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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Real Live Spectacle a Miracle! at Intiman Theatre

Also see David's review of Rent

Miracle!
Burton Curtis
In the mid 1990s, and for several years afterwards, an in your face, gay theatre ensemble Greek Active presented several of the most off the wall productions to appear in the then bourgeoning Seattle Fringe Theatre scene, many of them directed by the company's artistic director Keenan Hollahan, aka Dan Savage, who was also starting to make his name known as sex-advice columnist as well. Flash forward to 2012, Savage is a best-selling author ("The Kid") and a media celeb who has written and directed a rambling comedy spectacle long-gestating effort, loosely suggested by the true story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, entitled Miracle! served up as part of mainstream company Intiman Theatre's festival/re-launch. Savage's humor seems far less shocking than it once did, when you consider the level of camp/vulgarity that pours freely into our living rooms now in an average "Family Guy" episode. But Miracle! has its share of laughs and at least one must see performance to recommend it as a tasty summertime guilty pleasure.

The Keller/Sullivan saga is transplanted into the world of contemporary gay and lesbian clubs in Seattle. Veteran drag queen doyenne Crystal Pain rules the roost at the Brass Connection drag bar with fellow queens Gloria Blaize, Sissy Jizmore and Bailey Legal, as well as Crystal's own biological son/drag daughter Hellen Stellar, who is deaf, dumb and blind. When child protective services gets wind of Hellen's participation at the club, lesbian social worker Annie Sullivan is sent to the club as an intermediary. Annie quickly takes Hellen back to the Brass Connection, and takes a forceful hand with her to help her grasp language and understanding when she seems to be reverting to her old behaviors.

Oddly, the production fares best when it is the least connected to the version of Keller's story we know from Gibson's play The Miracle Worker. Savage's script is ramshackle, rambling, and scores as guffaws. He fares better as director, having cast an ace star in Burton Curtis in the role of Crystal. Curtis, too long absent from Seattle's stages, is a comedic whirlwind, as a sort of Osterizer-mixed version of Auntie Mame, Mama Rose, Zaza, and Mother Courage. The star is as at home in his drag club performance interludes as he is in his character. Rising nearly to as high a level of high camp finesse is Timothy McCuen Piggee as Gloria Blaize, channeling an oddly effective cross between RuPaul and Isabel Sanford. Michael Place as Sissy, and to a lesser extent Drew Highlands as Bailey, satisfyingly fill out the ranks of the drag bar dames. Hannah Victoria Franklin plays it (relatively) straight as the dauntless Annie, while Jonathan Pyburn creates a unique figure as the challenged Hellen, performing drag without any help from her senses, until she reaches her breakthrough. Marya Sea Kaminski is subtly comic as the concerned Janet, and Shellie Shulkin nails the role of a salty, heart of gold dyke bar owner.

Local drag notables Waxie Moon (Marc Kenison) and Jerick Hoffer (Jinx Monsoon) offer valuable contributions to the overall production as choreographer and drag coach, respectively, and Erik Andor's costumes twinkle with just that right balance of trash and flash.

No longer as shocking as it might have been in the '90s, Miracle! is still far and away the most non-traditional ever done at Intiman, a company searching for a new identity to usher itself back into Seattle theatregoers consciousness.

Miracle! runs through August 25, 2012, at the Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer St. in Seattle Center. For information and ticketing go to www.intiman.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David Edward Hughes



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