'Oy Vey in a Manger': Kinsey Sicks send up the holidays

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 7:01 PM

Don they now their gay apparel! In an ecumenical display of wicked joie de vivre, the Kinsey Sicks are sending up everything that's holy in "Oy Vey in a Manger," a raunchily audacious declaration that nothing about the holidays is sacred.

If you haven't made the acquaintance of the Kinsey Sicks, it's high time you did. (Warning: for immature mature audiences only.) They're at Theater J through Jan. 2, and while other festive events may be decked out in red and green, theirs is of a bluer variety.

Calling themselves a "dragapella beauty-shop quartet," these four uproarious guys done up as wildly teased, rouged and girdled good-time gals sing fractured Christmas carols and Hannukah songs, riff on up-to-the-moment events and utter phrases no dainty dame ever would. (At the show I attended, a couple in front of me misguidedly brought along a young child; within minutes they were holding their hands over the boy's ears and minutes after that were scurrying for the exit.)

The group, formed in San Francisco in 1993, is currently made up of Spencer Brown, Irwin Keller, Jeff Manabat and Ben Schatz. Among them are graduates of the law schools of Harvard and the University of Chicago, so there's a lot more to them than ample decolletage. Why, you ask, would brilliant legal minds put down their briefs and put on frillier foundations?

Well, maybe it's because girls just want to have fu-un. "Oy Vey in a Manger" is their naughty Yuletide compendium of bad puns, salacious asides and dirty fantasies. The jokes are at the expense of everyone from Santa Claus to Julian Assange, and their caroling is less likely to incite the interest of happy children than members of the vice squad. The quartet is 50 percent Jewish and 50 percent gentile, which is why, target-wise, the show is a model of diversity.

"Jews don't sing Christmas carols; we just write them!" one of the Kinsey Sicks declares, after Keller, the a cappella group's pitch-pipe, has led them through "Lusty the Snowman." Some of the songs are a bit tamer, as is the case with a little ditty to the tune of the "Dreidel Song," which goes: "I had a little facial/I made it out of clay/And when it's dry and ready/I look like Beyonce."

The group wanders beyond the season for a hilariously Jewish take on a Bobby McFerrin hit: "Don't Be Happy - Worry!" Schatz sings. And even when the humor goes a little off (the group jokes about the unfortunate fate of the Donner party), the entertainers take the results in stride. "Thank you," Keller says, "for that smattering of ambivalent applause."

Most of the time, the clapping for the Kinsey Sicks is authentically joyful. How can you not be tickled at this time of year by ladies decked out in their finest telling you the story of the gifts to the baby Jesus of Barney Frank, incense and myrrh?

Oy Vey in a Manger, by the Kinsey Sicks. Lighting, Garth Dolan; sound, Veronika Vorel. About 90 minutes. Through Jan. 2 at Aaron and Cecile Goldman Theater, D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW. Visit www.theaterj.org or call 800-494-TIXS (8497).

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