Joan Crawford comes home to the Unicorn Theatre
Ron Megee has better legs than I do. It pisses me off. When he struts out from behind an ornate divider in what his character, the infamous Joan Crawford, calls a “slit skirt” that reveals a leotard and a pair of stems that would make a showgirl cry, it’s clear that ‘A Very Joan Crawford Christmas’ at the Unicorn Theatre, is a show for those that are comfortable with a drag queen being prettier than they are.
The Christmas offering at the Unicorn Theatre is diverging from their normal holiday crowd pleaser, David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries. Working with director and frequent collaborator Jeff Church, Megee creates exactly the picture of control addicted starlet that you expect. Down to the wire hanger punchlines.
The premise of the show is a television special with the diva herself, with tips for throwing a perfect party, pleasing your husband and having a merry Christmas while sipping vodka and Pepsi without your children, with your German house frau, Mamacita played by Jessica Dressler and a mentally thick and physically brawny doorman, played by Jeff Smith.
The humor is broad to say the least. If there’s a lowbrow testicle joke to be had, it’s in there. The audience was warned before hand to clap each and every time the name of a Crawford film is named, so when you’re playing to a full house of plants, everything seems to go well, no matter how uninventive the humor is.
At the top of the second act, when Mamacita reappears as Crawford’s nemesis, Bette Davis, the script becomes nearly incomprehensible to anyone under the age of 60. I’m assuming that it was a very clear rip off of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, which starred both actresses in 1962. Fifty years later, the audience that remembers the details of the film is not necessarily in the theater.
A few key moments were worth it. Hearing my gay best friend and the middle aged divorceé gasp in the same way when Jeff Smith disrobes was priceless. Turning the names of Joan Crawford films into a drinking game was fun. You are allowed to drink in the theater and theater folk have a heavy hand with the whiskey. And there were a couple of jokes that were actually funny.
The main problem with A Very Joan Crawford Christmas was relevance. As much fun as it is to see Megee do drag, which he does well, and often, doing a drag impersonation of a figure that is more myth than human at this point fell flat. Most of the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves and I would like to write off my experience as a a symptom of my youth, but either way, this Christmas show fell flat for me most of the time.
When I go to a show that I know is done in drag, I expect camp. I expect bawdy humor. I expect laughs. I got two out of the three. If you’re an avid Crawford fan, then check it out, I’m sure you’ll get all the inside jokes. If you’re looking for a Christmas comedy, looking elsewhere.
A Very Joan Crawford Christmas has been extended until January 2 at the Unicorn Theatre, located at 39th and Main Street. Tickets and more information are available at www.unicorntheatre.org.
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