Photo thanks to Tototoo productions. POSTER.
Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen is the story of a deeply flawed human being told in equally flawed dramatic/melodramatic format.
Miranda Rights, the aging drag queen of the title, is not quite ready for her close-up when her visitor and would-be biographer, John Morgan, arrives on the scene. His role through the extended exposition — much of it a drag in the other sense — is to listen to the pathetic ranting of the campy Miranda, while attempting to keep her on track as she justifies the murderous rampage that landed her in prison for a quarter of a century.
With ruthless pruning, Miranda’s monologue might hold the attention more effectively, but, as written, it is too repetitive and periodically boringly circular. Little wonder that, in the Toto Too production, Barry Daley marred an otherwise excellent performance by needing several prompts that caused glitches in both rhythm and characterization.
The move from the comic and stereotypical sequences of Act I to the melodramatic twists and dialogue (Hallelujah!) of Act II gives natural impetus to conversation and character. Although Act II flows more naturally, the change of pace and tone jar at times. (Confessions started off as a monologue. Playwright David Blue is reported as saying that the second character was not added until the twelfth draft.)
As directed by Klaas van Weringh, Miranda is delivered as the cliché of an aging queen in drag. While cross-dressing and being gay are not synonymous, Blue clearly intends them to be so in Confessions. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable that Peggy Laverty’s costume design should make Miranda laughably frumpy. What is unclear is why playwright, director or costume designer has John — the character, who declares he has rejected his former life as a drag queen — appearing in a glamorous gown. There are more effective ways to underline the contrast between Miranda and John (a strong and generous performance by John Collins).
Set design by Grant Dolan, together with John Solman’s lighting and Ted Chartrand’s sound, give appropriate context to the production. Such touches as the photographs of Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson, the rolling rack of gowns and underwear strewn over chairs add to the sense of theatricality and underline the bathos of Miranda’s warped view of herself as star and victim, another way to recall the tone of Sunset Boulevard.
Toto Too gave Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen a solid showing that highlighted two good performances but also shone the spotlight on the need to make the script much leaner, if not meaner. The show closed on August 24.
Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen
By David Blue
Toto Too Theatre
Director: Klaas van Weringh
Set: Grant Dolan
Lighting: John Solman
Sound: Ted Chartrand
Costumes: Peggy Laverty
Miranda Rights………………………………………..Barry Daley
John Morgan…………………………………………..John Collins