"Masters of the Impossible" Siegfried & Roy are among the highest-paid entertainers in the world -- Forbes says they'll make more this year than Frank Sinatra or Andrew Lloyd Webber. Which is astonishing because they don't do anything. Oh, sure, they make a lot of entrances in their show at Radio City, and they make a lot of things appear and disappear. But you don't have to be Penn & Teller to know that such things as trap doors and stunt doubles exist. Somewhat more skill is displayed by the chubby-buttocked dancers who frolic to a grotesque array of recorded music; between the disappearance and reappearance of the elephant, they lip-synch to the resurrection theme from The Gospel at Colonus. The only real energy of the evening is provided by an exuberant team of jump-roping, basketball- playing black unicyclists. Roy Horn, the dark-haired headliner, is the Vanna White of the evening, ushering animals on and off without saying a word. Siegfried Fischbacher, unfortunately, talks almost incessantly, in broken English, during the second half. As he works the aisles like Liberace, absentmindedly welcomes the crowd to Las Vegas, and relates a rambling would-be inspirational rags-to-riches story in which S&R's crowning achievement is the huge picture of them in the Times Square Kodak ad, perhaps irony is too much to hope for, but a little charm would be nice.

Meanwhile, at the Criterion Center, playwright-satirist Chris Durang is giving a perfectly witty deconstruction of a cabaret act. To illustrate the concept of "special material," he and his backup duo, Dawne (John Augustine and Sherry Anderson), perform a zesty rendition of "Liza with a Z." For the obligatory Sondheim selection, the three of them handle the six-character ensemble number "Weekend in the Country" from A Little Night Music. Durang's schoolboy-crisp enunciation wreaks deadpan mockery on songs by Michael Jackson and Madonna. And as the exhausted headliner naps on the Equity cot, his supporting cast delivers a medley of dog songs: "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?" followed by the dog duet from Sunday in the Park with George and the love song from The Lady and the Tramp. The show's targets are often less than obvious, and the execution is as frequently deft as the conception is. Sharing a strategy cleverly deployed by Ann Magnuson and Sandra Bernhard, Durang mounts a devastating critique of junk culture (i.e., the likes of Siegfried & Roy) by loving it to death.

7 Days, October 11, 1989