Saturday, June 24, 2017

What’s Drag Got to Do With It?

 
Timothy McCuen Piggee and Adam Standley in The Legend of Georgia McBride (Chris Bennion)
The Legend of Georgia McBride
ACT Theatre
Through July 2, 2017

Adam Standley continues to show his considerable talent for captivating a theater audience in his latest outing: The Legend of Georgia McBride at ACT Theatre by Matthew Lopez. The show is a rollicking good time (though maybe a bit “old fashioned” by now) as it focuses on a straight man becoming a drag queen (gasp! how shocking!).

Casey is at his wits’ end when his boss, Eddie, fires him from being an Elvis impersonator in order to let the boss’s cousin perform a drag show. And right when he bounced the rent check and finds out his wife, Jo, is pregnant! He’s asked to bartend, but then suddenly a drugged out drag queen fails her duty and who else is there to step in? Hurry, hurry, you must put on that dress and mean it!

There’s not a lot of mystery to the show. There’s just a lot of good time entertainment! The small cast is clearly having fun and the costumes and wigs put the entire show over the top!
 
Director David Bennett keeps the good times rolling with the help of a cluttered, ingeniously simple set by Matthew Smucker. The clutter is easily recognizable as a backstage area, and a couch rises and falls from the middle to sketch in the rundown rental that Casey and Jo live in. And when the lights (by Robert Aguilar) dim around the middle of the stage, you’re instantly watching the stage performance in the club.

Standley starts out showing his dance moves as Elvis and continues to wiggle and waggle through his transformation into Georgia McBride. He also sings and plays guitar, as live music is added to this mostly lip-synced show. He also brings a lovely pathos to his relationship with Nastacia Guimont as Jo, and they both demonstrate a solid chemistry.

Jeff Steitzer plays the gruff and lovable Eddie and is not afraid of looking silly in a variety of holiday hats. Charles Smith has a number of very quick changes as he plays both a dragged out queen, Rexy (short for Anorexia Nervousa) and Casey’s friend and landlord, Jason. Smith does a solid job as each, but he really needs to pull himself up tall and Give the Speech at the end (with less artifice and more conviction). Rexy is called upon to make Casey understand where drag and Gay history “came from” and it’s not pretty. But it is the key moment the whole play should be for.

Most of the scenes with Timothy McCuen Piggee are stolen by him, by design. Piggee is the tall, loud drink-of-water named Miss Tracy, and most of the fantastic costumes and wigs that adorn him by costumer Pete Rush and wig maker Dennis Milam Bensie create a FABULOUS stage persona. He is bigger than life and knows it!

Music director Rich Gray and choreographer Jessica Low do up the musical numbers so they crackle and pop. There are lots of familiar divas.

There are some solid laugh-out-loud jokes and most of the time you’ll likely have a big grin on your face. Here in Seattle, we’re not amazed or shocked by a straight guy getting in a dress for a show, but there are plenty of places in the country where people might have difficulty getting used to that. The play is set in the South, where homophobia is likely more rampant, in terms of theater-goers.

This is a tame production family-wise, aside from a few swearwords. So, come on down for a rip-roaring good time!

For more information, call 206-292-7676 or go to www.acttheatre.org