As sweet as a slice of cheesecake, the latest Lost Episode comes with a healthy side of laughs.

By: Dec. 07, 2022
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Christmas comes early for fans of "The Golden Girls." David Cerda and the entire Hell in a Handbag Productions gang are back with another rip-roaring edition of THE GOLDEN GIRLS: THE LOST EPISODES. This entry is subtitled THE OBLIGATORY HOLIDAY SPECIAL and it is sure to delight fans of both the original show and the parody tributes written by Cerda (who does double duty here as deep-voiced and broad-shouldered Dorothy here). It runs through Dec. 30, 2022 at The Hoover-Leppen Theatre at The Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halstead.

The show is as comforting as a big slice of cheesecake served up with a healthy dollup of laughs. It opens up with the gals all preparing for their individual holidays. Rose (the under-rated and always comedically-brilliant Ed Jones) is packing for a trip back to her home town of St. Olaf where she will be crowned queen of the herring festival. Blanche (an appropriately sultry Grant Drager) hopes to spend time with her daughter and new grandbaby. Dorothy (Cerda) and her cranky mom Sophia (Ryan Oats) are looking forward to some quiet time on their lanai.

Things are thrown a wrench when Sophia's best bud from Shady Pines, Nancy Drew (played at the review performance by understudy Robert-Eric West for an ailing Danne W. Taylor) is distraught as the moderate income retirement home (the last "nice" one left in Miami) is on the verge of closing, leaving all of its residents homeless for the holidays.

Review: THE GOLDEN GIRLS: THE LOST EPISODES -THE OBLIGATORY HOLIDAY SHOW at Hell In A Handbag Productions The Girls decide to band together, gather signatures to stop the closing and put on a holiday talent show to convince Councilman Hardin (Michael Miller) to back their initiative to block the closure. The holiday show includes a love/hate spoof of "Baby It's Cold Outside" for Dorothy and Sophia, a strip tease number for Balanche (PG-13, this is, after all, "The Golden Girls") and parody of "Frosty The Snowman" for Rose the encapsulates that character's signature, over-the-top stories about St. Olaf.

Lori Lee as a Shady Pines resident named Clara, Michael Rashid, as the Gals' over-the-top Jewish friend Esther, Coco Sho-Nell as Wanda (a woman with a secret past) and Terry McCarthy's Nurse Ursala (she from the Nurse Ratched school of nursing) all succeed in amping up the zany chaos.

Keith Ryan's wig designs for the show perfectly capture the signature look of the sitcom characters. Robert-Eric West's costume designs are also appropriate for each of the characters with Blanche's strip tease outfit and Rose's herring gown rightfully earn all the laughs they get when we first see the gals in these outfits.

Cerda has ditched the shorter, multiple-episode format previously used in prior editions of THE LOST EPISODES for a two-act show that is very much in keeping with both extended holiday specials as well as the signature "very special episode" vehicles that were popular in television sitcoms at the time when "The Golden Girls" originally aired. Direction by Jeff Award-winning Spenser Davis keeps things moving at a brisk pace, so the show never really drags and you don't miss the shorter episode format.

Review: THE GOLDEN GIRLS: THE LOST EPISODES -THE OBLIGATORY HOLIDAY SHOW at Hell In A Handbag Productions It is obvious the Cerda has an affinity for these characters (the parody here is not quite as biting as it sometimes is in his other works), but that helps to explain the appeal that every edition of the LOST EPISODES has had among fans of the original show as well as Handbag's own cult following of their brand of camp theater. He knows these characters and continues to do them justice (Hollywood: if there is every a reboot of the show, Cerda should be in the writer's room).

The original sitcom found an audience with the LGBTQ+ community in part to the "found family" aspect of the girls (only Sophia and Dorothy are related by blood). And Cerda's script certainly makes it clear that the holidays are chaotic, funny and heart-warming whether they are spent with blood-relatives or those we choose as our family. This "Girls" certainly is golden.

All photos courtesy of Rick Aguilar Studios.