If you’re a first-timer looking to find Company XIV, head to Troutman Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and follow the trail of Frankincense in the air. Entering a converted warehouse, you’ll likely be greeted by an über sexy host wearing nothing but a bejeweled g-string and fur coat. Don’t worry — you’re in the right place.
Repeat attendees might think that after putting his signature mixture of baroque dance, cirque, opera, burlesque, and music hall on Tchaikovsky, Lewis Carroll, The Brothers Grimm, and Greek mythology, Company XIV founder Austin McCormick might have exhausted his bag of tricks. But a reimagined incarnation of Seven Sins, one of McCormick’s hit shows, proves that naughty never gets old.
No Tea, No Shade
Turning to the “oldest story in the book” (The Bible’s Book of Genesis), McCormick uses the fall of Adam and Eve (flawlessly danced by Scott Schneider and Chanel Stone) with some narrative assistance by a Fallen Angel (terrifically sung by Hannah Gil) and The Devil (the always sultry Company XIV perennial favorite, pop star, and chanteuse LEXXE) to take audiences on a multi-sensory journey.
An apple dangles over the heads of the audience by way of aerialist Nolan as a scantily clad Tree of Knowledge. Over the next two scintillating hours, that apple is passed from sin to sin to sin as matadors embody wrath, peacocks lure with vanity, and jealous lovers filled with the proverbial green-eyed monster spin overhead. You get the picture.
A mélange of musical styles, including harpsichords, vintage jazz recordings, arias, and for the first time, original songs penned by LEXXE, score McCormick’s vaudeville of vice. Equally eclectic are Zane Pihlström’s design elements. Heavily beaded corsets and g-strings, an elaborate tear-away ballgown that fit two dancers under the farthingale, and gender-inclusive can-can costumes add the requisite amount of Hell Époque to the Devil’s ballroom.
Let’s Have a Moment
During the gluttony segment near the show’s end, a recording of Cab Calloway’s classic “Everybody Eats When They Come to My House” underscores the descent of small cages that drop from the ceiling, each containing a candy apple for the audience members to indulge. But the immersive experience that McCormick and Pihlström have created has been established from the moment the guests arrive through the door.
Evoking numerous bygone eras from New York in the ’20s to 1890s Paris to Weimar Berlin in the ’30s, the sensory experience is equal parts speakeasy, Kit Kat Klub, and back room at Versailles. And the audience is equally eclectic.
Everyone is welcome at Company XIV’s party — queer couples on date night, adventurous straights, artists, thrill-seeking businesspeople, and hipsters of all ages. If Brooklyn were a school lunchroom, this place would be the “cool table.”
The Final Word
Since the evening is so singular in its mixture of styles, it would be impossible to compare it to anything else.
In February 2020, weeks before the pandemic shut down the world, Company XIV debuted their original version of Seven Sins — complete with a near-cost-prohibitive VIP experience that included food, drinks, treats, and even a lottery ticket that mirrored each vice on stage. The current version has scaled those elements back, and their absence (except for the absinthe) is actually a good thing.
In revisiting Seven Sins, McCormick and his talented troupe of multi-hyphenate designers and performers present a leaner, smarter, and sexier tour of turpitudes — all with a bit of help from wrath, jealousy, greed, vanity, sloth, lust, and gluttony. The result is sinfully sensational.
Sevens Sins plays at Company XIV’s Theatre XIV in Bushwick, Brooklyn, through August 20.