Most people regard such Russ Meyer cult classics as 1965's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! as mere exploitation flicks. But playwright Trista Baldwin's Meyer-inspired Chicks With Dicks: Bad Girls on Bikes Doing Bad Things is a campy homage to tough-ass motorcycle mamas as symbols of female empowerment.
Productions of Chicks in Arizona, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York earned cult followings; the New York troupe included Tami Dixon, who's now directing Pittsburgh's first full production for Bricolage theater company. The large cast includes Dana Hardy, Greg Johnstone, Gayle Pazerski, Adrienne Wehr and Lissa Brennan (who's also a frequent CP contributor). The B-movie premise involves gang rivalry between Satan's Cherries and Bad Snake; good girls gone bad; girl-on-girl action; and male characters who exist mostly to be pummelled -- but enjoy it! The dialogue runs to: "Pussy whipped ... to death!!" Nuclear waste figures in. (This production's set near Three Mile Island.) And, as the stage directions say, there are "fights -- lots and lots of fights."
Dixon, somewhat boldly, is doing the show semi-radio style. Though there are costumes and a set (backed by a rusty chain-link fence topped with barbed wire), the actors all face the audience during the whole show. That means that the fights, like the chopper-riding, resemble pantomime, with sound effects by Brad Peterson. The comic possibilities, Dixon hypothesizes, are endless: "Nipple twist: What does that sound like?"
"There's not a lot of plays where women get to fight," says Dixon. "Most of the time if you're a woman in a play and you're in a fight, you're getting slapped, and called a bitch and falling down."
Chicks gals, by contrast, can be both sexual and violent, but in neither case are they required to answer to men. Chicks, Dixon says, is "about empowerment, and it's about owning your power, no matter what that looks like."
To foster a carnivalesque atmosphere, the production includes pre-show happy hours; performances start at 10 p.m. and are followed by live rock by the likes of Motorpsychos, Soma Mestizo and Donora.
Plus, just for kicks, one of the leads, Dana Hardy, is roughly nine months pregnant.
"Why can't a pregant woman be in a biker gang?" Dixon asks. "We're not even addressing it at all [in the show] -- because we don't have to."
Bricolage presents Chicks With Dicks Fri., Oct. 31-Nov. 29. 937 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $10 ($25 opening night). 412-381-6999 or www.webbricolage.org