BWW Reviews: DROP DEAD PERFECT Showcases the Legendary Everett Quinton
Like the difference between East Coast Hip Hop and West Coast Hip Hop - which I couldn't explain even if you threatened me with bottom shelf gin - you might say New York theatre drag can be divided between the disciples of Charles Busch's Theatre-in-Limbo and Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company.
In contrast to the elegance and RKO Hollywood inspired sophistication of Busch's high drag, the Ludlam school camps in earthier gothic tones that relish what some may deem as grotesque. Since the master of the ridiculous passed on in 1987, his esteemed artistic partner Everett Quinton, the long-time second banana of the duo, has been stepping into the spotlight on occasion, demonstrating his beloved expertise in a theatrical form that desperately needs preservation.
Drop Dead Perfect, the new comedy penned by the pseudonymous Erasmus Fenn, certainly demonstrates a knowledgeable affection for the Ridiculous style and director Joe Brancato's skilled quartet of actors throw themselves admirably into the parodistic proceedings, but the evening never takes off into the kind of hilarity expected.
In a story that combines aspects of The Glass Menagerie, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and I Love Lucy, Quinton is a model of matronly respectability barely masking the tyrannical hissings of Idris Seabright, a lonely 1950s Florida dowager keeping a firm grasp on her young ward, Vivien (an excellent Jason Edward Cook). Vivien, who walks with a brace, yearns to move to Greenwich Village to become a bohemian sculpture. A reveal of her latest artistic effort displays a suitably homoerotic talent. Idris is a portrait painter who isn't above going to extreme lengths to make sure her subjects stay still.
Quinton and Cook share a wonderfully brittle chemistry and each partakes in some solid physical shtick as well as comical dance turns with Jason Cruz, who plays the scheming Cuban seducer that sets the plot in motion. Michael Keyloun plays Seabright's hapless lawyer, an amateur magician, with droll Vincent Price-like charm.
With top notch work by James J. Fenton (set), Ed McCarthy (lights), Charlotte Palmer-Lane (costumes) and William Neal (dramatic film score sound), Drop Dead Perfect is designed as handsomely as it is acted, but a stronger vehicle to show off its legendary star is definitely in order.