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Regional Reviews by Nancy Grossman

All About Christmas Eve
The Gold Dust Orphans

All About Christmas Eve
Ryan Landry
In the immortal words of Bette Davis, "Fasten your seat belts" for a wild ride as Ryan Landry and The Gold Dust Orphans present All About Christmas Eve, a campy, broadly drawn play on the 1950 Joseph L. Mankiewicz film All About Eve. The story of aging Broadway star Margo Channing and the young fan who insinuates herself into the life of her idol was nominated for a then record fourteen Academy Awards, taking home six, including Best Director and Best Screenplay for Mankiewicz. Not one to mess with success, Landry's version borrows heavily from the original script to keep the core of the story intact, but adds both local and topical flavor and a significant drag queen slant.

Landry himself plays the larger than life Margo and incorporates many facets of Davis' persona into his interpretation. My favorite moment is her skirt-swirling stomp up the stairs, just before bellowing the aforementioned warning about seat belts, and exiting the welcome home party for husband Bill (Chris Loftus). Strong support is provided by Loftus as the long-suffering spouse of the insecure and narcissistic actress, as well as Andre "Afrodite" Shoals and Gene Dante as Margo's dear friend Karen and her playwright husband Lloyd Richards. Dante's take on Lloyd is a not-so-veiled Paul Lynde impression, but it works well to illustrate his questionable sexuality. Shoals steals more than one scene and is also responsible for co-creating a raucous dance production number in the second act (more on that later). Olive Another is Margo's long-time dresser, the cynical Birdie (Thelma Ritter in the film), and her mugging and wise cracks add a lot of humor to the mix.

As he does in the film, dour theatre critic Addison DeWitt (Neil E. Graham) provides voiceover narration and introduces acting hopeful Miss Claudia Caswell (Bananas Foster), a Marilyn Monroe type, to the group at Bill's party. In the name of advancing Miss Caswell's career, DeWitt attaches her to the producer Max Fabian (Robyn Banks), in this instance a lesbian who "looks like Harry Potter." Meanwhile, recognizing their shared traits, the misanthropic critic takes a keen interest in Eve Harrington, Margo's fan and underling. Penny Champayne (aka Scott Martino) chews the scenery as the title character, virtually oozing unctuous flattery and bitchy repartee. After she finagles her big break as Margo's understudy, Eve gets to star in her own show No, No, Nativity, telling the Christmas story through interpretive dance. Shoals' co-creator Michael Wood plays Jesus coming out, as it were, and does an amazing pas de deux with Champayne.

Costumes by Martino are fabulous and befitting a good drag show, but the set and props are rudimentary, although more than adequate and often clever. For example, the miniatures employed to show jet flight and auto travel are both utilitarian and hilarious. All About Christmas Eve is sometimes hokey in a Mickey and Judy "Let's put on a show" way, but the story is strong and the cast shines through by virtue of its talent and earnestness.

The play stands on its own for those of you who are unfamiliar with All About Eve, but fans of the film will not be disappointed. The Orphans definitely believe in their product and know how to sell it big time. Whether you've seen them before or not, this is a great opportunity to add merriment to your holiday calendar.

All About Christmas Eve. Written by Ryan Landry, Directed by Jim Byrne, Costumes by Scott Martino, Original Sets by Winsor Newton. Presented by The Gold Dust Orphans Theatrical Company. Performances through December 26, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8 pm (no performance on December 25, extra performance at 4pm on December 26), Sundays @ 5 pm at Theater Machine, 1254 Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts. For tickets and information call 617-265-6222 or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/88711

Cast: Ryan Landry (Margo Channing), Neil E. Graham (Addison DeWitt), Penny Champayne (Eve Harrington), Gene Dante (Lloyd Richards), Andre "Afrodite" Shoals (Karen Richards), Chris Loftus (Bill Samson), Olive Another (Birdie), Robyn Banks (Maxine Fabian), Bananas Foster (Claudia Caswell)


Photo: Kelly Davidson



- Nancy Grossman



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