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

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

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