David Cerda has done it once again. The gifted performer and prolific playwright mines every ounce of humor from his LGBTQ parodies of well-known TV and film classics like “The Golden Girls” and “The Poseidon Adventure.”
This time around, Chicago’s Countess of Camp has loosely adapted “The Bad Seed,” that famous, b & w psychological horror-thriller film from the 1950’s about a seemingly perfect little girl who will stop at nothing—not even murder—to get what she wants.
In Cerda’s gender-bending, mannered melodrama, the perfect little girl has been changed into Carson, the perfect little boy. This child, however, likes to wear outlandish wigs and dress in girl’s clothing. And, since it’s 2019, Carson also prefers to use non-binary pronouns (they, their, them).
Connie Lingus, the little boy’s adoring mother, absolutely worships her child and smothers Carson with adoration. She diffuses tense situations by asking, “What would you give me for a basket of kisses?” And Carson always answers, with mock innocence, “Why, I’d give you a basketful of hugs.
But while Lingus is proud of her perfect child’s many talents, she’s blind to Carson’s other secret accomplishments, which include lying, stealing and much, much worse.
In a nod to Raul Paul’s “Drag Race,” Cerda has changed the movie’s penmanship competition from the movie to a contest more in keeping with the strengths of the Hell in a Handbag company.
In addition to Connie’s love, Carson wants to win the rhinestone-encrusted crown that will proclaim them the winner of the upcoming drag competition. With appropriate fanfare, the pageant is held at the Josephine Baker Rainbow Academy for Gifted Children, one of the most revolutionary, broad-minded schools in America
Carson’s progressive teacher, Miss Ficus, supports all her students, equally. But when young Summer Breeze is awarded the tiara, she heaps lots of praise upon the accomplished auburn-haired child. Carson becomes murderously jealous and their evil nature ignites and begins to flame out of control, with revenge filling the air.
Returning to Hell in a Handbag, where she directed such hit shows as “Scarrie the Musical,” “The Birds” and “Die! Mommie, Die!” Cheryl Snodgrass astutely guides her cast in another bravado production. Gregory Graham, who costumed the Valentine edition of HIAH’s “Golden Girls,” goes wild with the spangles and lacy frills for this latest Cerda satire. Keith Ryan and Sydney Genco lend their respective talents to appropriately amplified wig and makeup designs.
But, as always with Cerda’s camp creations, it’s the brilliant cast that makes his work shine with special brilliance.
The reigning queen of comedy for this company is, and always will be, Ed Jones. Known and loved as Lana Turner in “L’Imitation of Life,” Estelle in “Lady X” and Rose Nylund in all “The Golden Girls: Lost Episodes” installments, Jones is hilarious here as Connie Lingus. No one conveys an expression of “What the hell is happening?” better. And Ed Jones is the absolute master of the audience double-take guaranteed to evoke belly laughs. Brava, once again, to the exquisite, incomparable Ed Jones!
Kristopher Bottral, who’ll be remembered for their solid, layered female characterizations in “Miracle!,” “Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer” and, of course, “Christmas Dearest,” is magnificent as young, non-binary child, Carson. Bottral, who also performs in drag as Kalli Mauri, adds yet one more outstanding role to an already distinguished resume.
The supporting cast is terrific. Kelly Anchors is PC perfection as New Age educator, Miss Ficus. The always reliable Sydney Genco plays Jennifer Frittata, the sexy next-door neighbor who suspects there’s something foul going on in the Lingus household.
The mistress of runny mascara, Elizabeth Lesinski whose Annie Sullivan in “Miracle!” was a work of sheer genius, portrays weeping Wendy Breeze. And Tyler Anthony Smith gets a workout, making his Handbag debut, by playing no less than four roles. He’s especially delightful, however, as young chanteuse, Summer Breeze. Not to be forgotten, the master himself, David Cerda plays Miss Charles with his signature eye rolls and dry delivery of dialogue that brings down the house.
This show kills with its outrageous, adult-themed comedy, and marks another hit parody for Cerda and his wonderful theatrical company that leaves ‘em dead.
With so many movies and television shows still ripe for the ridiculing, Hell in a Handbag, with its hilarious satires and over-the-top performances, has an unlimited supply of untapped material.
DETAILS: “Drag Seed” is presented by Hell in a Handbag at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark, Chicago, through Aug. 24, 2019. Tickets are available at the door, by calling (800) 838-3006 or by visiting dragseed.
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago