APIARY (Always) Attends: The Weekly Revue

I suppose it never occurred to me to write about the Weekly Revue before because it’s been such a part of my Philadelphia experience that I don’t think of it as an event or a series, just as a given. Something I automatically incorporate into my schedule because I know it will be fun, possibly educational, and full of people I love. The Weekly Revue – which occurs monthly – has been around since 2007, first in a West Philly basement and now at Moonstone Arts Center (with occasional detours to the Ox or other venues when the trapeze artists need a higher ceiling). Features on any given night may include musical acts, comedians, powerpoint presentations, storytellers, short films, Q & A panels, feats of strength, and audience participation events like a cutout snowflake contest.

Your guide through it all is this man, the one and only Toby David:

And also the house band, Los Culeros:

I’ve been on stage a few times myself, once as part of a radio orchestra in this John Cage piece, once talking about my (sorry, top secret) day job, and I think I may have even won that snowflake cutting contest.

The most recent review, held on March 18th, was by some measures more sedate than usual, but actually a perfect one to write about here, in the context of literary events – it was a night driven by narratives.

First one of the Culeros warmed up the crowd with an old-timey song about the Titanic (“Too soon!” yelled a wiseacre from the third row). The Toby regaled the audience with tales of his recent adventures in Utah at the Sundance Film Festival, as the star of this flick.   On stage, David morphs from a mild-mannered museum tour guide to Toby Lou the Nasty One, performing swaggering impressionistic monologues that are impossible to capture on paper. My notes include the fragments “bio-degradable watches,” “chain mail for the ladies,” “duck sliders,” “these beans is garbanzo,” a person “named Zack, spelled X-A-Q-U-E,” and “latkes, tons of cupcakes, whatever.”  One of these days, APIARY is going to drag this linguistically playful fellow onto the poetry stage (but you didn’t hear about it from me).

Next up, Joe Stakun, a local comedian on the eve of his decampment to L.A., stood up and set 6 cans Dr. Pepper on a table. He’s about to hit the big time – his parody of Banksy’s “Exit through the Gift Shop,” a video called “Enter through the Stall Door,” was recently featured on funnyordie.com, and he’s directed a handful of music videos for bands like Japanther and Future Islands.

As he reeled through hilariously disjointed one-liners, Stakun slowly drank and/or gave away each can of soda. These are the sort of absurdist touches I treasure.

The next act was one of the most honest and compelling I’ve seen at the Revue – Dave Perez took the stage to talk about meeting his Dad for the first time at age twenty-six.

The story opened with Perez running through a wood-paneled airport in Iceland, trying to catch a flight home to New York, where his mother was about to inform him that she’d found the contact information for his father. After a period of hesitation, Perez endures the modern indignity of contacting one’s birth father through LinkedIn.com, and finally meets the man in a train station – wondering at the small Irish guy in the tracksuit who never called or wrote or sent money. Like car accidents and awards ceremonies, the actual event becomes a blur. His father’s wife insisted on a paternity test: Perez described locating the hole-in-the-wall testing center on Queens Boulevard, and delivered maybe the most poignant line of the story – “I’m twenty-six and going through a paternity test – but I’m not the father. I’m the baby.”

Perez might have underplayed some of the rage and sadness of the experience – he’s a modest guy – but at the end of his monologue it seemed like the lesson was that even a huge life-changing event doesn’t always change much. The man who was a stranger is still a stranger; your mother is still totally amazing.

After another Los Culeros interlude, Toby schooled the gentiles and heathens  in the audience with an epic retelling of the Book of Ester (it was, after all, the day before Purim). I’m sad to report I didn’t scribble down any of the frenetic word play, because I was too tipsy. The Revue is BYOB, and some kind soul will often have beer to share in exchange for letting them hold a dollar, and whisky may be passed around on occasion. Come to think of it, that’s probably the real reason I haven’t written about the Revue yet for this blog – the last act is always a little foggy.

The MC and the band are taking the month of April off, so the next Weekly Revue will be held on May 20th, and I have a feeling the springtime airs will lead to a raucous show. It will also not be safe for children, unless your children are preternaturally comfortable with weird erotica. May 20th, Robin’s Books/Moonstone Arts Center (13th & Sansom), 8pm, $4-6 at the door. Check the Facebook for details!

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