Sunday, August 21, 2016


By Peter Lefcourt

Andrew Diego, Paul Galliano, Chad Borden, Christopher Callan, Dee Freeman Photo by Ed Krieger

The appeal of Drama Queens from Hell will come from more rehearsal and finding a way to tighten, tighten, tighten the show up.  Get a bustier and cinch that sucker to the max:  one act that speeds through the night like a drag race on Mulholland Drive.  Playwright Peter Lefcourt, in the critic’s notes, says that he’s influenced by Christopher Durang, among others and some of that bite rings true in this inside joke that turns on the idea that some young punk director has fallen into the rights to do a remake of Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD.  At rise we meet Paul Galliano as Gerard Manville, said director, wrapped in his burial shroud/toga who announces his own death not unlike William Holden’s voice over as the writer, Joe Gillis, who is found floating in Norma Desmond’s tepid pool in the opening scene of Wilder’s movie. 

One thing that Billy Wilder knew all about, along with the writing, that made his films like Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment and, of course, Some Like It Hot so special is timing and pace.  It’s a given in any dramatic piece that things move along. What director Terri Hanauer has failed to do with this interpretation of Drama Queens From Hell has been to remember to keep it moving.   This is not  a terrible script and certainly the three Queens (Christopher Callen as Maxine Zabar, Dee Freeman as Felicia Brown and center stage waving the LBGTQ banner, Chad Borden as TG Brianne McCauley) are handsomely strutting their stuff as they plot to wangle their way into the audition to snag the part that Gloria Swanson created as Norma Desmond in this re-up of the Billy Wilder Classic. 

Borden, last seen in a wonderful protean turn in Cloud Nine, at Antaeus, is neither fish nor fowl representing the Transgender contingency to win the part of Norma.  The dichotomy of shaving “her” under arms while a healthy patch of chest hair peeks through a plunging neckline is problematic. Camp is the order of the day with  Christopher Callen as Maxine representing the geriatric community pestering her agent,   Artie Paramecium (riding the porcelain throne, Rich Podell) who also represents the other two actresses. Finally, no matter that Norma Desmond was a famous Caucasian silent movie star, Ms Freeman rocks in the first audition reading OFF BOOK to an actual scene from the Wilder film! 

The show becomes more stereotypically Camp and spiced way up when the young director hires his tres gay assistant, Raphael (Andrew Diego), over the top as he should be. Diego brings the energy of the play up to where it should have been all along.  The whole idea of three disparate actresses vying for a part that only Meryl Streep could bring authenticity to is silly.  The play is silly. References to inside show business trivia and the current plague on Los Angeles’s 99 Seat theatre situation will only be understood by a few. Diego doubling in drag as the German vintage dress salesgirl bubbles everything up again.  Had Ms Hanauer decided to make it a play with quick changes and even more doubling while keeping it to one act, the whole thing might have been a champagne cocktail!  Light and refreshing!

Playwright Lefcourt’s idea of a good time is lurking somewhere in this production. It’s all in there, screaming to get out!  In these days of gender awareness, age discrimination and boosting the African American more into the spotlight, imagining how Billy Wilder might have better informed the piece cries for the obvious: Timing! Pace! Fun!!. Kudos to tech staff especially for the audition scenes where each actress dubs the lines that Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond made famous.  There is a very funny play in here. Keep it moving. Keep digging. It’s in here somewhere.

By Peter Lefcourt
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
2055 S. Sepulveda
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Through September 25, 2016
Tickets and Information:
323 960 7787

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