Irreverent gender-bending fun at South End’s Club Café.
Combative, salacious, and definitely not a family affair, the performers of Fresh Fruit have mastered the art of eliciting the improper laugh, surprising it out of you with a quick and shameless dig at a contentious topic. While you almost certainly won’t be able to share the comedic gems within Fresh Fruit’s parodies of popular music and zingy one-liners with your co-workers on Monday, you will have been one of the people fortunate enough to pack into Club Café’s back room and laugh until it hurts, all the while thinking, "That was bad, but so funny."
"Fresh Fruit is Spoiled Rotten" marks a landmark for the Fruits. Walter Hildner, who still takes part in designing Fresh Fruit’s spectacular wardrobe, retired from performance last year. Yet the familiar faces (Michael Gaucher, Rodney VanDerwarker, and Pete Gaioni) seem to have gelled seamlessly around new addition Matt Russell -- the show’s opening pokes fun at him briefly. He is the only Fruit with a beard, which they label "a condition." With the show’s opening featuring its performers as bratty girls on the playground, you can see how one might think so.
From there it quickly becomes apparent that the Fruits aim not only to look fabulous in a dress (although they do), but to make an impression on their audience that isn’t apt to go away any time soon. The show runs away with bashing the Republican Party (with Sarah Palin and Scott Brown taking the brunt of the punishment) and the Catholic Church. It features a number where the backup dancers are dressed as New York City bed bugs. It further touches on older Jewish women, gay men with inaccurate Facebook photos (think Lady GaGa’s smash hit "Alejandro" replaced with the lyrics "Lying Homo"), and Provincetown tourists. A particularly lewd sketch featured the Fruits at the gym, doing a hilarious rendition of Chicago’s "Cell Block Tango" about their regrettable one night stands.
Taken in its entirety, the show has the capacity to offend pretty much everybody. Yet the house keeps filling up, and it’s because the Fruits have two things that other roast-style comedy shows may not: smarts and heart.
A Madonna-esque Republican woman shares with us "the secret to [her] success: [she] has more and [we] have less." The Provincetown Ballad features two gay restaurant-employees feeling as though they must hide from judgmental passersby where they were once free to express themselves. Whether you agree with the Fruits or not, the sketches don’t just make you cackle, they also make you think.
There’s also the matter of these men themselves. Their delight in what they do is infectious, and every time they say something a little nasty, you have to love them even more. Maybe it’s songs like their rendition of "Defying Gravity," where they admit that aging is hard to do, but you have to love yourself anyway. Maybe it’s the theme of the show, which provides the thread tying the multifaceted numbers together. Each performer has the spotlight for a bit, using that time to share a story from their childhood. These anecdotes are as inappropriately and uproariously funny as the rest of the show; Gaucher’s tale involves questionable treatment of school-store candy as a part of his revenge plot against his middle school tormenters. Yet they also make us feel a splendid array of emotions: the anxiety of growing up gay, the struggle for acceptance, and finally the magic that happens when you are able to embrace yourself.
And in the end, for all their spikiness, it’s clear Fresh Fruit wants us to embrace them, too. The bouncy final numbers have the quartet in fabulously ornate dresses, passing feather boas out to the audience and imploring them to "Be a drag queen." Their bows, set to Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin’", feature the lyrics "Don’t Stop Attending."
Even if you think the show’s not for you, it’s hard not to laugh if you keep an open mind, and quite hard to feel uncomfortable when you feel so much like part of a family. Though they are naughty at times (well, most of the time), that family feeling is unquestionably the atmosphere that Fresh Fruit provides.