The drag queens of Trannyshack are peddlers of nostalgia -- not nostalgia for drag queens like Mom used to make, but for pop culture of yore. The company is on the cutting edge of turning the contemporary into camp. Want to know which new old thing will make us homesick for the past next? Look no further than the subjects of the company's shows.
Annie Danger: She'll Take Your Body on a Spiritual Journey
The group has scored big with its The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes, a verbatim reenactment of episodes from the popular late '80s/early '90s sitcom. Having run for seven Christmases, the show is a San Francisco holiday tradition. Now Trannyshack is following a similar formula with its latest show, Sex and the City: Live! -- find an old sitcom, use the scripts from a couple of episodes, and let the drag queens work their wonders.
Seeing Sex and the City's four infamous 30-somethings performed in drag exposes how dated the once edgy, raunchy series is now. In fact, in Trannyshack's hands, Sex and the City doesn't look much different from The Golden Girls. There are parallels for each character type: The innocent, Rose and Charlotte (Trixxie Carr); the whore, Blanche and Samantha (D'Arcy Drollinger); the wry cynic, Sophia and Miranda (Lady Bear); and the hapless protagonist, Dorothy and Carrie (Heklina, who, not coincidentally, also plays Dorothy in Trannyshack's The Golden Girls.) Plots are similar, too. In an episode in both shows, a character tries to figure out whether a suitor is secretly gay; the only difference is that in Sex and the City, characters have sex while they're decoding the mystery.
Joining Trannyshack in cementing Sex and the City in nostalgia is a horde of affluent female audience members in their 30s and 40s, probably more than the venue, the gay bar Rebel, has ever seen in a single night. At a recent performance, ensemble member Jordan Wheeler even confessed that the bar's bathrooms are ill-equipped for this particular gender imbalance.
The two episodes on display now (the show's run is open-ended, and the plan is to change the episodes every three months) feature all your favorite conceits from the series: Carrie typing her sex column on her laptop, which is relayed to the audience via voiceover (while Heklina furrows her brow and puts her finger on her chin to show that Carrie is really thinking), constant breakfasting, brunching, and lunching at bourgeois restaurants, during which the fabulous four regale one another, sans filter, with their sexual escapades, usually buttressed by Carrie's signature drink, the Cosmopolitan (which Rebel has on special for the event).
Of the four performers, Drollinger, who also directs, is especially strong. He has mastered the way Kim Cattrall (who played Samantha on the series) sounds like she's having an orgasm in casual conversation (but especially when saying her favorite word, "faaaabulous") and uses tongue gyrations to emphasize most points. But Drollinger also makes the role into his own, lovingly rendered caricature. His Samantha uses her tongue like a reptile, and when a man offers himself to her (which happens often) she mouths her joy and rapture to the audience behind his back, milking every mugging opportunity for all it's worth.
While as director Drollinger ought to shrink his overlong scene changes (there are only so many times one can listen to the series's anxious theme song) and work on the timing of a few punch lines, on the whole Sex and the City: Live! is a perfect marriage of its audiences' desires and the performers' offerings. And more broadly, seeing this Trannyshack show is a cheerful kind of memento mori: It makes you wonder which beloved series today will become tomorrow's grist for the Trannyshack mill. Is a drag Girls on the horizon?
Sex and the City: Live! continues in an open-ended run at Rebel, 1760 Market St., S.F. Admission is $20-$25.