January 2, 2007

Theater Review: Prolong the holiday spirit with ‘Don We Now Our Gay Apparel’

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel: Alan Meyer, Jamie Harmon and J.C. Nixon play the three wise men in “Don We Now Our Gay Apparel,” a comedy written and performed by Pandora Productions.Got the post-Yule blues? Dizzy from decking one too many halls? Or, do you just hate to see the season end? Pandora Productions’ latest creation, “Don We Now Our Gay Apparel,” co-written by Bo Cecil, Jay Hemphill, Jim Hesselman and Keith McGill, is a sure-fire mood elevator and the solution to your year-end blahs. You’ll laugh so hard, those extra holiday pounds will just melt away like Frosty under the effect of global warming. That’s no hyperbole!Low comedy raised to high art, “Don We Now” is a series of interconnected sketches and musical numbers (including some wildly funny parodies of traditional Christmas tunes). Lasting more than two hours, it still wasn’t enough. As with all of Pandora’s extravaganzas, I never wanted it to end. The actors pour their souls into the production and appear to be having so much fun, the audience is made to feel like part of the family. Why would anyone want to leave such a warm hearth? After a bit of fumbling during the introduction on opening night, the cast soon fell into the groove and kept the action moving at just the right pace. And what a cast! Director Michael Drury appears in drag in several sketches — performing with two other queens in a nightclub as a blonde, subbing for Marley (who skedaddled with Past, Present and Future to Key West) in a hilarious parody of “A Christmas Carol,” and, in his finest hour, quaking with anger as Joan Crawford. You might think you never want to hear “no wire hangers” ever again, but Drury reinvents the line in a masterful stroke. Jay Hemphill and Julie Zielinski are perfect foils as Crawford’s children in one of the play’s best moments. We also visit Judy Garland and her children, Liza and Lorna, in a way-over-the-top yuckfest. The power of Christ compels us as a group of Ninja Christians try to reinstall the nativity scene despite separation of church and state. After all, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Teenage Jesus (Nixon) gets a makeover in “Queer Eye for the Messiah.” The three queens are trumped by the magi as the three disoriented kings and a flatulent camel try to find the manger. Just wait until they bump into it!Not to be believed are the new toys for gay children hawked on a home shopping channel. Twister was never like this when I was a child! “Holiday Hero Group Therapy” finds Santa, Rudolph, Frosty and the Grinch bitching about their lots, trying to outdo each other for longest suffering. Tiffany LaVoie, who came to Pandora through last summer’s group auditions, is boundlessly energetic as Rudolph, among other roles.Jay Hemphill is fabulous, as usual, steering the show as “Benji,” draped on Gayle King’s piano. King’s musical direction is a triumph, with no missteps seen or heard. Drury and Pandora have a huge hit on their hands. Will “Don We Now” be revived as a year-end tradition along with other local seasonal shows like “A Tuna Christmas”? One can only hope.sdeatrick@gmail.com