BWW Review: THE EBONIC WOMAN: Gold Dust Orphans Superheroes Restore American Values
The Ebonic Woman
A Comic Book Farce
Written by Ryan Landry, Directed by Bubbles Goldberg (Kiki Samko), Costumes by Scott Martino, Sets by Windsor Newton, Lights by Michael Clark Wonson, Sound by Roger Moore, Additional Sound by Tad McKitterick, Music Direction by Tim Lawton, Choreography by Matt Kyle; Additional Vocals by Tad McKitterick, Vanessa Calantropo; Spotlight Operation by Elektra T. Newman, Board Operation by Anzel Lee Miller
CAST (in order of appearance): Felton Sparks, Scott Martino, Matt Kyle, Kiki Samko, Qya Marie, Adriean Delaney, Sarah Jones, Ryan Landry, Damon Singletary, Paxton Crystal, Tim Lawton, Jessica Barstis, Rose Garcia
Performances through May 26th by the Gold Dust Orphans at Machine Nightclub, 1254 Boylston Street, Boston, MA; Tickets at Brown Paper Tickets https://ebonicwoman.brownpapertickets.com
Never mind all those Marvel heroes and the new bladder buster movie "Avengers: Endgame," if you want to see a real heroine in action, line up for the Gold Dust Orphans' final show at the soon-to-be repurposed Machine Nightclub. Hennessy Brown is a brilliant scientist developing a serum ("Harmony") to eliminate racism, but in a series of events as plausible as any in a how-I-got-my-super-powers story, the young woman is transformed into a hot pink spandex-clad superhero. The Ebonic Woman accepts the mission to save the city of Lynn from the destruction planned for it by the megalomaniacal Bald Eagle, the alter ego adopted by former POTUS Donald J. Trump upon his release from ten years behind bars.
Qya Marie has moved up the ranks of the Orphans to become a dynamic leading player. She has always wowed the audience with her tremendous vocal pipes, but she earns our undying affection and hero worship in The Ebonic Woman when her character eventually rides roughshod over the Donald. Tim Lawton wears multiple hats as music director, Trump, and Bald Eagle, and his hilarious and eerily spot-on rendition of the orange one is among the finest performances I've seen him give. Aided by wig, makeup, and a revealing costume, Lawton makes sure that his character is sufficiently reviled, notwithstanding the saving grace of his powerful singing voice.
Kiki Samko takes the director's reins and wrangles all of the players into a cohesive ensemble, with several of the actors taking on two (and, in one case, three) roles. Samko herself plays Ivy League, the corrupt mayor of Lynn who is in cahoots with the con artist (and ex-con) Trump, hoping that he will help her achieve higher office. Ryan Landry is Ivy's polar opposite as her sister Aunt Gemini, a kind-hearted artist who inspires Hennessy's good works as a scientist. Gem opens her house to everyone, introducing us to Hen's hunky boyfriend Cliff Hanger (newcomer Adriean Delaney) and Cliff's father, Dr. Lowe Hanger (Damon Singletary). Lowe helps the Ebonic Woman figure out how to control her super power, and somehow gets involved in an unlikely romance with Gem. Although they may appear to be strange bedfellows, Lowe and Gem explain in a sweet duet, "You're perfect for me" (Landry's lyrics to "You're Timeless to Me" from Hairspray).
Speaking of bedfellows, Trump's mate is Polly Wannacracker (Scott Martino), a wise-cracking, smarter than she looks, moll with a pile of teased blond hair and massive, inflated breasts. Martino steals a lot of scenes and appears to be having great fun, tossing off the occasional ad lib or side eye. As usual, he has designed the incredible costumes for the show, and fills out Polly's glitzy purple dressing gown with panache. He's also created a crazy display of costumes for the members of the League of Ethnically Diverse, Sexually Fluid, Non-Denominational Super Heroes, who include Jade, aka The Green New Deal (Paxton Crystal), Hot Tamale (Rose Garcia), Aladdin (Felton Sparks), Bat Mitzvah (Jessica Barstis), and Mr. Stretch (Matt Kyle), the latter also serving as choreographer cooking up some fun dances for the heroes.
Orphan veteran Sarah Jones once again shows her range and is a hoot as she doubles as Gem's clumsy, back-talking maid Peona, and Mrs. Snark, an outspoken member of The White Ladies Paranoid Society. The latter is a Bald Eagle loyalist and one of the faces of the racism that Landry points a wagging finger at in his satirical look at where things stand. Even as line after line lands a laugh, his writing also lands a flurry of blows, expressing more transparent social and political commentary than usual. POTUS may be ripe for satire, but Landry also seamlessly weaves in numerous threads to attack the racism, bigotry, anti-immigration, and pro-white nationalist positions of the administration, and the messages have great impact being delivered by a diverse cast of Orphans.
Windsor Newton's sets are appropriately evocative of the comic book foundation of the story, and Michael Clark Wonson's lighting design employs an array of color and strobe effects to punch up the action. Roger Moore (sound) provides amplification (sometimes a little too much) for all of the musical numbers and cinematic projections. (There are great film clips at the start of the show and the beginning of the second act.) No GDO production is complete without the use of miniatures, and The Ebonic Woman does not disappoint on that front.
There are too many highlights to enumerate, but let me pick out a couple: the visual of POTUS wearing an orange jumpsuit (which matches his orange face) in a jail cell, and the musical number performed by The White Ladies Paranoid Society, brilliantly set to the tune of "Springtime For Hitler" from The Producers. Landry is on his game in this one, folks, so if you're in the mood for some super (hero) entertainment, make it The Ebonic Woman.
Photo credit: Michael von Redlich (The Ensemble of THE EBONIC WOMAN)