The transition to a post-pandemic world happened at such breakneck speed that, to many, it didn’t feel like a transition at all. After spending 14 long months in quarantine, I just wanted to do, do, do and go, go, go. True hedonism. But this left no time to pause and contemplate — something we had in overabundance just months ago.
Luckily, in Provincetown, we have drag queen Varla Jean Merman’s show, “Little Prick.” The show is a look back at the past year of lockdown, as well as a look around at how hastily and overzealously we have returned to life, as it were. It feels as if everyone — myself included — has forgotten about the pandemic. Merman is here to make sure we remember.
She begins the show dressed as a syringe (think the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz but with an even pointier hat and measurement lines) and singing “Vaccination,” a spoof of Kool & the Gang’s all-out party anthem “Celebration.” At the end of the song, Merman presses a button and liquid squirts from the tip of her hat and onto the audience. The trick works like a confetti cannon or popping open a champagne bottle — a ritual meant to commence the good times.
And yet, underneath the celebratory surface of the song, something dark lingers. Merman sings the song through gritted teeth — a forced smile that threatens to crack at any moment. After the song is over, she starts chanting “Back to life, back to reality” over ominous piano riffs. It becomes clear that the show, like the return to the old normal, won’t be all confetti and champagne. After the pandemic, it seems as if we’re all eager to forget the tears that we’ve cried — to be unwaveringly happy, to live in Technicolor. Merman’s message? That ain’t reality, honey.
This is not to be all doom and gloom about the post-pandemic world. Leaving the show with my family, I realized how deprived I have been of experiences like this. I forgot about what happens when you’re an audience member in a live performance space — how, rather than letting your thoughts run in circles, you let a performer take the reins for an hour. Merman’s show was the first opportunity I’ve had in the past month to finally catch my breath.
Life’s a Drag
Crown & Anchor
Varla Jean Merman, “Little Prick,” Thurs.-Sat. & Tues.-Wed. at 9 p.m., $49
Dina Martina, “Chariots of Failure,” Thurs.-Sun. & Wed. at 7:30 p.m., $44
Thirsty Burlington, “One Night Only with Cher,” Mon. at 7:30 p.m., $39
Uptown Girls, “Illusions,” Sat.-Mon. at 6 p.m., $39
Paige Turner, “Joy Ride,” Thurs.-Sat. & Wed. at 7:30 p.m., $30-40
Miss Richfield 1981, “40 Years on the Throne,” Thurs.-Sat. & Mon.-Wed. at 9 p.m., $30-40
“The Immaculate Miss Conception,” Tues. at 6 p.m., $30-40
Post Office Café
“The Anita Cocktail Variety Hour,” Fri.-Sat. at 8:30 p.m., $35