Review: THE GOLDEN GIRLS SAVE XMAS at Hell In A Handbag Productions

The holiday parody runs through December 30th at the Center on Halsted

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: THE GOLDEN GIRLS SAVE XMAS at Hell In A Handbag Productions

Ho-ho-hold on to your garters and gather up the gals, because a new theatrical holiday offering has landed in North Halsted. As sweet as a slice of cheesecake and as spicy as a raunchy joke shared between friends, the world premiere of Hell in a Handbag Productions' THE GOLDEN GIRLS SAVE XMAS runs through December 30th at The Center on Halsted.

Written by Artistic Director David Cerda, THE GOLDEN GIRLS SAVE XMAS imagines a "lost episode" of the beloved TV show of the 80s and 90s in which Blanche accidentally incapacitates a gentleman caller named Nick (yes, the canonized one). With Santa out for the count and Christmas in jeopardy, Blanche and her roommates Dorothy, Sophia, and Rose set out to deliver presents and holiday cheer with the help of Mrs. Claus, two naughty elves, friends old and new, and a certain adulterous ex-husband.

Cerda’s newest addition to his collection of Golden Girls parodies showcases his adeptness at capturing the voices and personalities of these adored characters while amping up the ribald humor and sprinkling in a healthy amount of cultural meta-commentary. It helps that Cerda’s script is brought to life by talented performers who clearly love these women as much as audiences do. In addition to being the playwright, Cerda plays Dorothy Zbornak with the same quick, dry wit that Bea Arthur first brought to the role nearly forty years ago. Grant Drager captures the confidence of the promiscuous Blanche Devereaux while intentionally skewering her unplaceable Southern accent, and Ed Jones is delightfully endearing as the naively optimistic Rose Nylund. A special commendation goes to director Frankie Leo Bennett for jumping in to the role of Dorothy’s mother, Sophia Petrillo (normally played by Ryan Oates), on the night I saw the production. Bennett trades cantankerous barbs with such rapidity and ease that one would never know that he wasn’t originally cast in the role, save for a handful of negligible line jumps.

The other characters, most of them original to this production, are admirably performed by the rest of the ensemble, even if the roles do not feel as fully realized as the four leads. Eustace Allen and Tyler Anthony Smith contrast one another nicely as the elves Happy and Kyle, respectively, though Smith’s manic energy and under-the-breath ad libs are particularly entertaining. Michael Rashid delights as the boisterous Jewish neighbor Esther, and Danne W. Taylor shines in his deadpan portrayal of a geriatric Nancy Drew (yes, the girl detective one). But Robert Williams gets some of the biggest cheers of the evening as both the bossy, beautiful Mrs. Claus and the master of ceremonies who kicks off the show with a rousing rendition of the sitcom’s signature theme song.

That being said, there are occasionally too many extraneous characters on stage, which created some pacing issues in the second act as the titular girls go from location to location delivering presents. And some jokes that carry over from previous parody episodes may be inscrutable to first-time patrons. But for those who are diehard fans of the original show and willing to embrace Handbag’s signature scathing sense of humor, THE GOLDEN GIRLS SAVE XMAS makes for a riotously funny evening spent with family and friends.

Photo Credit: Rick Aguilar Studios