The Box, a post-Cabaret Moulin Rouge in the eastern fringes of lower Manhattan, draws on NYC performance art of the 1970s and 80s, circus performances, Victorian chic and classic burlesque. Rocky Horror wishes it was this cool.
Originally a sign factory and then a speakeasy, the club retains its dark, turn-of-the-century glamor, with carefully restored vintage wallpaper and wood paneling everywhere in its tiny, packed interior. The bouncers wear tuxedos beneath their overcoats. Inside, all the artwork on the walls is either original or borrowed from Europe at great expense. The bar sports dual jeweled chandeliers, a disco ball and a Swarovskied young woman swinging above the bartenders’ heads in a hoop.
Regular audience members lurk in front of the stage every Friday night. Dolled up in black lipstick, feather fanned headpieces and hourglass corsets, the boys and girls crowd around their low table, mixing vodka cranberries from iced decanters and swilling champagne. Fat businessmen in suits lounge at flanking tables, flirting with the skeletal go-go dancers in nipple clips and lacy garters who sit in their laps. Upstairs, VIP guests slosh themselves into oblivion in velvet balcony booths, overlooking the main floor and the stage. Bottle service for a table is $1,000 and up. Sparklers are set off whenever a big liquor purchase is made.
The show starts at 1:30 am. Where to begin? Naked ballerinas. Naked aerialists. A shirtless young man balances on wooden chairs stacked to the stage lights. Another man, dripping with jewels, does splits while balancing lit candles on a sword, balanced point to point on another knife in his teeth. A big-breasted, tattooed woman cuts her forearms and masturbates with a chef’s knife. A transvestite bleeds from the mouth and then pees on the audience. Later, she sodomizes herself with several dildos strapped to a man’s skull. The audience goes wild.
After hours, the audience dances on stage with the coked-out go-go dancers. Champagne flows a little more slowly than before, as coats are gathered and end-of-evening plans are made. Management shepherds everyone out by 4:30 or 5 am, into the frigid streets of SoHo.
Thanks to Ryan Shinji Murray, a great friend and a gifted performer, for making this review possible.