Monday, April 6, 2009 | 2 a.m.
If You Go
- What: “Freaks”
- When: 9 and 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
- Where: “Freaks” Showroom at O’Sheas, second floor
- Admission: $29.95 general admission; 733-3333, www.osheaslasvegas.com
- Running time: 70 minutes
- Audience advisory: Must be 18 years or older. Partial nudity, adult language, gross-out stunts and simulated clown-on-clown sex. Possibly the coolest T-shirts in town.
- 'Freaks' tests physical limits of performers, squeamishness of audience (3-19-2009)
- 'Freaks' comes to O'Sheas (3-11-2009)
“Freaks” is the little show that could.
Could make you watch most of it with your hands over your eyes.
Could force you to scream Uggggggh! Blecccccch! And, most often, NooooOOO!
Could make you throw up in your mouth a little.
The precisely titled, bite-sized sideshow revue, which just opened in the second-floor showroom at O’Sheas, is bringing a bit of Coney Island, Tijuana, and even Bangkok to the Las Vegas Strip.
The lurid brainchild of hypnotist Anthony Cools and a committed cadre of extremist carnies, it comes along just in time to give Vegas night life a shot in the arm.
More exactly, a steel skewer in the arm.
“Freaks” intends to shock and ewwwww, and it gets right to the point: This is a show that begins with an ornately bearded, extremely skinny shirtless man impaling himself on a spearhead.
Perverse, revolting, raunchy, offensive and deserving of many other derogatory adjectives, “Freaks” is what might happen if John Waters and Quentin Tarantino went halfsies on a Vegas showroom. It fits snugly amid O’Sheas cheerily rinky-dink, honky-tonk mix of boardwalk sleaze and frathouse boisterousness, which compacts a jukebox, beer pong, karaoke, psychic consultants, a Burger King and a glass-walled tattoo parlor into its small acreage.
Before entering the 175-seat showroom, you’re greeted by a pair of sexy “nurses” in tight black uniforms and asked to agree to a densely worded medical waiver — echoes of the shock-gimmick movie directors of the 1950s and ’60s. They even thoughtfully supply “Freaks”-branded vomit bags at the souvenir stand.
A live white rabbit introduces this show, and without giving away the bit’s simple ingenuity, it trounces Criss Angel’s whole overblown bunny-themed act in under a minute.
“First of all, this is not a magic show,” announces Sleazo, the green-haired scary clown emcee “It’s all real, it’s all dangerous.”
And it looks like it really hurts, too.
“This next act is only funny till someone loses an eye — then it’s hysterical,” says Sleazo, introducing that same super-skinny guy, who proceeds to lift weights from chains attached to his eye sockets.
I glanced behind me several times during the show, and saw that more people than not were peeking between their fingers.
Several of the brief blackout bits in “Freaks” allude to other Vegas shows. Terry Fator’s G-rated ventriloquist shtick is rudely tweaked by a ginormous drag queen manipulating a hideously grotesque dummy.
In what could be seen as a wink to one of Penn & Teller’s macabre vignettes, a woman sips wine while waiting for her date to arrive — then chomps into the glass and noisily savors it.
Another unforgettable and almost-unwatchable bit features an act of geek love, an S&M twist on a Cirque-style erotic duet.
Again, hands-over-the-eyes time.
Then there’s the much-hyped dart-shooting act. Let’s say it gives a new meaning to “girl power” and leave it at that.
Obviously “Freaks” is not for everyone, and it should attract a self-selecting audience, specifically those with a dark sense of humor and an appetite for absurdity. Aside from the few people who walked out, the small crowd at Wednesday night’s opening appeared to be hilariously horrified at all the just-right wrongness they had survived.