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 V.20 No.42 | October 20 - 26, 2011 

Performance Review

Drag Me to Hell

The Dolls bring lascivious levity to the underworld

A.J. Carian as Helen Damnation
Image by Russell Maynor
A.J. Carian as Helen Damnation

The Dolls know how to inject just the right amount of sex into a night out. This is assuming, of course, that to you “just the right amount” means hearing a few sassy vibrator jokes from beautifully coifed and costumed drag queens. Since the Puritans among us are steadily diminishing, there’s a good chance you’ll have a hell of a time.

In The Dolls’ newest production, “hell” is the operative word. Satan’s School for Girls: The Reunion takes us back to 1976. We’re waiting in the living room of rock star Helen Damnation, while Satan’s School for Girls alumni trickle in. None of the guests know why they’ve been invited until Helen Damnation herself appears. Helen reveals she’s the daughter of the devil (hence her easily acquired stardom). She’s called the former classmates together because she doesn’t know the identity of her mother, but she’s certain dear old Mom is among her guests. As she narrows her search, in true Agatha Christie fashion, the body count rises.

Although The Dolls love some good raunch and circumstance, this drag troupe offers much more than a series of dirty jokes. Satan’s School has a clever original script, meticulously crafted costumes, a great set (replete with a life-size silver statue of a naked man) and a cadre of comedians.

A.J. Carian is perfect as the well-intentioned yet devilishly spawned Helen Damnation, who unknowingly delivers the kiss of death to her house guests one by one. She follows this up by plotting an assassination in an attempt to save the world from Armageddon. Carian somehow manages to be cuddly yet cunning.

Bradd Howard pulls out a fantastic dastardly vixen in Ashley St. Ives, a famous actress with no noticeable talents. Howard also serves in the show’s creative ’70s-inspired opener, in which credits are projected onto a screen along with a video of a quickly winding New Mexico road. Ms. St. Ives maniacally drives her convertible in the foreground, preening in her rearview mirror all the way.

The rest of the characters are equally hilarious. The glammed-out Muffy Diver (Joe Moncada) values her auburn tresses more than her life. Marnie Reeves (Jim Johns) was once the most beautiful girl in school but, for some inexplicable reason now resembles some kind of giant, walking cupcake. Gidget Baca (Jaime Pardo) became a nun after graduation but obviously still longs for the sex-addled good old days. Gibby Van Johnson (Dolls co-founder Kenneth Ansloan) once frolicked with Andy Warhol but now lives in a haze of drugs and memories. Grandstaff (Brian Fejer) is Gibby’s stoic and well-endowed sidekick. And Johnny Angel (Seymour Johnson) is the stud who, in some ways, started it all.

The Dolls bring something to Albuquerque that doesn’t exist on any other stage in this city. They create a space where sex can be silly, gender is treated playfully and as the social construct it is, and everything—from hair to lip-synced dance routines—is gloriously over-the-top. The troupe’s material may not be highbrow, but it adds a measure of richness to Albuquerque’s theater scene. So grab your wig and heels, knock back a pre-show drink or two, and get ready for some good, raunchy ridiculousness.

Satan’s School for Girls: The Reunion

Runs through Oct. 30
Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.
Sundays, 2 p.m.
Aux Dog Theatre
3011 Monte Vista NE
Tickets: $15
254-7716, auxdog.com
 
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