One minute I’m staring out a car window at a black Ferrari creeping through a Cabrini-Green parking lot; the next I’m standing on the dance floor of the Dragon Room, watching a guy pretending to kill a girl pretending to take a bath. Flashes pop, and a dozen people point digital cameras at the killer as he pulls out a big plastic knife. The girl never drops her rubber duckie, even when he slits her throat from ear to ear.

This performance piece is part of a series called “Playhouse Mondays.” My friend’s friend is in it, so we got in free. All we had to do was wear nice clothes–supposedly there’s a dress code. The guy next to me has on one of those black-and-white striped outfits only cartoon cons wear.

Onstage the girl is dead. Her killer throws his hands in the air and dances around the body, which is quickly removed by two bare-chested men in black vinyl pants. They’re wearing theater masks: one’s happy, the other’s sad. The sad one looks like he didn’t want to work tonight.

The guy on my left taps my shoulder and mouths something I can’t hear above the music–techno so loud it’s shaking my body hair loose. I nod at him and say, “Yeah, totally.”

He looks at me funny, then leans in close, jerks his thumb at the stage, and screams, “I said, ‘What’s supposed to be happening up there?'”

“Oh,” I say, glancing up. Somebody in a Sylvester costume is pretending to go down on three girls in party dresses. I put my mouth practically on the guy’s ear. “It’s a ‘performance piece,'” I shout, spraying saliva with each P. The guy wipes his cheek with his sleeve, gives me a dirty look, and walks away. In all the noise, I wonder if he got my quotation marks.

Sylvester moves quickly from one girl to the next. Each of them fakes an orgasm, then high-fives the puddy tat and heads backstage. When they’re gone, he jumps around in a sort of victory dance. I’ve seen the cartoon Sylvester act this happy–usually right before the kangaroo appears out of nowhere and kicks him in the head. At the Dragon Room two aliens in black robes walk out and zap Sylvester unconscious with a tiny flashlight.

A girl in a vest steps on my foot. She smiles and says something in my ear, but I don’t catch it. “What?” I shout. She says something else. I think about nodding and saying, “Yeah, totally.” But what if she’s saying “Nice shirt”?

The killer returns, but he seems to be playing a different character. He’s got on a coat and tie, and he’s sitting in a chair, thumbing through a book. Two girls in dresses come out and circle him, batting their eyelashes and touching his shoulders. At first he tries to focus on his reading, but he quickly becomes more interested in them–it’s a scene from about 8,000 pornos.

Suddenly a guy in a Wonder Woman costume shows up. The girls hide behind Wonder Woman, who throws the killer against the wall, then tosses him off the stage. It might be retribution for the rubber duckie girl–or not. A few seconds later another guy in a Wonder Woman costume jumps onstage and play fights with the first one, finally chasing him off the stage with a kick in the pants. Then the whole cast comes out, takes a bow, and starts dancing. That’s when I realize the guy in the prisoner costume wasn’t even in the show.

The whole room claps silently under the din of the music–even the guy I spit on. One by one people around me drop into motion, dancing. I stand still, trying to make sense of the killer, Sylvester, the aliens, and the Wonder Women. But then one of the guys with a digital camera turns my way, and I start dancing too. I don’t want to stick out.