Friday, March 30, 2018

Review of "The Legend of Georgia McBride"

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Poor Casey, a so-so Elvis impersonator plying his trade at a rundown bar on the Florida panhandle.  The audience is sparse, the money negligible, and the sudden need to support a growing family is a pressing concern.  His luck suddenly changes when, due to unforeseen circumstances, he is literally thrust on stage in a drag show revue with a new guise and attitude.

Thus begins The Legend of Georgia McBride, an entertaining, but slender offering from playwright Matthew Lopez.  There are themes of sexual identity and self-acceptance, but the material covered in the play offers only a smattering of dramatic substance that never really explores these issues in depth.  There are numerous musical, lip-syncing performances—a tad too many—that are enjoyable and comical, but after a while seem redundant.

Jamison Stern and Austin Thomas in "The Legend of Georgia Brown."
Casey (Austin Thomas) is at the center of the show.  His character, however, is hard to decipher.  Initially, he comes across as a very immature man-child, but in no time at all transforms into a more thoughtful, serious-minded individual.  The effect is somewhat jarring.  He is married to an understanding, but rather exasperated wife (Samaria Nixon-Fleming).  Their neighbor/landlord Jason (Nik Alexander), a childhood friend, drops in every so often about the overdue rent and provides sagely banter.  Eddie (J. Tucker Smith), the owner of the dive, looking to drum up business, brings in his cousin and his friend, drag performers Miss Tracy (Jamison Stern) and Rexy (Nik Alexander).  The interaction between the three performers, focusing on Casey’s slow-forming transformation, shapes the basis and modest dramatic arc of the show.

One of the central questions brought up in the play, but never fully resolved, is the motivation of Casey to continue with his new persona.  The uncertainty and muted approach lessens the impact of the production.  Is he truly confronting his beliefs about himself, his sexuality, and how he defines his uniqueness as an individual or is his performance simply a way of expressing his desire to entertain and earn enough money to pay the bills? 
 
J. Tucker Smith, Nik Aleander, Austin Thomas and Jamison Stern in "The Legend of Georgia Brown."
The cast is fine, as they provide enough definition and substance to convey a genuineness and conviction to their roles.   There are some issues with continuity—Rexy has a seemingly severe alcohol problem, which all but vanishes; Casey’s on again, off again flights into adulthood.  But, for the most part, we know the characters and their driving force.

Rob Ruggiero’s direction is very episodic that comes across more as a series of indistinct, dissatisfactory scenes.  This prevents an agreeable rhythm to develop throughout the length of the production.

Paul Tate dePoo’s set design is playful and campy for its transition from a sleazy backstage storage area to a more professional looking dressing room.  It’s tacky, but tasteful.

The Legend of Georgia Brown, a feathery, yet sprightly production, playing through April 22nd.

1 comment:

Sue Kienle said...

Hi Stu, It would seem I found more to enjoy in this show than you did. We - and the rest of the audience - thought the music was great and the story moved along well. There was definitely much audience buy-in to the story, with much hand clapping with each song and applause throughout the show for each 'number'. There was a heartfelt 'standing O' when the show ended. I think was an enjoyable evening (though I would have to agree with some of the inconsistencies you mention - such as Rexi, despite mention of time in rehab). Considering the humor, the music, and costumes it was a thoroughly fun and entertaining evening. Everyone seemed to exit the theater smiling which is always a good sign!
Sue K.