Buntport releases video version of its dark comedy ‘Cabaret De Profundis or How To Sing While Ugly Crying’

Imagine you have a batty aunt who fancies herself an accomplished cabaret singer. Who knows, maybe she got a gig at some dive off the strip in Vegas a few decades back and lives off that memory. At family gatherings after a few too many glasses of wine, she commandeers the living room and recruits one of your uncles to play the piano. She then stumbles through a bizarre collection of songs, half songs, and random observations in service to grieving her long-deceased “brusband” as her alter ego, Artemesia.

That’s the vibe from Cabaret De Profundis or How To Sing While Ugly Crying, a recently released video performance from Buntport Theater. Originally set to play live at the theatre last March, you-know-what put the kibosh on that. Instead, Buntport forged ahead and recorded a performance in October, recently releasing it on Vimeo.

Hannah Duggan plays the reincarnated Artemesia, a real historical character from ancient Greece who succeeded her brother (and later husband) Mausolus as the satrap of Caria — a region in modern-day Turkey. (WTF?) Accompanying her on piano is her long-suffering, eye-rolling partner Nathan (Nathan Hall).

“I’m miserable to be here,” Artemesia announces, describing herself as “the greatest mourner on earth” who’s been moving from body to body over the centuries and is now inhabiting a zaftig woman from Indiana. Dressed in a black, spangled caftan and spilling her guts into a golden microphone, she’s an emotionally raw trainwreck careening from songs to wacky observations, to puns and corny jokes as Nathan plays the straight man trying to keep up. Dressed in a white tuxedo and initially sporting a GoPro on his head and a mustachioed covid mask, Hall is an accomplished pianist who wrote most of the music for the show (most of the lyrics are simply attributed to Buntport). cabaret profundis

The ever-inventive Buntport crew paid a lot of attention to the filming, with a variety of camera placements ranging from the aforementioned GoPro (underused, IMO) to one sitting in the bottom of one of Artemesia’s wine glasses. Facebook Live is also employed in a few different scenes, providing an unlikely link to ancient Greece. It’s nicely done, lending both an air of intimacy alongside some jarring closeups and other off-kilter camera angles.

Artemesia tells us that “de profundis” means “from a deep state of anguish,” and as she staggers from one bit to the next, she never loses sight of the main mission of mourning her brusband (even adding some of his ashes to her wine glass, as the real Artemesia apparently did).

Given the freewheeling nature of this show, it’s not easy to discern any kind of plot or easy summary of “what it’s about,” but a few of Artemesia’s lines may offer some clues:

  • “It felt Melissa Etheridge-y to me.” (Nathan shakes his head)
  • Something about starting a Go Fund Me page for the free masons.
  • A capsule review of a Dan Brown novel.
  • “If you’re going to be cremated, please have your silicone breast implants removed.”
  • “Damn you Verizon!” (This after a Facebook call with the ghost of Mausolus [guy in a sheet] is dropped).

A force of nature

Duggan is a force of nature, making up for her lack of singing skills with the ability to own the stage and keep us on the edge of our screen wondering what non sequitur she’ll serve up next. Hall is an excellent partner, both loyal to the mission and equally dismissive of most of her flights of fancy.

While some might have a hard time sitting through an hour and 40 minutes of the trash-glitz deliberate awfulness of Cabaret de Profundis, others will no doubt enjoy watching an actor put it all out there as Duggan does. Utterly shameless and unconcerned what others might think (Can you really have a cabaret if you’re not going to say things like ‘balls’ and ‘pubes’ once in a while?”), she plows through the performance like a tipsy troubadour determined to keep all eyes on her wherever she goes (including, at one point, gone from the stage altogether, leaving Nathan to ad-lib with ancient music until she returns).

What’s missing, of course, is the audience that this type of show truly requires. Artemesia laments this on several occasions, and there’s little doubt a live audience would provide a good deal of laughter to propel this show forward. Never fear, though: Buntport does plan to mount a live production when it’s possible.

Cabaret de Profundis was written and directed by Duggan, Hall, Brian Colonna, Erik Edborg, Erin Rollman, and Samantha Schmitz. The show is available online for a donation of at least $20.