REVIEW: Glitter in the Gutter (Annoyance Theatre)

Filthy. Gorgeous. A bit of a Drag.

glitter-gutter photo: Zach Dodson

Annoyance Theatre presents:

Glitter in the Gutter

**The first and only live Drag Queen Sitcom**

written and directed by Kellen Alexander
through March 11 (more info)

By Keith Ecker

Who among us has not pondered the secret lives of drag queens? When the lights at the cabaret fade and the bar lets its regulars loose upon the night, where does the entertainment go? And what of the less successful divas, those that harbor Ru Paul dreams while clunking around in chintzy platform heels?

Glitter in the Gutter, a new play produced by Annoyance Productions and directed and written by Kellen Alexander, tells this story. Or to be more precise, it tells the story of two particular drag queens who are tragically trashy, down on their luck and caught on the cusp of eviction.

glitter-poster The play opens on the shared apartment of Pepper LaRoo (Seth Dodson) and Velveeta Fitzgerald (Wes Perry). Pepper, slender, graceful and nursing a throbbing head, is the Patsy to Velveeta’s somewhat more grounded Edina (see AbFab). The headache interferes with Pepper’s memory of the night prior, but she does recall meeting a man whose number she stored in her phone.

Enter Beverly Poon (Sarah Fineout), a rival performer with a voice that sounds like she’s gargling gravel. It is through her that Pepper discovers the man she met the night before was none other than Vinnie Cancer (Ben Kass), a famous record producer. Of course, this sends Pepper and Velveeta into a tizzy. They decide to invite Vinnie over for a date with the ulterior motive of landing a record contract.

When Vinnie stops by, he hands Pepper a slip of paper to fulfill her wish. Wanting a piece of the fame pie, Velveeta attempts to woo Vinnie to sign her as well. Caring more for image than talent, Vinnie lets Velveeta down hard. Little does Vinnie know that his newfound flame can move her mouth to music but is completely tone deaf.

Scorned, Velveeta runs away from home. She befriends a bag lady (Rachel Reed) in the alley out back and settles down for a life of domesticity and Dumpsters.

The play is the kind of over-the-top, absurdist comedy reminiscent of Charles Busch or John Waters . It’s campy, it’s crass and it’s unapologetically gay. But wash off the rouge and the eye shadow, and the play’s flaws become more apparent.

Although Alexander is obviously talented—he, along with Dodson, are part of the phenomenal improv group 1, 2, 3, Fag! — he seems overwhelmed with managing writing and directing duties. Likely unable to give both adequate attention, the writing and the pacing of the play suffer from a lack of concision.

Jokes that would otherwise kill fall flat when the punch line gets lost in a tangle of words. Also, too often too much is said that could easily have been accomplished with action. This slows down the pacing of the overall play, making the first act in particular feel like a drag.

It is in the subtleties that Alexander excels. One of the funniest parts of the play is when Officer Rick Pony (Alex Moffat) makes his entrance wearing roller shoes. No dialogue needed. The same goes with the inclusion of a window that is operated off stage by a pulley. It’s a simple and cheesy stage piece that serves a purpose and is used to great comedic effect.

Dodson and Perry are both talented actors. Dodson’s delivery and soft-spokenness, his agile dance moves and his comedic timing make him an attention magnet. Perry, who sounds an awful lot like Mrs. Garrett from the Facts of Life, has a strong voice and a commanding presence as well.

I have to give special recognition to Reed, whose deadpan portrayal of an off-kilter homeless woman is a scene-stealer. She also is fortunate to have the best dialogue in the entire play.

If Glitter in the Gutter aspires to be in the same ranks as other campy classics, it misses its mark. But it’s an entertaining piece none-the-less that is sure to please fans of kitsch and drag.

