Playwright: David Cerda
At: Hell In A Handbag Productions at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. Tickets: $15-$27; handbagproductions.org; 800-838-3006. Runs through: Sept. 7
In the annals of North American comedy, the television series providing the source material for this camp-drag parody was conceptually daring in its own rightnot only did its central characters consist exclusively of elderly single women living apart from their families in an era of economic prosperity that saw the rise of single-generation ghettos dubbed "retirement villages," but the cessation of childrearing duties also conferred on these matriarchs a license to speak their minds on issues of the day with a candor often shocking their sheltered offspring.
Audiences in the years between 1985 and 1992 were charmed by the novelty of AARP-eligible ladies calmly discussing bodily functions in euphemism-free parlance, and now in 2018when grannies' nostalgic recollections may involve protest marches, banana-peel smokables or fake wedding rings aiding in securing contraceptivesdowagers talking dirty are especially funny when played by males ( who have always enjoyed the privileges of the uncensored ). Hell In A Handbag Productions, Chicago's foremost champions of this illusion, now proposes to repeat the success of its twice-extended 2016 gynecentric-geriatric spoof with a "Volume 2" sequel.
For those unfamiliar with the original premise, it's enough to know that flirty Blanche, dumb-bunny Rose, acerbic Sophia and no-nonsense Dorothy share a house in Miami, where assorted visitors arrive with problems resolved through mature sororal wisdoma plot formula burlesqued in David Cerda's script by such quirky complications as Sophia taking a job as a leather-club stripper and Rose adopting a talented but short-tempered barnyard fowl as a pet. Oh, and for playgoers geek-versed in GG lore, hostess/house manager Lori Lee leads us in trivia games during the "commercial breaks."
Drag humor dates from antiquity and can be found in every culture practicing gender-role differentiation. While some theatergoers in 2018 might advocate its mockery going the way of Panto and Minstrel shows, there is no denying its enduring popularity or the artistry ( affirmed by a Special Award Jeff in 2017 ) bestowed upon the venerable genre by director Becca Holloway and the Hell In A Handbag ensemble. The text may indulge in gratuitously juvenile potty-mouth at times, but when the biggest laugh of the evening goes to a magistrate in a Minnesota courtroom declaring "We respect gender identity!" who can say that's not progress?