Vagina monologues 

Syrens of the South bring vaudeville to Valentine's Day

"Candy? Cancer?" chirps Miss Anastasia, the cigarette girl at the Syrens of the South's "Vixens, Valentines, Vaudeville & Variety Show" Saturday, Feb. 9. She shuffles around the Highland Inn's ballroom in a red bra, black corset and heels with a tray full of Camels and chocolate suckers. In a clear moment of life imitating art, a speakeasy scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? plays on the bar's TV as she walks through.

Veronica Lashe and Talloolah Love are two ladies who live to imitate art. The self-titled Syrens of the South organize neo-burlesque showcases, throwbacks to the coy "boop-boop-a-doop" variety acts of the early 20th century. Think Lucille Ball in pasties.

A makeshift stage has been erected on the hotel's bottom floor, the backdrop draped in green velvet with gold tassels. Once the lights flash, MC John Carney jumps on stage in an ill-fitting suit and scuffed-up boots. He drops a few heavy one-liners that fall straight to the floor, but he knows his jokes are bad and that the crowd didn't come to hear him talk. They've come for the girls.

A few numbers in and local performer Vagina Jenkins prances out like a red and black peacock. She doesn't say a word, and instead relies on her piercing gaze and tattooed hips to summon attention. Knoxville, Tenn.'s Big Momma D – a reflective mass of pink Lycra – sings Peggy Lee's "Why Don't You Do Right" and pulls heart-shaped valentines from her cleavage. Kisa von Teasa dances to Gogol Bordello's gypsy polka-punk "Start Wearing Purple" and finishes, spinning her tassled pasties.

Between acts, Carney and a second MC, Lefty le Bleu, continue with an eye-rolling shtick: "My friend just got back from the London School of Girls and he's exhausted, but not from the jet lag." Ba dum bum.

With 14 performers, including Tim Monteith's lip-synched drag ventriloquism and Enzo's haphazard vaudeville, the show goes from boisterous to sultry to bawdy and does it all with a wink and a smile.

Syrens of the South: www.myspace.com/syrensofthesouth. Highland Inn Ballroom, 644 N. Highland Ave. 404-874-5756. www.thehighlandinn.com.

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