Takes Both a Serious and Humorous Look at the World of Drag
TR Robertson.. ..Cygnet’s 99th production left the audience standing, applauding and dancing on the opening night of Matthew Lopez’s comedy, “The Legend of Georgia McBride”. Four members of the five person cast were making their Cygnet debut and what a play they were selected to be in. Under the direction of Sean Murray, co-founder of Cygnet Theatre and former Producer of the Year Award winner, the audience entered the world of Drag performers as seen through the eyes of playwright Matthew Lopez and some of his past experiences.
The play centers around a young couple, living in Panama City Beach, Florida, struggling to make ends meet and keep their heads above eviction. Casey, played by Spencer Bang who is making his regional theatre debut, tries to see the positive in everything, even when things are spiraling down around him. He has a passion for his part time gig as an Elvis impersonator at Cleo’s Bar. Casey is married to Jo, played by Alexandra Slade making her Cygnet debut, who finds it hard to smile or laugh about their situation, as she struggles to hold down her job and bring in enough to make the rent payments. Casey’s world will soon go upside down as he finds out from the owner of the bar, Eddie, that things need to change and Eddie wants to bring in his cousin Bobby, who is now known as Miss Tracy Mills, a Drag performer. Eddie is played by Lance Carter, also making his Cygnet debut. Miss Tracy is played by David McBean, a Cygnet veteran and San Diego Critic’s Circle Craig Noel Award winner. Miss Tracy is accompanied by another Drag performer, Anorexia Nervosa, a.k.a Rexy. Rexy has a bit of a drinking problem, a bit of an attitude and quite a story to tell of growing up gay and the abuse surrounding this experience. Rexy is played by another Cygnet newcomer, Chesley Polk. Polk also plays Jason, Casey’s landlord.
Photos by Daren Scott
The play takes the audience into the world of Drag as we watch Casey go through the decision of joining the Drag production, in order to keep his job of performing at the bar, how to deal with his pregnant wife and trying to determine who he really is. A wonderfully funny scene is Casey’s first experience in drag, trying to lip synch an Edith Piaf song in French with instructions from Miss Tracey. As Casey grows to love what he is doing, he is conflicted as he is now making a decent living, but keeping the truth behind how he is doing this from his wife. Casey will go through the development of his own persona and settles on Miss Elvis, using his love for Elvis’s style and music as his stage gimmick.
As the play develops we learn about the world of Drag performers, why they choose to perform on stage and the stress and trauma they go through at different times in their life. Another moving scene is Rexy, sitting with Casey, recounting what his life was like growing up and what Casey needs to understand about this world. “Drag is a lifestyle not chosen but born into, Drag is a lot of things, baby, but Drag is not for sissies”. Casey receives lots of “help” from people around him as he struggles with who he is and what he wants in life. Jo tells him, “You can’t move thru life cleaning up your messes, you have to make fewer messes.” Miss Tracy tells him, “You need to figure out who you are” and Casey needs to be honest with himself, as Miss Tracy says, “You know me. What you get is what you see.”
The acting is moving, the performances are top notch, the music is fun, the costumes are wonderful, the dialogue between the performers both hilarious and inspiring and this is a play that will have you standing, toe tapping and applauding at the end. Choreography was designed by Luke H. Jacobs, Costumes designed by Jennifer Brawn Gittings assisted by Carmen Amon, sets designed by Cygnet Resident Artist Sean Fanning, Wigs & Make-up designed by Peter Herman, Lighting designed by Kyle Montgomery, Sound by Dylan Nielsen and Properties Designer Bonnie Durben.
The play first appeared in 2014, premiering at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Lopez had his play, “Somewhere” on stage at The Globe six years ago. His play “The Whipping Man”, a Civil War drama, also appeared at the Globe earlier. This play won an Obie Award and John Gassner New Play Award. “The Legend of Georgia McBride” is based partially on Lopez’s experiences growing up gay and visiting gay bars with Drag shows on stage. He feels many of his plays deal with sexual identity, prejudice, find your true self, searching for family, and the masculine-feminine conflict.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” will be on stage at the Cygnet Theatre in Old Town thru November 12th. The theatre is located at 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Towne. Tickets can be purchased at www.cygnettheatre.com or call 619-337-1525. Ticket prices range from $38-$59 and some discounts are available. Next on stage at Cygnet will be production #100, the classic “A Christmas Carol”, beginning on November 29th.
But for now, for a feel good, fun evening, go see “The Legend of Georgia McBride” and get ready for the finale, which rivals the closing dance scenes from “Pricilla – Queen of the Desert”.