Belting out end-of-life anthems in ‘Cabaret XXX: Everybody F---ing Dies’


Promotional image for the production “Cabaret XXX: Everybody F***ing Dies” at the Capital Fringe Festival. (Pinky Swear Productions)

Less than a play and slightly more than an exceptionally good karaoke night, “Cabaret XXX: Everybody F---ing Dies” is one of the more meta productions at this year’s Capital Fringe Festival. The gang at Pinky Swear Productions, host to several raucous cabaret performances at the Baldacchino Tent, imagines what would happen if they all died in a plane crash and forced loved ones to perform songs at their funerals.

So Allyson Harkey plays her own ex-girlfriend, Bridget; Karen Lange appears as Karen’s cousin Kelly, and Toni Rae Salmi is a high school bully-turned-groupie obsessed with Toni Rae Salmi. The Exes, Cabaret XXX’s faithful backing band, provide the musical accompaniment for what Kelly succinctly describes as “like a wake, but with singing.”

If you’ve never seen a Cabaret XXX show, the call-backs will be entirely unrewarding. Forget that and just enjoy the music: Every number sounds and looks fantastic. While character fidelity is dubious — how many Irish Catholic housewives are big Neko Case fans? — there are end-of-life anthems for all tastes, from James Taylor to Pink.

Likewise, the climax is not dramatic so much as stylistic, a medley that pile-drives “Stairway to Heaven” into “Candle in the Wind,” and “I Will Remember You” into “Psycho Killer.”

The poor deceased get short shrift from the living, who are more interested in finding their own inner divas than honoring those who died. Everyone involved is a talented actor as well as a singer, so it’s a shame that there’s so little real dialogue or plot. Lange gets to riff amusingly on audience-supplied pre-death plans. Harkey portrays the closest to a fully realized character, the only one who stays more or less consistent from spoken introduction to belted song. Funeral director Anderson Wells is a capable straight man reading R-rated last wishes off airplane bar napkins. Of course, like everybody else, he really just wants to sing.

Cabaret XXX: Everybody F---ing Dies

At 1:45 p.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. Tuesday, 9:45 p.m. Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. July 27 at the Baldacchino Tent Bar inside Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave. NW. Call 866-811-4111 or visit capitalfringe.org. $17 plus the one-time purchase of a $7 button. About 75 minutes.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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