Reflecting on the wilder and better times of 1979 in ‘The Village! A Disco Daydream’ at NYC’s Dixon Place

After a sold-out premiere engagement in the Fall of 2022, The Village! A Disco Daydream, by writer and performer Nora Burns, has returned to Dixon Place by popular demand for an encore four-weekend run. Set in the West Village at the height of the disco era in 1979 (the year Burns first moved to NYC and two years before AIDS was first identified in the US), the metatheatrical comedy with music and dance is loosely based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning classic Our Town and, in the words of the playwright, “is dedicated to all the indomitable spirits who went to that great disco in the sky before they got to finish to their story.”

The cast. Promotional photo by Peter Yesley.

Directed by Adam Pivirotto with an eye on the over-the-top humor and hilarious hedonism, a vivacious cast embodies the array of spirited archetypes that populated Greenwich Village in the day – a hustler who named himself Trade and his latest trick Steven (a serious student at NYU), who quickly fall in love (-ish) with each other, friends Petey (a drag queen), Lisa (a fag hag), Junkie Jane (drugged-out and slumped over), new neighbor Jason (who swings both ways), and go-go boys Jock and Cade (who add even more go-go-go-go-go-go-go). They gather and bond, drink, smoke, and snort, and make frequent use of the large bed (there’s a lot of funny frank language, and the sex and orgy scenes are amusingly simulated, with no nudity) at the Greenwich Street St. Germain apartment of Old George, Trade’s indulgent 63-year-old Sugar Daddy.

We are introduced to them, their times, and their afterlife from the current perspective of the Stage Manager – a device borrowed from Wilder, but here a fabulous trans-queen – who serves as both a narrator and commentator, breaking the fourth wall while moving around the stage with a hand-held mic, making witty and wise observations in direct address, and shooting off snarky one-liners that set the riotous tone. Among her many incisive acerbic comments (in a laugh-out-loud show filled with them) is that the identifying terms used in the script, quoted above, and embraced by the diverse characters were fine then (before The Village became more gentrified and straight) but are completely unacceptable now in today’s PC cancel culture, and “nonconsensual touching” was also okay in the age before the #MeToo movement.

A promotional image of the cast. Photo by Peter Yesley.

Every portrayal – Antony Cherrie as Trade, Jack Bartholet as Steven, Chuck Blasius as George, Eileen Dover as Petey, Ashley Chavonne as Lisa, Burns as Jane, Antwon LeMonte as Jason, Valton Jackson as Jock, Richard “JMV” Schieffer as Cade, and Glace Chase as the Stage Manager – is spot-on uproarious in its playful parodic characterization and uplifting in its underlying heart and humanity. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a “disco daydream” without exuberant dance breaks set to the hits of the period and interspersed between the scenes, with high-energy choreography and musical curation by Robin Carrigan, music editing by Pivirotto and CP Roth, and top-notch featured performances, both disco and balletic, by Jackson, Schieffer, and Chavonne. It all leads the elder George to take the mic from the Stage Manager, to wax poetic about the days of his own youth, and to wonder, in retrospect, “Was it really that great, or was I just younger?”

The thoroughly engaging story, ensemble, and direction are supported by character-defining costumes by Paul Alexander that capture the sparkle and youthful allure of the time; a set design by Steven Hammel with the accommodating big bed and multiple curtains between sections of a wall that allow for the easy entry and exit of the cast; and Rob Lariviere’s colorful rotating and flashing lighting that recalls the disco scene of the ‘70s.

Along with all the fun and laughs (including my favorite jokes about meeting “on line” and “Why don’t drag queens drown?”) are serious messages about the importance of community, camaraderie, and acceptance, and the euphoria of youth and life that go by so fast and can’t be revisited, so enjoy every moment while you can. Nora Burns and The Village! add immensely to that joy, so be sure to see it while you can!

Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, without intermission.

The Village! A Disco Daydream plays through Friday, February 24, 2023, at Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $22-32, plus fees), go online. Masks are required in the theater.



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