Margarita Pracatan is at least 60, extremely Cuban and quasi-known for her wacky covers of pop songs. They are irreverent not just to their source material, but to the ideas of melody and rhythm. On Friday, she performed her one-woman show, Stranger in the Night, at New York's Laurie Beechman Theater under the direction of Zach Udko. It was one of the wildest entertainment concepts I've ever witnessed. For over an hour, Pracatan stood in front of a pidgin-English PowerPoint presentation and discussed her love of money, her hatred of marriage and her frequenting of hotel bathrooms with her riffs on pop songs like Lionel Richie's "Hello," Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and Maroon 5/Christina Aguilera's "Moves Like Jagger" interspersed. Before singing "Jagger," she told the crowd, "You can sing with me, 'cause I don't know this song." Every time she stepped up to the keyboard, she regarded it warily, as if it were her first time ever setting eyes on it. I believe that her "Teenage Dream" rendition linked to above uses the wrong preset beat. Oh well, incoherence is her aesthetic.
U.K. presenter Clive James took a shine to Pracatan in the '90s and once said of her, "She never lets the words or melody get in her way. She is us, without the fear of failure." She does exude confidence, which you can see in her revealing wardrobe and hear every time she tells the audience how much they love her, as she did repeatedly on Friday. She is aware of her capacity for entertainment, probably less aware of just how hilarious she is, but she never seems deterred by the laughter that emerges when she steps onstage and then lingers throughout the show. Instead, she seems to have a Zen-like attitude toward generating any response and the understanding that her show works even if it's on levels that she isn't interested in. I couldn't help but wonder if watching Little Edie Beale during her post-Grey Gardens cabaret days in New York provided a similar experience.