BWW Reviews: Over-the-Top MIRACLE! at Intiman
Crass, over the top and offensive. Filled with bad taste, outrageous costumes and more dick jokes than you can shake … well … a dick at. If anyone asked me to describe Intiman's current production, I'd have to go with that. But did I like it? Despite a few missteps and an Act One that needs some tightening, I laughed my ass off. But then, I occasionally like crass, over the top and offensive in my theater.
At the first mention of the premise of "Miracle!" I know several people who dismissed it as "in poor taste". A retelling of "The Miracle Worker", written by activist and sex advice columnist Dan Savage, set in a drag club with Helen Keller as a wanna be drag queen. To those people I say, "Get over yourselves". Theater doesn't always have to be dignified or important. Sometimes it can just be fun and (gasp) entertaining. If not then we would never have "The Book of Mormon", "Naked Boys Singing" or anything from Charles Busch and I don't want a theater world without those. And while "Miracle!" isn't quite up to their level, it's on its way. As I said, Act One could use some tightening up. I'm not exactly sure if it was the direction or script that was suffering there but as Savage is both director and playwright then he can take this one on. Just as pre-transformation Hellen is chaotic and lacks coherence, the same feeling follows in Act One as at times the pace, jokes, and general storytelling are a bit clunky and just a few beats off. But then once Act Two hits and all of the exposition is out of the way, the play takes off into some truly wonderful places. And just as you feel and root for Helen Keller to understand how to behave and communicate in the original, so do you well up when Hellen Stellar performs her amazing drag number (brilliantly choreographed by Seattle's own drag diva Waxie Moon, aka Marc Kenison).
The performers all have some lovely moments. And I must give kudos to Jerick Hoffer (Seattle's own Jinx Monsoon) who took these ensemble actors (yes it's the same actors performing "Romeo and Juliet" and "Hedda Gabler" in the festival) and turned them into drag performers. Timothy McCuen Piggee, Michael Place and Drew Highlands turn in some absolutely hilarious numbers and tackle a lot of the narration and set up fiercely. Although Highlands needs to learn how to project and hold for laughs as I missed many of his quips that followed other catty remarks. Burton Curtis as Crystal Pain, Hellen's drag Mother and biological Father is at once a loving Mother and a bitchy queen and manages both with total grace. Hannah Victoria Franklin as Hellen's teacher Annie Sullivan takes the iconic role and turns it on its ear with her just butch enough lesbian thrown into center stage drag realm. And Marya Sea Kaminski is hysterical as the overly accommodating lesbian drag show stage manager. Savage could build an entire show around her character.
And now I hit the enter key and devote an entire paragraph to some of the "Acting Interns" as they are listed in the program. Most of these actors are just finishing up school and yet continued to steal the show in their scenes. Tsige Tafesse and Angela Rose Sink as on again off again girlfriends and dyke bar performers had me on the floor. Tafesse's angry musical rant and Sink's bitter beat poetry were some of my favorite moments of the show. Jonathan Crimeni may not have said a single word in the entire show as the drag bar's hunky bartender, Thing 1, but he managed to convey a fully formed and very funny character. And it doesn't hurt that he looks incredible in a pair of sequined booty shorts. And speaking of not speaking, let's talk about Jonathon Pyburn as the deaf and blind drag diva Hellen Stellar. Holy crap! Engaging, focused and mesmerizing are just a few adjectives that come to mind. A wonderful homage to the original work while still remaining true to the world he's in. And damn can he put on some side-splittingly awful drag numbers.
Oh and I must mention the stunningly beautiful and outrageous costumes and wigs from Erik Andor and Dennis Milam Bensie, especially Andor's patchwork quilt of a dress for Hellen's first number. Genius!
So is the show going to cure cancer, stop global warming or ease tensions in the Middle East? No. But no one said it had to. And aside from a few rocky moments it's still a fun, frothy and naughty good time. And yes, I said naughty. If you might have a problem with language, gay jokes, or simulated sex choreography on stage, then you may want to steer clear. Instead go see "Romeo and Juliet". That just has teenagers entering into a suicide pact because their parents won't let them have sex.
Photo credit: Chris Bennion