Title: The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Volume 5SEX! Playwright: David Cerda
At: Hell In a Handbag Productions at the Leather Archives and Museum. Tickets: $27-$45. Runs through: HandbagProductions.org
It could almost be the premise for one of Hell In a Handbag's faux sitcoms: After losing their space in the cabaret room above Andersonville's Hamburger Mary, the merry dragsters had no sooner unpacked their wigs and mascara at Lakeview's Stage 773 multiplex than they were again hurled into a post-pandemic landscape bereft of PPA-friendly real estate. Eventually, the forlorn troupe found refuge in Rogers Park at the former Greenview Arts Center, now home to the Chicago Leather Archives and Museum (where your theater ticket includes a 30-day membership).
Never underestimate the resourcefulness of scriptmeister David Cerda, however. Handbag's resident playwright invokes the requisite level of cheerful sunshine-state sorority in the midst of the BDSM art collection once providing atmosphere at the legendary Gold Coast dungeon by sending his feisty quartet of AARP-eligible bachelorettes to a SEX clubin this case, the Pleasure Dome, Miami's foremost erotic emporiumgarbed in fetishwear lite (courtesy of Leather6410). Gruff Dorothy and dumb-bunny Rose's cautious acceptance of its hedonistic decor is abruptly curtailed, though, with the discovery that the floor show includes an adagio fantasy-dance involving a gerontophilic state trooper administering a stop-and-frisk on a demure granny played by (gasp!) their octogenarian roommate Sophia.
The evening's second "lost" episode further argues the appropriety of the words "old" "female" and "sexy" appearing in the same sentence: when Sophia is hospitalized after having succumbed to toxic gas fumes from a malfunctioning stove, Blanche seeks to ensure their beloved cohabitant's recovery by offering up a prayer vowing to abandon her wanton ways if God spares Sophia's life. The folly of her misguided attempt to circumvent the natural order by denying her own soon evidences itself in a uterophobic nightmare sequence (choreographed by R & D Violence Designers) precipitating the accident victim to confess her deception in perpetrating a faux-suicidal hoax.
Coming on the heels of a curtain opening delayed nearly two years, the resilience of the Handbags' ensemble dynamic is manifested in the vigorous pace generated by regulars Cerda, Grant Drager, Ryan Oates and Ed Jones as the boon companions. They're augmented by Danne W. Taylor, as mischievous sidekick Nancy; Michael Rashid, as amiable Miles; and newcomer Max McCune, as two varieties of khaki-clad eye-candyall under the direction of Madison Smith.
Emcee Lori Lee's pre-curtain proclamation, "It's Opening Night!" to an audience whose masks in no way muted their enthusiastic vocal response to every aspect of the familiar ritesyes, there's "Golden Girls Trivia" (with prizes) and a sing-along "Thank You for Being a Friend"launched the likewise undiminished anticipation of the trademark revelry delivered by a company whose two decades of unstinting mockery render it as venerated by the Chicago theater community as its big-budget compatriots.