Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer. Playwright: David Cerda
At: Hell in a Handbag Productions at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. Tickets: $25-$30; VIP tickets available; HandbagProductions.org . Runs through: Dec. 30.
The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Holiday Edition
Playwright: David Cerda. At: Hell in a Handbag Productions at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. Tickets: $25; VIP tickets available. HandbagProductions.org . Runs through: Jan. 10.
Not content to produce just one show for the holiday season, Hell in a Handbag Productions has unleashed three this December.
Bette: Xmas at the Continental Baths has already come and gone after two performances at Steppenwolf Theatre's 1700 space. But two remaining Handbag holiday shows are still running and snuggly tucked into Mary's Attic in Andersonville.
Rudolph The Red-Hosed Reindeer is back for its 20th anniversary, while this past summer's TV sitcom spoof hit, The Golden Girls — The Lost Episodes, has been resuscitated for a special Holiday Edition. As with most Handbag shows, both are filled to the brim with camp comedy, delicious drag and a bounty of beefcake ( the flesh flashed by Chazie Bly as a jazzercise instructor in Golden Girls and Colin Funk as a butch gay elf in Rudolph are very welcome ).
Author/actor David Cerda appears in both shows, playing the Golden Girls' acerbic Dorothy and a number of roles in Rudolph. Though Cerda's sometimes shaky performances suggest that he may be stretching himself too thin, he's cleverly done his part to update each property both politically and seasonally.
Hence the corrupted Santa ( Michael Hampton ) in Rudolph now takes on unflattering traits of the current White House resident. He's flanked by Iwanka ( Cerda ), a foreign trophy wife with questionable decorating tastes, and an appalling Kellyanne Conway-inspired press secretary Connie Blitzen ( Terry McCarthy, carrying off a red-white-and-blue inaugural ensemble by ingenious costume designer Kate Setzer-Kamphausen far better than the original ).
As a spoof of the celebrated stop-motion Rankin/Bass animated TV specials, Rudolph carries an obligatory, if oddly-focused, message about saluting non-conformity both inside and outside the LGBTQ community. Yet the silly and outré performances from an oversize and committed cast is what makes Rudolph such seasonal fun.
Far more contained and to-the-point is the Holiday Edition of The Golden Girls. Now one of its three "lost" episodes hinges on a continuing belief in Santa by Rose ( the ever-invaluable and hilarious Handbag regular Ed Jones ).
As before, much of the joy of Handbag's Golden Girls spoof is seeing the beloved sitcom characters spouting out more risqué material that would never have made it on network TV. Adrian Hadlock is a joy as the feisty Sophia, while newcomer Grant Drager layers on the Southern charm as Blanche. Also deserving of praise are Robert Williams and Michael Miller in a number of supporting roles.
Both shows assuredly deliver the naughty laughs you'd expect of Handbag Productions. And with two holiday shows to pick from, you're spoilt for campy comedy choice.