REVIEW: Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer

  
  

The Queer Meaning of Christmas: Always Be Yourself

  
  

Rudolph finale by David as Joan

  
Hell in a Handbag Productions presents
   
Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer
   
Book/Lyrics by David Cerda 
Music by
David Cerda w/ Scott Lamberty
Directed by
Derek Czaplewski
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map)
through Jan 1  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Hell In a Handbag Productions have run their queerlicious holiday spoof, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer for 13 years, yet it’s Christmas theme could not be more current or relevant than if it were written yesterday. Directed by Derek Czaplewski, this Santa Claus (Michael Hampton) is as Scrooge as they come, running the North Pole like a sweatshop. His terrorized elf population scrambles for job security since he’s outsourced most of the toy manufacturing to India. To generate extra income, Santa cynically develops a series of reality TV Mrs. Claus loses her balance. by David as Joanshows for NPN (North Pole Network). Sam the Snowman (Christopher Carpenter) lays out the whole scene with casual and realistic world-weariness, just right for this particular recessionary season.

Into this milieu, Jane (Danni Smith) and Tom Donner (Chad) give birth to Rudolph (Alex Grelle), a sweet little reindeer with an instinctual love for feminine attire. Fresh from the womb, Rudolph can already spot Chanel and Prada on other women and lusts in his heart to wear them himself. But mom and dad fear gender non-conformity just won’t go over well in the gossipy and economically strapped environs of Christmastown. So, they force Rudolph into overalls and trot him out to the reindeer games to put a little butch into his act.

The big butch of the reindeer games, Coach Comet (David Besky), uses his position to put the moves on his young reindeer charges. But, like any classic closet case, he – like everyone else – rejects Rudolph when his unstoppable femme side emerges. While reviling base hypocrisy is de rigueur element for LGBTQ comedy, Hell in a Handbag’s spry and professional cast keeps to the situation fresh, the jokes well-timed and humanely on message. David Cerda’s humorous script holds up fabulously well; it helps that the original Christmas cartoon is also about being yourself, no matter what societal pressures deny who and what you are. Cerda and crew boost the original cartoon with a ton of salacious queer fun and Brigitte Ditmars’ choreography makes the most of a tight stage at Mary’s Attic.

     
Trailer Trash Barbie by David as Joan Meet Coach Comet by David as Joan
The Dragbeast! The Abominable Dragbeast (David Cerda, center) massacre's a Lady Gag_0007 North Pole Smackdown by David as Joan

Rudolph loses the town’s support but gains a reindeer girlfriend, Clarice (Jennifer Shine), who regales the audience with how HOT his red hose make her. Then there’s Rudolph’s ally Herbie, the elf who wants to be a dentist, who Dan Hickey executes with nostalgic and dorky perfection. Once this pair make it to the Island of Misfit Toys, the audience not only gets to revel in Chad’s exact portrayal of Charlie-in-the-Box, but also the Half-Naked Cowboy (Chad Ramsey), Trailer Trash Barbie (Terry McCarthy) and the Choo-Choo Train (Barbara Figgins) with square wheels.

That Cerda, as the Abominable Drag Beast, tries her grab at fame in a Gaga-esque meat dress, while Ed Jones goes beyond the beyond as Santa’s drunken wife, puts the cherry and nuts on top of Hell in a Handbag’s confection. It’s so bad it’s good for you. But most of all, for all its celebration of pervy practices, Rudolph, the Red-Hosed Reindeer restores a little innocent sweetness to a holiday made hard, jaded and meaningless by rampant commercialism. Always be yourself—that’s the best Christmas message I’ve heard in a long time and something meant to last the whole year round.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
   
   

Christmastown! by David as Joan

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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
at
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)

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REVIEW: The….Curse of Dragula (Even and Odd Theatricals)

Be who you are. Love what you do.

 

Ed Jones as Dragula2

 
Even and Odd Theatricals present
 
The Bloody Fabulous Curse of Dragula
 
by Duane Scott Cerny
directed by Mark Contorno
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map)
through April 23rd (more info | tickets)

Reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

At a drag show, one expects low budget, gritty in your face comedy and music. At The Bloody Fabulous Curse of Dragula, the low budget aspect is more church basement than back alley, and the jokes are traditional drag queen fare: raunchy as all get up and a throwback to vaudevillian one liners ("I’m still big," laments Dragula, "it’s the necklines that got small") and amazingly campy puns ("Does the Countess receive royalty?" "No, but she is expecting a check."). While Countess Dragula is an undead creature of the night who resides in a castle atop a mountain in Transylvania, this wacky spoof is more RuPaul than Rue Morgue. Dragula is equal parts a send up of Dracula and Sunset Boulevard. The Gloria Swanson-esque Countess swoons around her castle in a black jumper, costume jewelry, and a black turban,  remembering her glory days, bedding all the great actors of the silent Dragula and Max 1screen. She lives with her man servant/husband, a combination of Dracula’s Renfield and Sunset’s Max Von Mayerling, Max Von Tampon (Michael Miller).  Mr. Miller’s performance is a highlight of the night, with his unwavering and stoic commitment. Dragula herself is played by uber-muggy Ed Jones, and is confident with a very sweet side. Although his performance is inconsistant, Mr. Jones radiates the underlying joy of Dragula, a take it or leave it farce that requests of it’s audience only that they have fun. 

We meet the Countess as a washed up, depressed, attention and money starved vampire diva. Her luck changes one day when a handsome screenwriter Joe Studlione (David Besky) stumbles upon her castle while scouting locations (just go with it). Dragula sees her second chance at fame, and pays him to stay with her on the mountain top and edit her comeback screenplay. But, as in life, nothing good can last, and before she knows it, Dragula’s Deliverence-like extended family has barged into her life, hoping that she will open her heart and her pocketbook to them.  The crazy plot is complimented by nonstop punny, dirty, hit-or-miss jokes. Although avid drag fans will want more music (there is one lonely song in Dragula) playwright Duane Scott Cerny has made a point to pen a play starring a drag queen, not a just a drag show.

Countess Dragula’s castle is adorned with pictures of herself as a young movie star, as well as autographed photos of her celebrity friends (a signed head shot of Anderson Cooper reads "Thank you, Dragula. Thanks to you I can now take a 360." Whatever that means, it’s funny). A truly fabulous antique-looking velvet loveseat dresses the set, as does a small table, a few chairs and a long line of TV-dinner trays. In the limited (but versatile) space provided by Mary’s Attic, there’s not room for much more. Director Mark Contorno no frills staging gets the point across without major innovation (don’t forget, this show is in a bar).

Michael Miller plays Max with Dragula Ed Jones as Dragula

Dragula is not going to win any Jeff Awards. It probably wouldn’t even win RuPaul’s Drag Race. But it doesn’t need those petty things to have a good time. The Bloody Fabulous Case of Dragula encompases the absolute best aspect of drag performance: be who you are, and love what you do. Luckily for us, this cheerful cast does just that. 

 
Rating: ★★★
 

 

Starring Ed Jones & Michael Miller, with David Besky, Craig Conover, Dan Hickey & Lori Lee.  Written by Duane Scott Cerny. Directed by Mark Contorno

Previews begin March 18th thru 20th. Opens Thursday, March 25th thru April 23rd. All shows @ 7:30 pm – at Mary’s Attic Theatre, 5400 N. Clark, Chicago 1-773-784-6969
www.hamburgermaryschicago.com/attic.php

Tickets: $15.00 & $20.00. Call 1-800-838-3006 or www.BrownPaperTickets.com/event/96176