Entertainment » Theatre

Sophia's Choice: A Lost Golden Girls Episode

by Robert Nesti
EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor
Tuesday Mar 12, 2019
Joey Lachimia and Blake Siskavich in "Sophia's Choice: A Lost Golden Girls Episode" continues through April 7th at Boston's Club Café.
Joey Lachimia and Blake Siskavich in "Sophia's Choice: A Lost Golden Girls Episode" continues through April 7th at Boston's Club Café.  

If you have felt that the past due date in drag parodies of the Golden Girls has long since past, then may I suggest a visit to Club Cafe in upcoming weeks for a performance of "Sophia's Choice: A Lost Golden Girls Episode," a smart take-off rooted in good old-fashioned bitchiness and '80s nostalgia delivered by a delightful cast.

As conceived by Michael Gaucher, who also directs and appears in the show, and Joshua Roberts, who plays the appropriately dim Rose Nylund, the show offers a straightforward (well, as straight as that can be) of a typical episode of the 1980s juggernaut whose success - like the songs of Whitney Houston and the controversies around Michael Jackson - has persisted well into this century. At this very moment there is likely someone watching a rerun in which the four gather around the kitchen table for cheesecake and bitchy repartee, though never as cheekily gay as it is here.

In this case an old school gay snark that Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans do so consistently well across town at Machine; that is unapologetically raunchy and un-PC in its humor. But where it succeeds most admirably is in its witty one-liners and the clever way it uses these iconic characters to comment on cultural issues. From aging issues to barebacking, the girls are funny stand-ins for many of the middle-aged men in the audience.

That's not to suggest "Sophia's Choice: A Lost Golden Girls Episode" is a polemical think piece - it has, after all, a hilarious musical number (to the tune of Britney Spears' "Oops!... I Did It Again,") about a certain kind of leakage that leads to the wearing of Depends. But when the four hit the stage for the finale, a reworking of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" retitled "Golden Babe," as a celebration of female empowerment, it is apparent there is more here than meets the eye.

Perhaps this has been the case in their previous incarnations, but I think not. This is a cut above their last "Golden Girls" show ("Golden Girls Dirty Secrets"), tighter and more focused in terms of writing and direction. Gaucher and Roberts frame the show as a nostalgia trip to the 1980s, replete with a series of smartly curated television commercials from the decade, which include spots that feature Rue McClanahan, Beatrice Arthur and Betty White as spokespersons, and one that features Bruce Willis in an elaborately styled music video for Seagrams. Another — one of the funniest (and weirdest) — is for a 1-900 phone line for those seeking a good cry. Where did they find that?

The chemistry between the four leads is palpable with each quite funny in their own right: Paxton Crystal embodies Blanche Devereaux with silky Southern charm that Ms. McClanahan did so well; as he has done in the past, Blake Siskavich has Dorothy Zbornak's deadpan delivery down pat; the aforementioned Joshua Roberts is appropriately ditzy as Rose; and, best of all, Joey Lachimia plays Sophia Petrillo with a sly glint in his eye and exacting comic timing. And in a xxx cameo, Kerry (Kitty) Demers appears as a black leather-garbed prison mate of the Girls when they land in jail for an alleged hate crime. (To see what it is, you have to see the show.) The spot-on costumes, drawn it seems from the pastel-colored world of the television show, are by Rodney VanDerwarker and Todd Paul.

Of course much of what makes the latest from Bitter Bitch Productions so likable is how it isn't theater at all — rather a party with Mr. Gaucher as its affable host. In that capacity he acts as the master of ceremonies, as well as the various men that appear in the production. As it was with the numerous editions of Fresh Fruit, the drag quartet for whom Mr. Gaucher was a member for a good deal of their long run in this compact performance space, the production makes much with little, largely conveying the 1980s vibe with costumes, which appear to be legitimate facsimiles of what would be seen on an episode of the show. The show itself is also a facsimile, but one seen through a contemporary queer lens. When Rose steps forward to explain just what barebacking is, St. Olaf style, the lines between then and now are hilariously blurred.

It really isn't much of a stretch to see that what Mr. Gaucher and Mr. Roberts do so well here brings to mind the plight of the titular character in "Gloria Bell," the new film by Chilean director Sebastián Lelio that stars a radiant Julianne Moore as a single, middle-aged woman seeking love and happiness in dance clubs. The plight of women like Gloria Belle seeking romance was long a meme on "The Golden Girls," a television program far more progressive in its day than many sit-coms on the air today. Here, in this hilarious refraction, it extends to their gay brethren in an endearing, most winning fashion.

"Sophia's Choice: A Lost Golden Girls Episode" continues through April 7th on select Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm and select Sunday matinees at 1pm at Club Café, 209 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA. For more information, visit the Bitter Bitch Productions website.

Robert Nesti can be reached at rnesti@edgemedianetwork.com.


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