Casey is an Elvis impersonator who performs at a divey nightclub in Panama City, Florida. He is married to a very warm and devoted woman named Jo, and between the two of them, they barely have enough to pay the bills. Just ordering a pizza sends their finances into a tailspin. Nightclub owner Eddie is teetering on the verge of destitution himself. When his cousin Tracy shows up, revealing herself as a drag performer, he gives this new direction a whirl. When Miss Rexy (the other queen) passes out drunk, desperation drives Eddie to give Casey an ultimatum. Either do the Piaf number in a dress, or he’s fired. So begins Casey’s education as a drag performer, under the tutelage of Miss Tracy.
As we might guess, not only does Casey have a flare for drag, he actually warms up to it. Much as he enjoys playing Elvis, something about creating a female identity resonates with him. Tracy helps him with technique, finding his own persona, choosing the best numbers for his skill set. The pay is better than he ever imagined, but he doesn’t have the nerve to explain to his wife. When she shows up one evening unexpectedly, their recently carefree marriage is suddenly on the rails. When Jo leaves abruptly and Casey runs after her, Eddie, Tracy and Rexy all seem to feel betrayed, though they understand his urgent need to do damage control.
Playwright Matthew Lopez explores the world of drag performance and female impersonation with all the attitude, lingo, humor, and complex, exhilarating culture. We know that Casey is at least somewhat open-minded or he wouldn’t have married a woman of color. The Legend of Georgia McBride is a comedy in which our hero learns by happenstance that there’s something fulfilling about giving himself permission to express his most extravagant, “feminine” impulses. It actually makes him a better person. The fact that he enjoys drag doesn’t mean he wants other men, though that discovery here seems almost beside the point. It’s admirable that Lopez uses humor to reveal that drag isn’t really so foreign to male heterocentrist nature, and reimagines the straight nuclear family in the bargain. There were times when comprehension and gender anarchy didn’t seem to quite intersect, but we certainly gain a better understanding of the art, if the not the science.
The second salient aspect of Georgia McBride is the scintillating glitz and finery of transgender entertainment. Thanks to mad skills and fantabulous imaginations of Suzi Cranford (Costumes) and Coy Covington (Wigs and Makeup). What a rush to see so much glamour, bells and whistles, and what felt like an endless number of costume changes. The Legend of Georgia McBride is certainly a paean to the raucous, raunchy, genuine world of drag entertainment, and we’re given ample opportunity to revel in the brash, pulsing tunes and life-loving celebration.
Uptown Players presents The Legend of Georgia McBride. Playing December 1st-17th, 2017. Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd, Dallas, Texas 75219. 214-219-2718. uptownplayers.org