Rating: ★★½

Related article: Timeout Chicago’s Taking Out The Trash

Cast, Crew and Creative Team

SETH DODSON (PEPPER LAROO) currently performs at iO with the House team 1, 2, 3, Fag! and Harold team Mrs. Dad and with Big Yellow Bus and Bella at the Playground Theatre. You can see him co-host The Show ‘N Tell Show Talk Show in ‘mom drag’ at The Whistler. Seth also gets his kicks by performing with the National Touring Company of Mission Improvable and GayCo Productions.  He would like to tip his wig to Nina Flowers, Betty White, and Mink Stole for the inspiration.

WES PERRY (VELVEETA FITZGERALD) is so happy to be on the Annoyance stage with such amazing people. He performs at iO with the team Firecup, and has been seen in the shows Hogwash and Qweirdo. Wes recently graduated from Columbia College and their Second City Comedy Studies Program. He’d like to thank Kellen.

SARAH FINEOUT (BEVERLY POON) earned her BFA in Theatre Arts from the University of Mississippi. She currently improvises with the ensemble Bella at The Playground Theater and with ensembles Close Quarters and Revolver at iO. She has also appeared in several triple feature productions and understudied Late Night Tit-Bits at the Annoyance Theater. Sarah is a graduate of the iO training center.

BEN KASS (VINNIE CANCER) hails from west of the Miss-i-sip, where he received a degree in Theatre Performance from the University of Northern Iowa. He is a graduate of the iO Training Center and is currently enrolled at the Second City Conservatory. Ben’s Chicago stage credits include Waiting for Lefty (Backstage Theatre Company) and Hamlet (Polarity Theatre Ensemble). He has improvised with Mission: IMPROVable and Theatre Momentum. You can currently find Ben “doin’ the make-’em-up’s” at iO Theatre with Owl Farm, or with his independent four-man team, Michael Pizza.

ALEX MOFFAT (OFFICER RICK PONY) is delighted to be a part of Glitter in the Gutter. This is his second time appearing on The Annoyance’s stage as a cop. Typecasting… Alex enjoys acting, singing, dancing by himself and others, and jumping on trampolines. You can see him play with the amazing improv team, The Album, with a Harold team at iO, with Twisty at Second City’s Skybox, and with Chicago Bulls Dunk Team. Alex thanks Kellen and the cast for making this such a fun time. He also thanks his amazing family for their love.

RACHEL REED (BAG LADY) This June, Rachel will complete her degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago. She’s so jazzed to be working with Kellen! Big thanks to the cast for making a new bag lady feel… at home.

KELLEN ALEXANDER (WRITER/DIRECTOR) graduated with a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. Currently, Kellen can be seen performing with 1, 2, 3, Fag!, Dart, and The Deltones, all at the iO Theater. Additionally, Kellen improvises with the group Alright, Janice at the Playground. Kellen would like to thank Jen, Mick and Tyler for giving us this opportunity. He also thanks Seth, Wes and the cast for their time, enthusiasm and unmatched talent. Finally, Kellen thanks his beloved family and friends, including those friends that don’t know he exists, without whom “Glitter in the Gutter” would have never happened: Divine, John Waters, RuPaul, Venus Xtravaganza, Jackie Beat, Alexis Arquette and the short, cut-off jeans wearing construction worker from the documentary “Wigstock.”

* these bios courtesy of Annoyance Productions web-program

2 Responses

  1. It’s The Varietease Cabaret! – A collection of Chicago’s best burlesque beauties teasing you to the brink of insanity! Produced and hosted by the hottest legs and dirtiest mind in town, Backdoor Aly, and featuring all-star special guests like Miss Tamale, Mae the Bellydancer, The Honey Buns, Dizzy Lizzy Delicious, Lyra Belecqua, Pearl Pistol, Red Hot Annie, Dolls of Doom and many more. Over twenty acts from traditional, to comedy to straight up steamy, these girls know how to bring it! Live music, Kick Ass seating, Full Bar and BOOBIES! With naughty, naughty humor, this show is not for the easily offended and is guaranteed to make you laugh, come check out the Varietease Cabaret at The Lakeshore Theater!

  2. Thanks , great blog . Good Information .

    Cheers Bill

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