Ms. Marquardt is a fine singer, has a likeable presence and a fierceness that infuses the presentation that’s based on her memoir with authenticity. A lovely highlight is her a cappella rendition of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.”
The audience arrives to what appears to be a sound check for a punk rock concert at CBGB as the grungy black-outfitted band of Tim Carlson and Ed Goodine on guitars and Jon Wood on percussion are loudly playing. Marquardt enters and we’re off.
Along the way we learn that the 39-year-old Canadian and New York City transplant Marquardt ran away from a dysfunctional family at the age of 16. An attempt at modeling led to a career as a BDSM worker and the earthy details of that field are imparted. That’s about as much of plot that there is. The rest is a fitfully entertaining collage of songs and spoken word ruminations often accompanied by the band at varying volume.
I was wearing a black velvet skirt with slits up the back, front and the sides with a chain mail garter belt and 20-hole steel toe boots. I was naked from the waist up except for a chain mail bra.
Kiss the boot of shiny shiny leather
welts that ran all down her legs
she leaned back
they kissed like angels
the taste of water whispers in the dark
I wanted to look away
I couldn’t look away
I was 16
And I was a virgin
Arthur Rimbaud, Kathy Acker, Patti Smith, Leslie Feinberg and Andy Warhol get a lot of play. Most prominent in the event’s pantheon of icons is the gay artist David Wojnarowicz who died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 37. For an operatic sequence Marquardt and the band perform wearing masks of Wojnarowicz’s face. Later the audience is urged to take their programs which have an image of Wojnarowicz and hold it over their faces as a poem of his is read.
Director Mallory Catlett creates a sturdy visual dimension with balanced lighting that veers from brightness and darkness and that has Marquardt strategically placed, sometimes going into the audience to interact or offstage to emote. Ilena Lee Cramer’s “scenography” is a black-accented concert playing area setting that well serves the material. The accomplished musicianship often recalls the purposefully jagged tones of The Ramones, The Clash and early Blondie.
In addition to performing on guitar, Mr. Carlson also composed the music to Marquardt’s lyrics for the credible original songs. “Fucking Love Letters,” “The Paddle Song” and “The Thesis Song” are some of the titles. With his whiny voice and bookish demeanor Carlson makes a delightful foil for Marquardt as they banter with each other.
Stray is patchy, spirited, marked by creative aspirations and succeeds on its own terms.
Stray (through July 28, 2018)
The Tank, 312 West 36th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit http://www.thetanknyc.org
Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission