Acrobats and fire twirlers, cabaret dancers and live bands, drag artists and contortionists — they’re just some of the acts at the Twisted Circus and Cabaret, a weekly Tuesday night show at Off Key Tikki in Patchogue.

The venue itself is a draw with its breezy perch along the Patchogue River. Its sand-filled courtyard, trimmed with palm trees and a firepit, hosts the early performers. The acts move into the dining room later for an encore.


Like most shows in the vaudeville genre, there’s an edge to each performance. Sideshow artists demonstrate cringe-worthy tricks involving body parts, scissors and screwdrivers. Some dancers fold into extreme feats of physical flexibility — abrupt splits, backbends that send heads passing through heels — or entertain with burlesque routines.

“It’s sexy with class,” says Sal Kauckey, 47, of Shirley, who was in the audience on a recent Tuesday.

Such shows are ubiquitous in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but rarely found east of Queens, says organizer Rob Romeo of Babylon.

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Romeo, 32, is a magician by trade. He has curated an eclectic collection of acts that make for a different lineup week to week. This month, one show was a full drag review, while others featured bands interspersed with contortionists and cabaret acts.

Members of the “pirate” band Black Sam Bellamy dress in swashbuckling garb and sing buccaneer-inspired ballads and sea shanties.

“They came to one of our shows in their pirate clothes,” Romeo explains, and said they wanted to be part of the mix.


Most acts, whether acrobatic, musical or sideshow, often make patrons part of the show. Such was the case for Nick Puleo, 26, of Centereach, who was pulled onstage by a dancer and made to blush.

“This is hilarious!” says his wife, Jessica, 28.

The evening’s more daring acts — a fire-eater or painful-looking carnival stunts akin to sword-swallowing — always draw shocked gasps from the crowd.

For his part, Romeo intersperses hosting duties with surprises like hammering a small rod into his nose (Don’t try this at home). “It took me a long time to learn how to do this,” he says.

Rachel Celentano, 22, of Patchogue was among audience members who initially flinched at the sideshow acts, but she was drawn in, nonetheless.

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“I’ve never seen a show like this before,” she says. “I really like it.”