Theatre Review: ‘If You Want to See the Girl Next Door, Then Go Next Door, Dammit!’

review

Note: This review was posted on the KC Stage review system.

A Very Joan Crawford Christmas, written by Jeff Church and Ron Megee, directed by Jeff Church. Produced by the Unicorn Theatre (Kansas City). Copyright 2010. (Seen December 18, 2010.)

Warning: the following review contains some adult language. (As if you couldn’t tell from the title.)

Ron Megee is the consummate cross-dresser, and as Joan Crawford in the Unicorn’s production of A Very Joan Crawford Christmas, it shows. From the damn fine legs to the wearing well of a plethora of costumes, Megee owns the stage from beginning to end in this very bizarre offering of a Christmas show.

Kudos go out to the props/set dressing — with a set straight out of the late ’50s, including plastic on the God-awful couch, a big congrats to the fact that they had old-style Pepsi bottles among the plethora of booze on the alcohol trolley on stage (where in the hell do you get Pepsi bottles from the 60s????). And the special effects (especially the end of Act I) were awesome (poor tree).

The plot is hard to describe without giving too much of the ending away. Joan is the ultimate host, though, and Megee rolled with the punches when things didn’t quite go according to plan. (And in this production, when the actors were obviously trying hard not to laugh, it actually worked for the show.)

The first act is the weaker of the two, and Megee’s larger than life Crawford just doesn’t quite come off in such an intimate setting. It doesn’t help that (shh — don’t tell anyone) I’m not that familiar with Crawford’s movies (I honestly can’t tell you if I’ve ever seen any of them or not). However, there were some highlights in the first act, including the undressing of Jeff Smith (and can I just say — DAMN! It says something when this one actor in five minutes of near-nudity was sexier than the entire “Brawny Britches” offering at the Fringe Festival) and the appearance of Dorian Gray Adams-Megee (the dog) as Princess Lotus Blossom (poor dog!). While it wasn’t bad (and had quite a few laughs), for the most part, it played for me like a joke I’m not quite clued into.

However, the second act takes off like a demented dodo in flight. The sound design helps, with music cues straight out of a movie that indicate when things are going well, and — of course — when things go apeshit bat crazy. Here, Jessica Dressler (as Bette Davis — kind of — it’s hard to explain without spoiling the plot) shines, toying with Crawford in a way only mirrored (I’m sure) by What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? I can’t say much more without ruining it, but the ending is priceless and had me giggling for a good few hours after.

Like Crawford’s choice of drink of Pepsi and vodka (“I’ve learned to love it – it’s tasty, but it burns!”), A Very Joan Crawford Christmas is far more interesting than it sounds. The show has been extended until January 2, and I heartily recommend it for all you demented types. Merry fucking Christmas, indeed.