Hell in a Handbag Productions presents L’IMITATION OF LIFE. Lana Turner has just gotten away with murder. Her daughter Suzie was acquitted of the stabbing death of Turner’s lover. Now, the actress just wants a ‘normal life’ as defined by her as ‘becoming a legendary Broadway star’! When Suzie befriends Sara Jane, a light-skinned Negro girl at the beach, Lana’s problems are solved. Suzie gets a playmate and Lana gets a housekeeper, nanny and life advisor in Sara Jane’s mother, Annie Johnson. It’s so black and white or is it? L’IMITATION OF LIFE is racy and drag-alicious!
Adaptor Ricky Graham spoofs the controversial 1959 film “Imitation of Life.” The dated racial and relational drama between mothers and daughters works perfectly as the funny-bone to this lampoon. In the lead is Chicago’s favorite Drag Diva Ed Jones (Lana). Jones performs his shtick with unapologetic, ballsy glam. Whether calling his housekeeper the wrong name or adjusting a fur Turner-style, a self-centered Jones is just hysterical. In his strappy silk and decadent jewels, Ed Jones *is* all that! No matter how big his role is in a Handbag production, Jones leaves a lasting impression…usually in the form of my sore abs from laughing so hard. This time, Jones leads an entire impressive gaggle of gals in this zinging and stinging campers’ paradise.
Director Cheryl Snodgrass balances the humor with heart as these ladies struggle to overcome adversity: an oppressive boss, an absent mother, a prejudice world. The laughter is ongoing but there an underlying truth just below the surface. A steadfast Robert Williams (Annie) plays the no-nonsense, hardworking housekeeper. Whenever times get tough, Williams offers to ‘fry up’ something, including coffee. Hysterical! Alex Grelle (Sara Jane) plays a little black girl that wants to be white. The expressive-eyed Grelle has pouty-mean-girl down perfect! Grelle’s deadpan delivery always amuses me. This time, he projects a darker persona, figuratively and literally, bringing a lingering impact than the usual playful Handbag hallmark. Contrasting magnificently with his gal pal, Steve Love (Suzie) is really pretty, perky and white-white-white! Love accentuates jokes with a keen and twisted interest in knives. Boasting the testosterone, John Cadone (Steve) flirts with creepy abandonment.
L’IMITATION OF LIFE is the real thing… well, as ‘real’ as a parody can get. It’s frolicking back to simpler times where movie stars were untouchable and women were men in drag. Hell in a Handbag knows how to get dressed up and have fun. And they always take the audience along on their camping trips! Don’t miss this one and later this summer, we’re going back to THE BIRDS driven by the big Handbag himself, David Cerda! Wahoo!
Running Time: Ninety minutes includes an intermission
At Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark
Based on the original “Imitations of Life” script by Bruce McNally
Adapted by Ricky Graham
Directed by Cheryl Snodgrass
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Thru May 10th
Buy Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/346522