The pre-show warning about cellphone use ends with this: “So help me, RuPaul will take off his heels and beat your ass with them.”
With that, we are ushered into Stilettos, an imaginary drag joint in San Diego. Plus-sized Duchess Hunny Mustard (Julio Jacobo) presides here, and we’re about to witness a terrific show by her “girls”: Utopia Planeesha (Kevane La’Marr Coleman), Ivana Lakes (James P. Darvas), Tessa Tickles (Justin Warren Martin) – all in a plethora of incarnations and colorful costumes – and drag king Duke D’lux (Melissa Coleman-Reed) in (what else?) a suit.
Circle Circle dot dot presents “Deconstruction Of A Drag Queen” through April 21 at the 10th Avenue Theatre. The theater’s artistic director Katherine Harroff serves as playwright and director.
Stilettos is where main character Michael (Shaun Tuazon) also ends up, but only after surviving a tough childhood with a mother (Jacobo) who dreams of her son, the doctor but is horrified to find him one day trying on his sister’s (Darvas) dress and makeup.
“Whatever that was, I don’t ever want to see it again,” she admonishes, barely acknowledging his rejoinder: “But what if whatever that was is who I am?”
She threatens, grounds, finally cages him (after catching him kissing a boy) to keep him from becoming himself.
An excellent student, Michael eventually flees Santa Maria for UCSD, where he enrolls in pre-med but finds himself drawn to the dance department. This is how he finds his way to Stilettos.
The plot offers many opportunities for song-and-dance numbers, and that’s the strength of this show: the choreography by Anne Gehman and Anthony Diaz, the terrific costumes by Melissa Coleman-Reed and Soroya Rowley, the lip synching to old standards like “Somebody To Love Me” and “Time After Time.”
But it’s Tuazon’s Michael that gives the show its heart and fulfills Circle2dot2’s mission to create theater from the stories of our community. This story is based on the life of local drag queen (and co-choreographer) Anthony Diaz, aka Grace Towers. Tuazon is indefatigable, poignant and extremely talented – and looks great in a dress. Or less.
“Deconstruction Of A Drag Queen” could stand to lose about 20 minutes of its 2 hour, 15 minute runtime; toward the end it loses its punch and becomes redundant and preachy. It would be a dynamite one-act.
But this is an excellent cast, cleverly directed to hold the interest.
“Deconstruction Of A Drag Queen” plays through April 21 at the 10th Avenue Theatre, 930 10th Ave.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; matinee Sunday at 4 pm. (Sunday ticket includes one free mimosa or soda.)
For tickets, visit HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.