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Content from our friends over at Christopher Soden, Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner

Friday, April 26, 2013

Theater review: Re-Designing Women‘s a blue comedy blow out with whip-smart undertones


It's vulgar and profane, but does the original justice by recognizing the chemistry and structure so vital to its success.

— There’s really nothing like Uptown Players’ annual drag spoof, featured at The Rose Room on Cedar Springs (second floor of S4) for over-the-top camp, raunch, witty banter and clever satire. This year it’s a send-up of the popular sitcom, Designing Women. Written by Linda Bloodworth and starring Dixie Carter (Julia Sugarbaker) Delta Burke (sister Suzanne) Annie Potts (Mary Jo) Jean Smart (Charlene) and stalwart character actress Alice Ghostley (Bernice) it was a perennial hit that kept audiences in stitches, while raising crucial humanitarian issues. Playwright Jamie Morris (who also does a fabulous tribute to the late Dixie Carter) does comic justice to the original, recognizing the structure and chemistry so vital to its success.

Re-Designing Women finds the ladies of Sugarbaker’s navigating their own reality show, lest they lose their business to a foundering national economy. Charlene is still lovably neurotic, Mary Jo flustered, Julia morally indignant and Suzanne a paragon of bourgeoisie self-absorption. The jokes come fast, freaky and graphic references to sexuality, genitalia, bodily functions (basically anything wildly inappropriate, tasteless, offensive or cringe-worthy) are in vast abundance. I don’t say this by way of critique, after all, there’s a fine tradition of blue material going all the way back to Aristophanes. Re-Designing Women is a delightful opportunity to cut loose, kick back, and enjoy gleeful, adult hilarity.

Probably just as traditional as ancient Greek comedy and references to flatulence, is the practice of men in drag, exhibiting most unladylike behavior. A friend recently pointed out to me that it’s not just witnessing the exhibition of ladies flouting society’s expectations, it’s the knowledge that men are imitating and mocking the feminine code of behavior. Both homage and caricature. Bernice, the eccentric dowager, chases African American employee Anthony, rapaciously and wantonly declaring her randy desires, in most descriptive terms. Ironically, when we’re peppered with a continuous stream of bawdy dialogue, clearly intended to violate even relaxed boundaries, the effect is pleasant and cathartic. The humor is so democratic (no one is spared) so loopy and beyond excessive, it’s impossible to find offensive.

Christopher Soden, Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner
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