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A quasi-punk rock concert with literary aspects that tells Canadian performance artist Tanya Marquardt’s story. Time spent as a BDSM worker is a highlight.

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Tanya Marquardt in a scene from “Stray” (Photo credit: Christian Roberson)

[avatar user=”Darryl Reilly” size=”96″ align=”left” ] Darryl Reilly, Critic[/avatar]As the sleek and black-clad Tanya Marquardt vigorously wraps up her self-written 60-minute autobiographical show Stray, with her giddy dancing and hurling her ponytail around, the aimless first half has been redeemed by the more cohesive second half. It’s been like traveling back in time to Club 57, The Pyramid Club or another of the East Village performance venues of the 1980’s.

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.

Tim Carlson in a scene from “Stray” (Photo credit: Christian Roberson)

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 

Tanya Marquardt and the band in a scene from “Stray” (Photo credit: Christian Roberson)

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

Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission

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