A young man sitting in front of me at last Sunday's matinee of Dina Martina: Spring in Seattle wanted to make sure his friend was having a good time. His way of doing this involved looking over at his friend and laughing ostentatiously every time Dina Martina pronounced a hard-g word with a soft-g sound—for instance, when Dina opened the show by giving out "jifts," including a chocolate Easter Bunny.
If you've never seen a Dina Martina show, you should know that the soft-g thing happens a whole lot, and this man checked every single time to make sure his friend was having the best possible time, occasionally repeating the soft-g sound himself—"Jift!"—for maximum effect. I had never seen a full Dina show before, and I felt a kinship with the friend. Here I was in an enthusiastic audience of adoring fans who were drinking and having a great time, and I just wasn't feeling it.
Don't get me wrong: I greatly respect the quality of comedy writing and the devotion to the character that Grady West puts into Dina. The one-liners are plentiful and engrossingly picturesque—Dina informs the audience that she knows spring is here because "my blossom is fragrant. I smell like a Top Ramen packet"—but I couldn't escape the feeling that everything was a reference to a very old joke that I'd never heard. A couple of interstitial video performances (including a very funny ad featuring Dina's show-tune-singing head inserted into familiar scenes from The Ten Commandments) felt livelier than the rest of the show. Maybe this is because I've never really gotten drag; if I wanted to see somebody in bad makeup and ill-fitting clothing massacre a cover of 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up," I could just go to any karaoke night ever. West absolutely deserves that Stranger Genius Award he won last year, but drag novices like myself might be advised to wear a little padding, lest the encouraging elbows to the ribs from more in-the-know audience members leave bruises.