A LOVELY GOODBYEBy Alejandro de la Costa
Directed by Charles Ballinger
Stage Manager – Elizabeth Loyle Carr
Costumes – Mark-Brian Sonna
Lovely’s Costumes & Wigs: Larry E. Groseclose
Lighting & Set Design – Alejandro de la Costa
Light & Visual Programming – Jack Earl Piland
Box Office Manager – Kim Cory Wickware
Lovely Uranus, Dickey Belacroix– Mark-Brian Sonna
Keith – Collin Miller
Henry – Andrew Bryan
Roberta – De’Andra DeDe Roberson
* Member of Actor’s Equity Association
+ Equity membership Candidate
Reviewed Performance: 7/20/2018
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
This play is not in the thematic tradition of La Cage aux Folles, where the main characters have a close-knit support system but otherwise struggle with a closed-minded society at large. The eponymous Lovely (Mark-Brian Sonna) grocery shops in drag at the “Kroger in the gayborhood” without a second thought. While the significance of equal rights is illustrated here, it is not a patent theme.
What is in the tradition of La Cage aux Folles is the use of cross-dressing style as comedy. As Lovely, a marvelous Sonna glides confidently through his scenes in gravity-defying wigs, glittering accessories, killer shoes, and a look-at-me-world style that I only wish I could pull off. He regally towers in glorious costumes. If you want to know what the drag queen version of Volunteer Lady on Sunday morning at the old folks’ home looks like, then do not miss this production.
Lovely’s former co-worker and friend, Henry (Andrew Bryan), explains what the drag experience, combined with Lovely’s insightful benevolence, meant to him. Henry had been fearfully shy until Lovely got him to perform in drag -- just once. The experience allowed Henry not to be terrified in his own skin.
The relationship between love and sex is explored here. Lovely gives a poignant dissertation on the Cinderella problem of unrealistic romantic expectations. Lovely pines for the affection of his former ex, now his platonic roommate, Keith (Collin Miller).
Keith has the biggest character arc, and is the trickiest character to explain. This is the second MBS Production where I have been moved by genuine performances of very unique characters. Miller is vivacious and charismatic as a beautiful pansexual who, I’m very loosely interpreting here, just wants sex. A lot of sex. Male, female, must one get picky? And, is it really “shallow” to live genuinely in every moment? Keith is genuine as a young person who wants to have a lot of sex; hey, it alleviates his stress. Why is that shallow? Keith also spoofs himself by occasionally playing up the empty-headed pretty boy expectation that others impose on him; he’s not as dumb as people think. Miller does a truly fantastic job in this demanding role, and he is a treat to watch.
The cast is rounded out by Roberta (De’Andra DeDe Roberson), another person who has benefitted from Lovely’s love and understanding. Roberta brings sober tidings of Lovely’s medical condition, which prompts a visit by Lovely’s brother, Dickey Belacroix (also Sonna). In comedy reminiscent of Irma Vep, Sonna appears and reappears, oscillating between drag and cowboy attire. In addition to being flat-out funny, the contrast between the characters’ styles showcases Sonna’s strength as an actor. And, while Sonna appears fully capable of stealing any scene he wants, he gives the other actors their space too.
Lovely’s grappling with his medical condition is thought-provoking as well, and fits in with a bigger question: How much do we really want to know? How much do we want the merciless glare of truth, and planning for a dire future, to destroy our enjoyment of the time that we have?
The meticulous set design is convincing as the drag queen version of a bachelor pad. The furniture is an eclectic mix of metallic, tubular pieces, and the shelving is a particular treat. The tchotchkes include a purple teletubby and Spice Girls on Tour action figures (in their original packaging).
In addition to Lovely’s fabulous finery, Keith is outfitted in boy toy splendor. He sports a pair of red underwear in a style I did not know existed (always happy to learn something new). I will pass along the warning of the hilarious pre-show voice-over announcement: this is a “very adult show,” and “don’t call us after the show to say you are offended: We don’t care.” The most “adult” aspect was Miller’s bare derriere (he does a lot of yoga so that’s not a bad thing, people).
The themes that de la Costa has weaved into this work never get in the way of the fun and laughter. For a uniquely hysterical, wig-enhanced romp, I recommend this production as part of a fun night out.
July 19 through August 12, 2018
The Stone Cottage Theatre at the Addison Conference and Theatre Center
15650 Addison Road (facing Addison Circle Drive)
For information and Tickets call 214-477-4942 or go to http://www.mbsproductions.net/tickets.html.