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Von Macrame, Conkel, In the News

Von  Macrame, Conkel, In the News

: Courtesy of the artist.

One thing is running thicker than stage blood where The House of Von Macramé is concerned, and that’s ink: a New York press round-up.

PICTURE: Felicia J. Hudson as Topaz in The House of Von Macramé; photo by Crystal Arnette.

The House of Von Macramé: the bloody handprints of Cornish are all over this grand guignol Off-Off-Broadway hit musical. Joshua Conkel [TH ’03] wrote the book, Megan Hill [TH ’02] stars in it as Rosemary Crawley, and it was produced by the company in New York they run with alum Nicole Beerman [TH ’02], among others, The Management. Reviews of the fashion-rich blood-fest/romp have been, well, sanguine, and the play has been a regular sell-out since it opened. It has been extended at least through February 16.

There has been a ton of press as the show makes its mark. Most recently, New York’s prestigious Interview Magazine spoke with Conkel in The House of Von Macramé and the Horrors of Fashion. The interview, by Ryann Donnelly, also included Hil: “We sat down with Conkel, his partner in crime, Megan Hill—who doubles as the show’s character Rosemary Crawley—to discuss what makes The House of Von Macramé a better time at the theater.”

Before the show even opened it was getting press. First, there was From Sketch to Stage: The House of von Macramé, a slide show in the New York Times of costume designer Tristan Raines’s designs for the seemingly endless costumes used in the show. “With some 150 costume changes,” the Times writes, “the show should ring bells for fans of camp thrillers like Eyes of Laura Mars as well as Italian giallo directors like Dario Argento (Suspiria).”

Then came another article in the Times, A Scream. A Splash. Send in the Mops. If there’s one thing in the play there is as much of as costume changes, its the volume of stage blood, all lovingly choreographed by special-effects designer Waldo Warshaw, who got raves for his work in the recent hit The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  “Fashion Week is around the corner,” begins Erik Piepenburg in the Times article, “and as any aspiring model knows it can be a cutthroat scene. Ask any of the girls who walk for the House of von Macramé. That is if they’re not already dead.”

With the show opened, it was time for the reviews. As the bully on the block, of course the New York Times review comes first: Models in Killer Shoes Totter Along a Runway to Death by Charles Isherwood. “Written by Joshua Conkel, and featuring songs by Matt Marks,” writes Isherwood, “the production, at the Bushwick Starr, still retains the scrappy, free-for-all vibe of a late-night diversion cooked up by folks who have spent whole days of their lives watching camp horror flicks …”

There’s no masking the enthusiam in Brooklyn Exposed for the new musical, as witnessed by the title of its review, The House of Von Macramé Fashions a Bloody Good Time.  “With all the glam camp of Rocky Horror, the sinister undertones of Little Shop of Horrors and a dash of RuPaul’s Drag Race,” writes Jessica Cauttero, “the Management’s The House of Von Macramé is the most fun I’ve had at the theater in a long time. This irreverent musical about a string of occult murders during Fashion Week is brimming with Hitchcockian humor. … … The book by Joshua Conkel and songs by Matt Marks are witty and biting, exploring what makes beauty so powerful you might kill, or seek to destroy, for it, but without losing the fun, silly vibe it starts off with.” Just for the record, Cornish has one of her citations, RuPaul’s Drag Race, covered as well: it stars Jinkx Monsoon (Jerick Hoffer [TH ‘10]).

Backstage was equally enthralled in The House of Von Macramé’ Is Bloody Fun, with particular praise for Raines’ costumes. “It’s rare that a costumer designer steals the show,” writes Clifford Lee Johnson III, “but Tristan Raines does just that in The House of Von Macramé, a delirious new musical at the Bushwick Starr. The outrageously hilarious fashion collections he creates for Edsel Von Macramé, the mad clothing designer at the heart of the show, perfectly embody the evening’s witty, fearless, and savagely satirical tone. Think Dior meets The House of Usher. But don’t assume the rest of the production pales in comparison. The writing, acting, and directing are all similarly over the top and almost equally as entertaining.”

Another rave comes from NYTheatre.com (and another citation of RuPaul’s Drag Race — did we mention that it’s currently starring Cornish’s own Jinkx Monsoon?). Megin Jimenez writes: “Fans of the glam-goth style of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the delirious excess of John Waters or the shade-throwing queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race will likely have a blast. This is not to say The House of Von Macramé is unoriginal. Our plumed, sequined hats must come off in deference to all involved for turning out a live, full-length, high-energy musical production in the welcoming little black box space of The Bushwick Starr, the audience LOLing most of the time.”

Last and certainly not least, the New York Post hewed to the headline pattern of the day with A bloody good time in ‘House’ by Elisabeth Vincentelli. As the title would suggest, the critic had a good time writing about the gallons of stage blood, but went on to say: “Book writer Joshua Conkel and composer/lyricist Matt Marks keep their tongues firmly in cheek, and the first act rolls out at breakneck speed. … Conkel, who gave us the excellent MilkMilkLemonade a few years ago, is particularly good at bitchy throwaway lines and dingbat details: A hip restaurant is called Guano; vapid models go by Indigo (James Wells) and Jam Jam (Vanessa Pereda).”

The House of Von Macramé: book by Joshua Conkel,  music and lyrics by Matt Marks. The play was directed by Nick Leavans with choreography by Sarita Lou, fight choreography by Jake Hart, dramaturgy by Eileen Casterline. Masterful effects and costumes were by Waldo Warshaw and Tristan Raines. Wigs and makeup were by Leah Loukas. Other technical credits go for the lighting was by Carl Wiemann, sets by Jonathan Cottle and Aaron Ethan Green and sound by Daniel Melnick. A special mention should go to production stage manager, Niki Armato who runs what sounds like an incredibly complex show.


A Management production, The House of Von Macramé was produced by John Grannis, Nick Leavans, Joshua Conkel, Megan Hill, Meg Sturiano, Josh Beerman, Nicole Beerman and the Bushwick Starr.

The play is at the Bushwick Starr, 207 Starr Street, between Irving and Wyckoff Avenues, Bushwick, Brooklyn; (800) 836-3006; thebushwickstarr.org. Through Feb. 16. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes.

The cast includes Jonathan Hooks, Tara Bruno, Frank Paiva, Crystal Arnette, Chris Gwynn, Aimée Cucchiaro, Rebecaa Lee Lerman, Megan Hill, James Wells, Rochelle Smith, Paul Pecorino, Felicia J. Hudson and David Mitsch.


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