Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Complete History of Drag in a Few Mo-Mo

Directed by Mark Silva, the title of David LeBarron’s one person show is slightly misleading..  set in a "shitty little drag club in the valley," bare bones stage on the concrete floor of a utilitarian little theater in West Hollywood .. although he may touch on men in dresses throughout history, the show is short on actual facts. His clever approach is well written and nicely presented with footnotes and ‘exposition.’ 

Of course, in order for the play to progress, there must be exposition and here-in lies the rub.. the tiny theater complex on Formosa is made of concrete.  The sound in this tiny black box space is so ‘live’ that though volume was not a problem, understanding the dialogue was difficult.  The oddest thing was that the woman behind us was laughing her head off and when I turned to see who else was laughing, not everyone was. The timing of  LeBarron’s piece is such that the rhythms may dictate the laughs.

His clever use of breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly as himself for ‘exposition’  and then, with a remote control, changing the lighting and switching back to his “Auntie Luscious” drag character was smooth as silk. The actor delineated his ‘sister performers’ one by one but not enough for us to really keep track of them. The dingy dressing room for the drag show where Auntie was the head liner (who never started on time!!) did not start on time, but once underway was well underway.

This last night of the Hollywood Fringe Festival packed the house with fans and those whose curiosity, like mine, was piqued to find out about this glamorous side of what most straight folks presume to be a gay scene did provide some insight. Though Auntie Luscious is flaming and LeBarron may certainly be gay but is really cool, it seemed to me that the drag scene was first entertainment and secondly filled with homosexuals. Regardless one’s sexual orientation, the illusion in this show was left to the imagination as LeBarron only mimes his makeup and dressing in costume for the impending stage show. 

Rumor has it that the play might find new light somewhere in town. Should it play in a space where the sound is not reverberating off the walls like a tin drum, it would be fun to see again, or to read the script to catch all the missed jokes.  The audience loved it and the parts that I could actually understand, were enjoyable.  Perhaps developed into a full length play like "Melody Jones, a Striptease in Two Acts," a play by Dan Gerrity and Jeremy Lawrence which opened twenty five years ago exposing the back stage life of female strippers in a gay night club, meeting the other female impersonators as actual characters as well as the ‘newbie’ who is young and pretty, might bring more to light the history that LeBarron announces in the title of his piece. 

With the “T” part of the current movement now known as LGBTQ still ambiguous vis a vis female impersonators, dragqueens   transvestites or heterosexual crossdressers, this short piece begins to discuss the issue providing a good start.  It’s just a shame that the acoustics of this particular space and maybe the somewhat hurried pace of Mr. LeBarron made getting the jokes more of a problem than it should have been. 



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