A stern, looming figure halts you at the stairs and demands whether you are on the guest list. Something in his – or her; you aren’t certain – bitingly elegant demeanor and long, curled fingertips demands attention, and you murmur your name, receive a stamp on your hand, and continue onto the deck. From inside the theatre you hear music alternating between swamp bubbles, sexual screams, and club beats. You are immediately converged upon by the strangest of relatives, and shoved by their squawked greetings into this odd, flamboyant world. This is your entrance into Silk Worm’s wedding.
Eric Eich’s TAPS senior capstone project takes the form of Bottom Bride, a campy drag show of love, heartbreak, sexuality, and madness. Eich has been building Silk Worm for ages, and this is her big break in a formal Stanford production. She is a sweet, manic Southern worm from a family of worms, with the description of “worms” being either literal or a euphemism for her universe’s unconventional people. The show’s narrative plays out on a simple, violet-washed set, with well-placed multimedia introducing new characters and furthering the cult film ethos.
Bottom Bride‘s story is not its defining marker. Its tale is simple (though eccentrically written,) short, and leaves many answers to be desired. However, that is precisely the point. Bottom Bride is about encapsulating Eich’s idea of what drag shows are for – atmosphere, emotion, aesthetic, craft, and experience. Bottom Bride delivers on all of these, with dramatically sobbed ballads, outrageous costumes, and metaphors about projecting oneself onto flighty lovers. Eich’s mannerisms and character voices delight, as do his moments with worm relatives and his waifish, faceless Flower Girl (Brittany Newell).
In Eich’s own words, “I’m hoping once we have a real audience, I’ll be able to tell if [the show] opens people up to any sort of new interactions. That’s sort of the experiment. Which a lot of nightlife and drag performance plays with.”
The question for Eich is: “How do you entertain but then make the show not about you, but instead about the audience connecting in new ways and having fun?”
Throughout Bottom Bride, you may question reality. You may wonder whether the show has deeper meaning, or is meant only for absurdity. You may ponder your own ideas of love and commitment, along with our culture’s individualistic push for isolating self-sufficiency. Bottom Bride is a tribute to bold, vulnerable love. Enter curious, exit altered.
Bottom Bride. Elliott Program Center. October 15-17 at 8 p.m. Tickets here.