Margaret Cho is foul-mouthed and unabashedly political. She does a very exaggerated impersonation of her traditional Korean mother.
But while Cho has frequently railed against the body image of women that is propagated by today's media, she has never shown so much of her own body - that is to say, nearly all of it.
Her new off-Broadway show, "The Sensuous Woman," has less standup comedy and much more burlesque - a significant departure for the Korean-American comic who has built up a cult following thanks to her 2001 "Notorious C.H.O." tour and subsequent TV specials.
Like most experiments, Cho's cabaret/variety show has moments where it works, others where it does not. She incorporates an entire cast into the production, which may disappoint Cho devotees - the comedian herself is probably onstage for a grand total of 20 to 30 minutes.
But the concept remains strong throughout. Her mission is to show all different types of women's bodies and how beautiful they can be in various stages of undress.
To that end, she has a midget, Selene Luna, performing a strip routine after emerging from a baby's bassinet wearing black stiletto heels. Plus-sized burlesque dancer Dirty Martini performs a rollicking strip number to "God Bless the U.S.A." in which she peels off a sequined American-flag-styled dress and shoves dollar bills in her mouth.
Men in drag, of course, also feature prominently, including the crowd-pleasing Kelly, a shoes-obsessed, Valley girl created by comedian Liam Sullivan who has become somewhat of an Internet phenomenon. (Sullivan's YouTube videos have more than 6 million viewings.)
Cho's comedy is interspersed throughout, though regrettably not enough, as the burlesque dances and other performances tend to wear toward the end of the no-intermission show. It's hard to maintain the proper enthusiasm when your eyes have become inured to so much human flesh. There's only so many pasties a person can watch twirling in hypnotic, opposing circles.
Cho sparkles when she's alone on stage, providing her typically fierce observations about celebrities (Britney Spears gets a thumping), gay men and her own sex life. She looks more at home here than she ever has on stage, wearing a tight black dress with shoulders cut out to show off her tattoos and an abundance of glittery silver eye shadow.
One unfortunate byproduct of her enormously funny sets is that she upstages the only other comic in the show - the transgendered Ian Harvie. Harvie appears a bit nervous following a Cho dance number, dressed in a head-to-toe Lycra pink suit; the performer never really recovers, receiving only tepid laughs from the crowd.
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