Afrodite, Olive Another, Robyn Broderick, Penny Champayne, Fruit Cocktail, Gene Dante, Bananas Foster, Ryan Landry, Becca A. Lewis, Chris Loftus, Liza Lott, Matt Micari, Rosalle Norris, Keith Orr, Rhonda
James P. Byrne
Written by drag personality Ryan Landry and performed by his vigilante theatre company, Gold Dust Orphans, Valet of the Dolls, the company’s latest high-camp adaptation, is a hilariously constructed piece of work, containing wigs, colorful characters, and shoddy production values but ultimately impressing despite its limitations.
Perhaps the company’s greatest asset is its unwillingness to shy away from what makes it so unique in the first place. Drag roles are played by drag queens who are unapologetically campy. Landry’s script smartly reworks its well-known source material without allowing the gags to weigh down the production.
Though the entire spunky company excels, the central trio of women – Afrodite as Anne Wells, Liza Lott as Neely O’Hara, and Penny Champayne as Jennifer North – are the evening’s highlight. As three girls making their way in showbiz, the three progress from eagerness to despair in comic style. In particular Afrodite’s unwieldingly focused sense of comedic timing sends the piece whirring into the stratosphere.
The Gold Dust Orphans’ special brand of theatre combines pop culture with rough theatre, peppered throughout with a touch of burlesque. It’s not the kind of show you’d send your mother to, but it’s a relative of the popular theatre nonetheless, in line with other popular parodies, like an extended sketch comedy treatment or a dramatized Mad Magazine send-up.
Creeky sets by Mich Brishols and colorful, tacky costumes by Scott Martino only enhance the made-by-your-mother-on-her-old-sewing-machine quality of the show as a whole. When a stage prop is out of place, it’s a cause more for hilarity than embarrassment. The Orphans are about fun, not frustration, and it shows in their uninhibited, zesty performances. Though Landry, who ought to shine the most, disappoints to a degree, somewhat too caught up in his own spotlight-stealing antics, he certainly doesn’t manage to steal the show from his central trio.
If there’s polish to be desired, and if Landry seems somewhat less than impressive, his company is nonetheless a fun, campy entry into the Boston theatre scene, performing in gay club Ramrod’s downstairs theatre space, Machine. By the end of the evening, a crowd full of devoted fans was roaring with appreciation. Next up on the Gold Dust Orphans’ roster are The Phantom of the Oprah and Peter Pansy, but for now Valet of the Dolls is slaying ’em in the aisles.