Matthew Lopez Unfolds a Straight Man’s Fears
by Patricia L. Morin
6th Street Playhouse’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride” highlights both the humorous and disheartening challenges for men in drag.
Boisterous Eddie (entertaining Peter Downey), the money-hungry owner of Clio’s dive bar, announces musical numbers using a small red microphone that lowers from the ceiling to center stage.
Alexander Howard plays the hero, carefree Casey, who is a devoted Elvis impersonator. But Casey is out of date: Eddie fires him and brings on a drag Show. When one of Eddie’s newly hired drag queens named Rexy (vivacious Tyler Bertolone) goes on a drunken binge, Eddie turns to Casey to replace her, or be jobless.
At first, poor, straight Casey’s is aghast; but dynamic drag queen Miss Tracy Mills (Joseph Abrego) thinks she can teach Casey how to do drag. Casey’s physical changes—including stockings, boobs, and wig—make some of the more humorous parts of the show.
The creative set by Paul Gilger features colorful rainbow umbrellas covering ceiling lights. Revolving walls and a tinsel curtain create shimmers between stage and a dressing room, overflowing with glittery outfits, undergarments, wigs, and make-up.
I was especially impressed with Amaris Blagborne’s costume designs, and the choreography by Jacob Gutierrez-Montoya and Devin Parker Sullivan.
We can see Casey struggle against transforming into a woman. He fears telling the truth to his pregnant wife, delightful Jo (versatile Jamilla Cross), who is excellent as the patient, charming wife.
But as profound Miss Mills says, “It’s hard to build a personality. … Drag is a process.”
As Miss Mills, talented Abrego hijacks the show. We lose track of Casey’s journey from straight to drag—as he struggles to find his true self.
Along his journey, Bertolone’s Rexy begins to reveal the man behind the dress. Rexy, a depressed alcoholic, shares his tortured life as the victim of gay slurs. But Rexy’s confession to Casey is brief and comes too late.
The play turns into a campy barroom circus: wearing costume glitz, strutting around the stage, engaging the audience, and flipping them a boob. The audience claps to the modern drag dance music, catching gilt chocolate coins and shouting back to the actors. Crumpled up dollar bills are thrown to the stage—in Chippendale style.
Miss Mill’s flamboyance is infectious, very much a solo performance, leading the audience to think that this is the way of drag. But they perform the “over the top” RuPaul type of drag that treats drag queens like clowns. The play does not explore refinement in the performance art, the professional singers, songwriter, and actors. This play seems out-of-date for today’s many faceted faces of drag.
Georgia is an elaborate showcase for old-fashioned drag—but we wonder what Casey is really learning about women, and what the women in the audience think of men in dresses.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” by Matthew Lopez, directed by Carl Jordan, at 6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa, California. Info: 6thStreetPlayhouse – to March, 20, 2022.
Cast: Joseph Abrego, Tyler Bertolone, Jamella Cross, Peter Downey, and Alexander Howard.
Banner photo: Jamella Cross & Alexander Howard. Photos by Eric Chazankin