of The Dark Knight.

The insane prisoners of the asylum are made up of mostly male characters played by a predominantly female cast, something to which Zeit-geist said she paid special attention.

“I try to be really conscious of gender roles and stuff like that in the shows. I try to do a lot of gender bending,” Zeit-geist said.
The show veers far away from what one would call “classic” burlesque; however, the show can be enjoyed by all tastes, as the performances showcase a variety of female and male forms in stunning outfits and tassels.

“This type of show is more of a free-for-all burlesque; you can do pop culture related themes,” Zeit-geist said.

Even though the dances are not restricted by the standard jazz rhythms seen in traditional burlesque shows, there is still a taste of tradition.

“For classic burlesque, which I don’t really do, you’re usually in a more showgirl costume, like a long gown gloves, boa, sometimes a headpiece, red lipstick, like really classic, kind-of pin-up girl look. The dance is usually set to a jazz song or something like that. Robin’s number at the beginning is the most classic number in the show,” Zeit-geist said.

Laughter is a constant during the show, due to the hilarity of the script and comedic timing of the actors. The fourth wall hardly exists, as the performers pull a few lucky inmates from the audience to take part. Even then, one might be laughing too hard on their way out the door to even remember that a nearly-naked cast was but a few inches away.

Zeit-geist said she is okay with that. She’d rather someone come up and mention how funny the show was rather than how great her body is because burlesque is much more than a strip tease.

“I think it’s definitely a form of self expression and also a celebration of bodies. It can be a lot of different things,” Zeit-geist said.

She said that no matter what the theme or content of the show, the most important factor is to remain positive, liberated and expressive.

“I prefer it when it’s tongue-in-cheek, but it definitely doesn’t have to be,” Zeit-geist said. “I prefer for burlesque to be playful and funny, but it can be sexy or serious. It just depends on what you’re trying to express with it.”

Although “Arkham ASS-ylum: A Batman Burlesque Play” is not currently showing, the cast is now performing: “A Thong of Ice & Fire: A Game of Thrones Burlesque Play.”

It seems clear that no matter what show waits behind those theatre doors, The Society of Sin will be waiting to show audiences a hilarious and provocative good time. They are definitely not afraid to bare all.