Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
April 20, 2012
Runaways all: a princess, a queen, a wife and a hat. According to local playwrights, life is hard, and escape is mandatory.
Michael came from a repressive home where his real nature was neglected, and he was forced to fulfill his mother’s desires and become a doctor. But as a pre-med student at UCSD, he discovers the dance department – and the drag scene.
“Deconstruction of a Drag Queen” takes us beyond the glitz, to tell the sad stories of these not-so-glamorous lives. Michael’s tale is taken from the painful, real-life experiences of the show’s choreographer. Anthony Diaz is a well-respected modern dancer around town, but his alter ego is Grace Towers, who fuses a passion for performance with a message of acceptance – and releasing one’s inner diva.
Circle Circle dot dot theater company bases its original plays on local interviews. With ‘Drag Queen,’ writer-director Katherine Harroff gives us another peek into another world. The show drags, so to speak, in the first act, which actually could be eliminated. The second act combines Michael’s story with those of other queens, underscored by lip-synching of diva-like songs which should be abbreviated. The cast is uneven, but they all look great in their first drag foray. The knockouts are Shaun Tuazon , adorable and charismatic as Michael, and in various roles, mega-talented Kevane La’Marr Coleman. As a trimmed-down, bespangled one-act, this show, like its performers, could really have legs.
Talk about flair: Anne Marie Houghtailing’s energy and talent got her some amazing gigs, after a culture-clashing stint in Japan and the dissolution of her marriage. A single mom has to make a living, and Houghtailing did it in some zany ways: posing as a princess, a French sex therapist and other wild characters for local parties. She tells her eye-popping tale in a one-woman show, “Renegade Princess,” which she’s about to take back to New York. The piece has a slow rise, and the anecdotes aren’t quite buttoned or transitioned smoothly enough, but Houghtailing is a highly engaging performer and a hoot to spend an evening with.
It’s harder to get a grip on Lauren Yee’s flights of fancy. In “A Man, His Wife and His Hat,” the UCSD MFA playwriting student has created a wacky world where walls talk, golems attack and regular folks become ‘ floaty ’ without the ‘grounding’ of love. The visual and linguistic imagery can be exhilarating, but there isn’t enough dramatic payoff for the surreal, absurdist setup. Janet Hayatshahi directs an excellent ensemble at Moxie Theatre.
Wondering what local writers have on their minds? These seductive productions are a great way to find out. Also, the Baldwin New Play Festival at UCSD and the Playwrights Project new works at the Lyceum. So get hip, and get going.
“Deconstruction of a Drag Queen” runs through April 21, at the 10th Avenue Theatre downtown.
“Renegade Princess” is also at the 10th Avenue Theatre, in the 4th Floor performance studio, through April 21.
“A Man, His Wife And His Hat” continues through April 29 at Moxie Theatre near SDSD.
©2012 PAT LAUNER