Monthly Archive for: ‘June, 2017’

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The Legend of Georgia McBride

The Legend of Georgia McBride. Written by Matthew Lopez, Directed by Kent Gash. Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA, 94941

An unlikely harmonic convergence between a down and out drag queen and a financially strapped Elvis impersonator is the catalyst in Matthew Lopez’s light comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride, the final production of Marin Theater Company’s 50th season. The show is perfectly timed for Gay Pride Month and features some bravura performances and snappy dialogue.

Set in a backwater town in the Florida panhandle, the story follows the rescue of Casey, a boyish, irresponsible father-to-be who loses his gig as an Elvis impersonator to two drag queens, Miss Tracy Mills and Ana Rexy Nervosa. When the latter’s drinking issue forces her out of the show, Tracy transforms Casey into an instant drag queen and Georgia McBride is born. Good thing Casey had some of the pre-requisite skills of drag; the ability to lip-sync and nice hip swivel.

Adam Magill (Native Son, Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley) is perfectly cast as Casey with his sad sack face, childish innocence and total love for his insecure wife Jo (Tatiana Wechsler). She’s wary of his irresponsibility and fearful of their financial outlook. Casey’s optimism is unrelenting; he thinks they’ll be “the best parent’s since Joseph and Mary”, to which Jo replies “yeah, but their child died!” His transformation into Georgia scene is truly funny, specially his attempt at performing “Padam Padam” as Edith Piaf. Exasperate at having to sing in French, Tracy’s sage advice is to mouth the words “watermelon mutherfucker”. Seeing the tall, gawky Magill attempt drag is a joy; of course over the course of the proceeding he will become better and better, blurring the fine line between his heterosexism and his new persona.

Jo (Tatiana Wechsler) and hubby Casey (Adam Magill). Photo by Kevin Berne.

Of course the new drag show becomes a smash success for all involved; Casey can pay his rent, Tracy can bask in the glow of fame and Eddie the bar owner can laugh all the way to the bank. Must we suspend out disbelief at the improbability of some of the plot turns? Sure. Does the 2 hour running time with no intermission make any sense? No. Are there a few too many drag performances in a very long finale? Yes. Still, The Legend of Georgia McBride wins you over with its smart dialogue, bitchy banter, and heartfelt dramatic moments.

Kraig Swartz (The Voysey Inheritance, The Madras House) is wonderful as the beleaguered, weary drag queen Tracy. She’s the down and out, yet spunky and strong character we’ve seen in films like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, To Wong Foo and Paris is Burning. She’s resilient and wise, funny and snarky. She calls out Casey’s “chickenshittery” for not telling his wife of his new found persona, which begs the question: is Casey ashamed or just worried about Jo’s reaction?

Tracy (Kraig Swartz), Rexy (Jason Kapoor) and Eddie (John R. Lewis. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Jason Kapoor (Guards at the Raj, The Invisible Hand) plays a double role as the young couple’s stoney landlord Jason and as the firebrand Rexy. Jealous of Casey’s quick success, she lectures him on the history of drag, and its purpose. “It’s a protest, a raised fist” she says. When Jo discovers Casey’s secret, she not appalled at him doing drag, she’s upset that he lied to her about it. There’s some tender moments between Casey and Tracy, and Jo and Tracy as the play winds down. Casey sees Georgia as therapy, an escape from his own failures into a stronger, wiser character. Tatiana Weshsler (The Golden Bride, Julius Caesar) makes an auspicious MTC debut, transforming from fearful expectancy to confident producer of the money-making drag show. John R. Lewis (The Jungle Book, The Memory Stick) rounds out the cast as the no-nonsense bar owner Eddie, who rolls with the flow that financial success engenders.

The Legend of Georgia McBride is good old exuberant drag fun. It doesn’t let the momentary seriousness get in the way of a good drag show. Jason Sherwood’s set evokes the cheesiness of the couple’s apartment and Eddie’s meager bar and backstage dressing room. Kara Harmon’s costumes are fun and she’s careful not to make Casey’s transformation too believable – he is after all a straight man doing drag. A powderpuff full of makeup can’t hide his 5 o’clock shadow. Kurt Landisman, one of the best lighting designers in the business, creates a tawdry lighting schema for the drag numbers including a disco ball and some strands of Xmas lighting, all befitting the crude bar interior.

They could have split this show into two acts easily and cut a few extraneous numbers, but that’s water under the bridge for this bright, bubbly laugh fest. Go see it for the fine performances and too forget the horrors surrounding us these days.

Performances run through July 9th, 2017    415.388.5200