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Theatre Review (LA): Little Black Veil by David LeBarron with Music by Abby Travis at The Ruby Theatre at The Complex

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Little Black Veil – A Fierce Rock Cabaret is a piece written from loss. Specifically it is written as a tribute to two “drag-diva-artist-comedian-extraordinaires” whose deaths last year are characterized by the writer David LeBarron as causing the “saddest summer Silver Lake ever saw.”

While I don’t doubt his pain at the loss of these two friends, I do doubt that this piece is a fitting tribute to them. LeBarron feels that the drag artist is underappreciated in the GLBT community and that in truth it is the drag community that holds the overall community together. This might have been true back in the 1970s; it was, after all, the drag queens who finally said “enough” and started the Stonewall Riot that, in turn, began the widespread fight for Gay Liberation. And even today the drag community is active in advancing the fight for gay rights. But while drag and leather may have characterized the 70s, it is the death of thousands from AIDS, and now the fight for gay marriage for committed couples, that have taken over the front lines.

The story of Little Black Veil is fairly simplistic. It features a variety of drag performers (one inexplicably is a woman) and their fight to keep the drag bar and show open after the death of their “drag mom.” A “drag mom" as I understand it is someone who takes those who would like to perform in drag and brings them out, giving them names, finding costumes, and encouraging them to find their unique drag character. Unfortunately the drag performers in this piece, with a couple of exceptions, are just not very good. The exceptions are Nabor Arias as Queen 3, a heavyset Hispanic queen with attitude but also a comic sense of self, and Happi Price as Queen Number 5, who is a trained dancer and singer.

There are some other good performances, from Antoinette Senatore as Theresa, a girl in love with a drag performer, and from one of my favorite directors of musicals, Jeremy Lucas as Phillip, a straight drag performer. But even his drag persona is pretty bad. Jeffrey Wylie is a good actor and even has a career as a drag-psychic, but is hardly convincing as a woman.

Maybe I am jaded because I have seen some brilliant female impersonators and even a drag star who passed as a woman and was featured on the cover of Vogue.

Abby Travis composed the average rock score, and the live rock band performed well. If only the work was more disciplined and funnier. Oh well, there is some fun to be had, it's true, but the funereal seriousness, pardon the pun, drags the piece down.

Little Black Veil plays at The Ruby Theatre at The Complex until July 5.

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About Robert Machray

  • Ruth Gurwitch

    It appears the reviewer and I have a very different understanding of drag. I don’t believe ANY of the performers in this show were written/developed/meant to be female impersonators. They were meant to be drag queens. Drag queens aren’t always beautiful, they aren’t always feminine, and they certainly aren’t always, well, womanly. Think “The Plush Life.” Think “Drag Strip.” Think about Harvey Korman and Flip Wilson and, for gosh sakes, Milton Berle. It’s sometimes FUNNIER (and more touching) to be FIERCE than to be beautiful. I think the cast does an admirable job of bringing that sensibility to the show.

    Also, by the way, “Antoinette Senatore as Theresa, a girl in love with a drag performer” is an incorrect description. Theresa is the MOTHER of the character in love with a drag performer.

  • Jamie

    Go see it again and then write a review…