If you’re curious what to expect from Opium—the new show from Absinthe creators Spiegelworld, opening April 10 in the former Rose. Rabbit. Lie. showroom at the Cosmopolitan—go no further than the show’s Instagram account
(@opiumvegas). It’s all there, spread out like some horny teenager’s mood board, circa 1980: promotional stills from cheesy sci-fi shows and movies (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Phantom of the Paradise), abstract patterns and scantily clad women commingling with robots. Just add some Absinthe-quality circus and variety acts, a touch of old-school Vegas cheese and a passel of filthy jokes about gloryholes and such, and you can mix up your own Opium in your home garage.
At once charming and grossly offensive, warmly sentimental and bat-guano bizarre, Opium is not an oblique riff on the nation’s opiod epidemic (the name is a little unfortunate, but whatever). Rather, it’s The Love Boat in deep space, by way of planet Laugh-In—the nearly 90-minute account of the good ship OPM 4.2., headed for Earth (Las Vegas, specifically) with a crew that includes Rob the Robot, an evolved Roomba with a heart of gold; Dusty Moonboots, a towering, angel-voiced drag chanteuse; and Lt. Lou Tenant, a Freddie Mercury-obsessed juggler. They’re all under the watchful eye of the steely Captain Ann Tennille, a character who represents both Opium’s pop-culture bonafides and its softness for groaner laughs.
Any further discussion of the plot is pointless, because the show is still taking shape. (I got the distinct impression that Opium is being rewritten through performance trial-and-error; the audience even received questionnaires upon leaving the preview showing.) Besides, like Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, this trip is all about the mind-mangling journey, not the hotel suite you crash in when it’s over. While more of a comedy show than a variety showcase, Opium contains some killer circus acts: A hula-hoop act that briefly defies gravity; a contortionist who kinda mates with a balloon; a sword-swallower who delivers the night’s biggest shocks and its loudest laughs; an all-too-brief blacklight ballet; and an indescribable, cringe-inducing episode that I will only describe as “the banana routine.”
Tying all of this together is the clever staging (R.R.L.’s moving stage elements are put to good use here), the terrific costumes of New York City-based genius Machine Dazzle, and a sharp live band that rips through a veritable sci-fi mixtape (everything from Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” to the Carpenters’ cover of Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”) with real Vegas showroom gusto. And if this sort of thing matters to you, there are at least two lingering moments of toplessness, which are as anachronistic, yet compelling as 1970s-era amateur UFO footage. In fact, that’s the perfect way to describe Opium: You saw something without being quite sure what it was, and you kinda wish it had abducted you.
OPIUM Days & times vary, $79-$129. The Cosmopolitan, 702-698-7000.