BWW Review: DIRTY SECRETS: A GOLDEN GIRLS LOST EPISODE: Fond Memories With a Twist
Dirty Secrets: A Golden Girls Lost Episode
Written and Directed by Michael Gaucher, Musical numbers written by Fresh Fruit alumni Peter Gaioni and Michael Gaucher, Choreography by Brian Washburn and Michael Gaucher, Set Design by Michael Gaucher, Lighting Design by Susan Esthera, Costume Design by Michael Gaucher and Rodney VanDerwarker, Sound Design by Susan Esthera and Sam Mili, Projection Design by Duval Rodriguez and Joshua Roberts
CAST: Blake Siskavich, Joshua Roberts, Brooks Reeves, Joey Lachimia
Performances on select dates (Th-Sun) through November 18 by Bitter Bitch Productions at Club Cafe, 209 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA; Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com
The Golden Girls sitcom aired on NBC-TV from September, 1985, through May, 1992, receiving critical acclaim, numerous awards, and earning a place in the hearts of its viewers. Although it has been out of production for more than a quarter of a century, it has rarely left the airwaves, thanks to syndication and various other platforms, allowing people who missed it the first time around, or who weren't even born when it debuted, to become avid fans. One of those newer disciples is playwright/director Michael Gaucher, whose Bitter Bitch Productions brings a live edition to the stage at Club Cafe. Dirty Secrets: A Golden Girls Lost Episode is your chance to get up close and personal with the other Fab Four in Gaucher's original story, complete with song, dance, and 1980s commercials.
If anything, Dirty Secrets is a labor of love for all involved and requires no heavy lifting by the audience. Just sit back, relax, eat dinner (if you so choose), and wait for the waves of laughter to roll over you. Like many sitcom plots, the story is silly and barely plausible, but the cast members take their job (if not themselves) seriously and sell it. The premise is that Blanche (Brooks Reeves) is being blackmailed for having appeared in a homemade porn film many years ago. Her only hope of coming up with the demanded $50,000 is to enter a Miami talent show with Dorothy (Blake Siskavich) and Rose (Joshua Roberts), even if naysayer Sophia (Joey Lachimia) thinks its a lost cause.
In case you haven't already figured it out, this is a drag parody, and it is great fun to watch the actors transform not only into the opposite gender, but to really capture the characterizations of the beloved housemates. Aided by the delicious costume design (Rodney VanDerwarker and Gaucher) and the familiar kitchen setting (set design by Gaucher), the cast hits the deck running, almost as if they've played these roles before. Holding her pocketbook on her lap and wearing her eyeglasses on a chain, Sophia is instantly recognizable, and Lachimia has great timing while delivering some of the show's best zingers with the right amount of snark. Dorothy's sarcasm is on full display, and Siskavich uses his height and bulk to advantage, especially when channeling the well-known Bea Arthur stare. Poor, addled Rose is the target of many of the zingers, but blithely recites her St. Olaf stories without a care in the world. Roberts needs to find a deeper connection to the character, but he is a strong singer/dancer who connects well with his cast mates.
Blanche is the focus of the story and Reeves wows in his drag debut. With a wig and makeup that actually make him resemble Annette Bening more than Rue McClanahan, he gets firmly in touch with his inner slut and Southern belle to create a character that is tantalizing, charming, and surprisingly sympathetic. The antics required of him in this role are about as far removed as you can imagine from other roles we've seen him play, but Reeves seems to be really enjoying himself. On occasion, he steps out into the audience and flirts, à la Blanche, with a few men at tables near the stage, but that behavior takes a back seat to the flamboyant song and dance he performs in a body-clinging, red sheath dress.
For the talent show, the trio is attired in colorful over-the-top, frilly cover-ups, later to be removed revealing indescribable leotards for their spot on dance to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" (as adapted by Gaioni and Gaucher). Put this number in the risqué material category which spices things up, in keeping with the title of the show. Mostly Dirty Secrets falls in the PG-R range, but definitely leave the kiddies at home. There is also a smattering of modern day political barbs, but they feel anachronistic at best, and usually get lost in the shuffle. The girls are more adept at poking one another and it seems a shame to interrupt the fun we're having with them in the 1980s to interject the reality of today.
Speaking of the 80s, this is one time that you can't fast forward through the commercials, nor will you mind. Projected on the side walls of the room, they offer a fun ride in the wayback machine, featuring such celebrities as Brooke Shields and Don Meredith, and who can forget the ubiquitous Wendy's ad tagline, "Where's the beef?" Gaucher and his team have covered all the bases to pay tribute to one of the all-time great television sitcoms while making it feel like we are actually watching a tv show. The audience gets to sing along with the opening theme song and, at the performance I attended, it was a robust chorus and everyone knew the words. That ought to tell you something.
Photo credit: Courtesy Bitter Bitch Productions (Joshua Roberts, Blake Siskavich, Brooks Reeves)