REVIEW: Lady X (Hell in a Handbag Productions)

This ‘Lady’ is the cat’s meow!


Lady X Production photo #7 by David as Joan

Hell in a Handbag Productions presents
Lady X
Written by David Cerda
Directed by
Derek Czaplewski
Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map)
through June 19th  |  tickets: $15-$20  |  more info

reviewed by Katy Walsh 

‘These are laugh lines.’ ‘Must have been one hell of a joke!’ Hell in a Handbag Productions presents Lady X, a world premiere spoof on melodrama films from the 1930’s and 40’s. It’s like this, sister! Lady X Publicity Photo #1 by David as JoanA bunch of dames are hoofers looking for a pushover to be the darb for a swill of gin or a night of whoopee. The new big cheese  is a woman. And she is one tough broad sizing up their gams to turn the joint into the cat’s meow. But see, this hard boiled doll ain’t on the level and is giving everybody the heebie-jeebies. A stoolie gets bumped off. A tough cookie pinched. A flim-flam floozy takes it on the kisser. Horsefeathers! Lady X celebrates the zinger genre with a campy salute to Bette Davis’ lines.

After three years of comical reruns, David Cerda puts out an original Hell in a Handbag production. Cerda is the triple threat as producer, co-author and star in Lady X. Along with director Derek Czaplewski, Cheryl Snodgrass and Adrienne Smith, Cerda has brilliantly concocted a hilarious parody on Bette Davis’ movie, “Marked Woman.” The dialogue is a riotous string of zingers. Under Czaplewski’s influence, the banter is rapid-fire deadpan brilliance. Leading the impudent charge, Annie Gloyn (Mary Dwight) is dramedy heightened. Cerda says, ‘You’re a smart girl. What’s the capital of Montana?’ Gloyn responds with, ‘It’s Helena and the state bird is Western Meadowlark.’ Gloyn escalates the dramatic cadence to explode the comedic potential. Elizabeth Lesinski (Emmy Lou Higgins) is hysterical as the dim-witted dame in the gaggle of gals. Libby Lane (Gabby Marvin) is a snorting Judy Garland incarnate. Every time Handbag’s Ed Jones (Estelle Porter) steps on stage in a dress the laugh track goes off in my head. This time in a peach flowing ball gown and munching on nachos, Jones defines funny. As always, Cerda (Scarlet Fontanelli) is delicious as a diabolical ‘bitch in heels.’

Lady X 109 by David as Joan Lady X Production Photo #9 by David as Joan Lady X Production photo #3 by David as Joan
Lady X production photo #6 by David as Joan Lady X Production photo #8 by David as Joan

‘Clothes are the sugar that make the flies come down.’ Costume designer John Nasca has put together some sweet numbers. The task can’t be easy for Nasca with Jones and Cerda hitting the 6 foot mark. Nasca is up to the task and adorns the women AND men in dresses that would be the envy of Today’s hooker. The wigs (Robert Hilliard) top off the 40’s look with platinum blonde oomph. Lady X is a flashback to the days of elegantly dressed whores with coiffed hair. A time in movie history where the leading lady was brazen with one liners. ‘If I thought this was going to be a trip down memory lane, I’d brought my scrapbook.’ Hell in a Handbag Production takes the nostalgia, adds the humor, shakes it like a bad girl and serves it up like an Atlantic Hot Pocket. Be warned: laugh lines are a side affect! Applesauce!

Rating: ★★★½

Running Time: 105 minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission

Lady X Cast/Characters

Libby Lane (Gabby Marvin), Ed Jones (Estelle Porter), Elizabeth Lesinski (Emmy Lou Higgins), Annie Gloyn (Mary Dwight), Chad (Val, Surprise Witness, Casey), David Cerda (Scarlett Fontanelli), Michael Hampton (Ape), Michael S. Miller (Ralph Crawford, Radio Announcer)Joanna P. Lind (Betty Dwight), Megan Keach (Frank Graham), David Besky (Sheldon, Crandall, Louis, Man #1, Judge)


posterIt’s a Groupon sandwich tonight. Preshow, we dine at Magnolia Café, 1224 W. Wilson. Joe is our server. He’s ‘the way I like my men and drinks, strong and loaded.’ (Maybe he’s not loaded but the guns on him are more than swell!) Insisting he can read my mind, he brings me a nice Malbec. He is gifted. It’s delicious. I pair it with the pulled pork ravioli. There is an appetizer or entrée size option. I choose the smaller version. It’s the perfect size for a preshow nosh. James shares a bite of his scallops. I like my raviolis. I love James’ scallops. They are melt-in-the mouth goodness. Dick orders up the wedge salad and burger. He enjoys the salad so much he forgets the courteous bite offering to his tablemates. Dining karma gets him when his medium requested burger arrives well done. With a $50 Groupon and tipping Joe for stellar service and strong curb appeal, it’s $22 each.

Postshow, a few doors down from the theatre is a swanky joint, In Fine Spirits, 5420 N. Clark. It’s a chilly May evening but we brave the patio instead of waiting thirty minutes for an inside table. The patio is a charming oasis with soft lighting and a central heater. In Fine Spirits has an extensive drink menu. I never remember which red wine I love here. I just know it’s one of the last three listed. Our server guessed wrong on the first try. It’s not the Lemberger. On the second round, he gets it right! I enjoy a ‘Cougar Town’ glass of Aglianico. James orders the homemade ginger ale. It has a snappy ginger bite. Dick goes with the tequila specialty cocktails. First, he sips LAMF cocktail featuring Mezcal. Then he jumps on the ginger ale bandwagon with Repo Dram. We order a cheese flight. Having recently discovered the best cheese flight (Jane’s Restaurant), I’m underwhelmed. The patio closes at 11 and much too quickly, it’s time for us to scram. With a $50 Groupon and tipping like suckers carrying a torch, it’s $15 each.

3 WORDS: Sipping Hamburger Mary’s Lady X cocktails, these gangster ale and dirty dame martini sippers describe the show as: James – Humor Harlot Harrisburg, Dick – Kristen Wiig funny!


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