At The House of Von Macramé, Fashion Week Gets Scary
The House of Von Macramé—a camp horror musical written by Josh Conkel and directed by Nick Leavens with lyrics by Matt Marks—chews up the fashion industry and spews it out in a fit of laughter. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The play is set during New York fashion week (a mere coincidence, according to the writer, who was unaware that the shows start this week) and follows Brit—a fresh face from Cornrow, Iowa—as she tries to make it in the modeling world. Somewhat miraculously, she does just that, thanks to the help of an eccentric, vampy designer, Edsel Von Macramé, who, based loosely on Karl Lagerfeld (although, his dramatic gate, swooshing coats, second-skin pants and emotive eyebrows seem more an aesthetic ode to a young John Galliano) may or may not be murdering a string of the city’s top catwalkers.
The play’s kitsch approach to horror clichés (inspired in part by the film Eyes of Laura Mars, there’s lots of fake blood, and a recurring song about being the last surviving girl) has its own appeal, but it’s the creators’ satire of the fashion industry that is particularly funny. The play’s designers show collections with titles like “Bodily Secretions” (it doesn’t take much to imagine what that entailed) and “Pilgrim Realness” (actually, now that we think about it, didn’t Lagerfeld show a Plymouth Rock dress last year?). There’s a self-obsessed photographer who sings a song about how hard it is to be the “only straight guy in fashion,” and a pseudo-British fashion editor who’s desperately trying to prove herself as a hard-hitting journalist. Then, of course, there is a slew of models with names like Jam-Jam and Indigo, a fantastic fashion TV reporter who seems the better-dressed male version of Kim Basinger’s character in Prêt-à-Porter, and a clique of designers. One, named Chainsaw, is based off Heatherette, the other, Pixie, is meant to resemble Betsey Johnson. “We had a lot of conversations trying to figure out the caste system in this made-up universe,” says Conkel.
As far as the costumes go (they were designed by Tristan Raines), there are around 150 of them. Most have an eighties feel (think studded epaulettes, sheer lace leggings, shutter glasses, crop tops, a host of spandex, and, just for kicks, giant eighties cell phones), and there are few modern twists—for instance, boys and girls alike teeter around the blood-soaked stage in sky-high platforms. According to Conkel, the play is, in many cases, a metaphor for his experiences in playwriting. “I want theater to be cooler and younger and more fun. Art is the best way to influence people and make people aware and change minds, and laughing about it certainly helps.” So how has the fashion set responded to the show? “Who doesn’t like to make fun of themselves? The people we’ve had have been really positive,” says Conkel. The play will have this journalist laughing all the way through Fall ’13.