BWW Review: DRAMA QUEENS FROM HELL - A PC Sunset Blvd. Gone Awry
DRAMA QUEENS FROM HELL/by Peter Lefcourt/directed by Terri Hanauer/Odyssey Theatre/thru September 25, 2016
Playwright Peter Lefcourt manages to cram every current political hot topic into DRAMA QUEENS FROM HELL, his two-act dramedy on the proposed re-make of the classic Sunset Boulevard. DRAMA QUEENS FROM HELL's chronicling the beginnings of Gerard, an indie director's quest to cast his remake of the Gloria Swanson-starrer, has the benefit of the frequent witty one-liners, biting disses and smarting comebacks.
But for some inexplicable reason, show fizzles out in the end with the entire cast singing (spoiler alert!) at a main character's funeral. Also an acceptance speech segment for the three competing actresses, that further their individual political agendas, does nothing for forwarding the plot.
A most innovative use of intermixing the auditionees reading scenes from Sunset Boulevard with the screened actual film footage overdubbed with the auditionees 'updated' lines. Too funny!
An accomplished director in her own right, Terri Hanauer directs her husband's script at a fast and smooth a clip as makes sense. The cast of six, all committed to their passionate, crazy, desperate characters fare from ok to scene-stealing.
Primary scene-stealer Chad Borden, embodies his transitioning Brianne (formerly Brian) with much commitment and lots of stage presence. Borden's Brianne takes the stage and commands it, to all others' peril.
The supporting role of Gerard's newly-hired receptionist presently surprises demanding your attention as Andrew Diego certainly delivers as the gay ("not trans") Raphael. Diego's Raphael has so much 'bad' attitude, it's funny! He consistently answers the phone sharply with, "Sunset Blvd. Speak!"
Ms. Christopher Callen defiantly works her character Maxine's desperate determination in keeping at her acting profession, in spite of her advancing years.
Dee Freeman valiantly strives through her angry, militant role of the African-American actress Felicia threatening to sue for discrimination if not allowed to audition for the traditionally Caucasian role of Norma Desmond.
Rick Podell as the low-rung talent agent Artie Paramecium gets his moment (actually two) in the spotlight sitting on a wheeled-out commode. Podell's strong signing pipes get revealed in the aforementioned funeral finale.
In a variety of roles, Paul Galliano narrates the play as the murdered Gerard, in between limning the director (alive) and various acting coaches.
Nice touch to have each character's phones' ringtones distinctive and character-appropriate.
While some outfits for those auditioning for Norma Desmond were right on target, others were quite a stretch to believe Ms. Desmond would have such a frock in her closet. Credit or not goes to Mylette Nora. A curious miss would be the funereal shroud Galliano has to parade around in as dead Gerard. But a big high-five for the three actresses' mourning attire.
Nicely staged movements of make-up tables (and other tables) on-and-off the stage platforms (clean set design by Pete Hickok). Kudos to choreographer Tracy Silver for her "Pretty Woman" number - totally stolen by Borden with a most apparent dance training/background.