January has an incredible history of sucking. Holiday credit card bills start rolling in. Despite global warming, the weather remains relatively bleak. And everybody’s too busy nursing family gathering-induced hangovers to go out and have any fun. Thank god my friends at Theatre Askew, an outrageous and hilarious queer theater company, picked this month to bring back their raucous stage serial I, Claudius Live (Ace of Clubs, 9 Great Jones St., Mondays through Feb 27). Inspired by the 1976 British miniseries starring a bunch of old knighted farts, this six-episode epic satirizes Rome in all its glory (holes) with a cast of downtown thespians, including transgender Transamerica actress Bianca Leigh, guitar-strumming cutie Joanna Parsons, and company founders Jason Jacobs and Tim Cusack. The BBC series didn’t have half the balls of this show.
I’ve known a lot of religious queers in my time. Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, and a shocking number of Southern Baptists almost all from Texas (awww, they makes Papa Bush so proud!) But a Mormon queen? That I’d never seen… until I went to the 2004 Fringe Festival and caught Confessions of a Mormon Boy (Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam St., Jan 27-on), Steven Fales’ autobiographical one-man show about growing up gay and Mormon. This darkly humorous tale covers all his ins and outs: his heterosexual marriage, the birth of his two children, his attempt to go straight through “reparative therapy,” his excommunication from the church he loved, his move to New York and subsequent career as an escort. Jesus Christ. Literally.
Edgy comedy — hell, edgy anything — wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for original foul-mouthed funnyman Lenny Bruce. It’s been 40 years since he died and while his name is still known, he’s rarely given his due. Lenny Bruce… In His Own Words (Zipper Theatre, 336 W. 37 St., Jan 30-Feb 25), a new play created from his taboo-smashing routines, hopes to revive his legend. Jason Fisher channels the late iconoclast and apparently he’s pretty friggin’ frightening — at least, he managed to scare up some impressive reviews during his sold-out run in Los Angeles. Hollywood is where Bruce O.D.’ed so it’s fitting to watch his spirit come home to roost on his native East Coast. A few of his well-timed “fucks!” will certainly liven up this deadly winter.