Are you undemanding, prune-stuffed, and desperately pleated? Are you over 10 million years old? Have you personally blue-birded over the White Cliffs of Dover, or gone down on Montgomery Clift? Are you an affected Anglophile, a cockney flower girl, a zombie Oscar Wilde, or gayer than goose eggs from ganders? If so, you're one lucky old gay bastard, because there's a chance in hell that you might really enjoy this crap. And by "this crap" I mean the big "gay extravaganza" at ACT, which amounts to a Noël Coward revue called A Marvelous Party, followed by a late-night drag-queen-rich cabaret called Pinkaboo! The Closeted American Songbook. Allow me to elaborate.
Sir Noël Pierce Coward, as you damn well know, was a screaming English homosexual, and the best of what he did he did in the early 1920s through the 1940s. He was a capital wit, a top-drawer snark, a tickler of ivories, a writer of plays and music, and a deft maker-upper of devastating insults and quips. For example: "I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me." (Easy there, now!) He was droll. Wry. Et cetera. And A Marvelous Party, the first part of ACT's gay extravaganza, is a snappy tribute to, and revue of, all things Coward.
The bulk of A Marvelous Party is performed by four fine actors: three fey men and one delightful woman (Anna Lauris). They are very tweedy and properly stuffed and relentlessly British. Two of them play the piano, two of them dance their asses off, and they all sing. They biography Coward a bit, perform his songs, and quip his quips. Beyond that, it gets confusing.
All of the men take turns playing Noël Coward, volleying the persona between them. Sometimes they discuss him objectively, like, "Hey! Wasn't Noël Coward awesome?" (I'm paraphrasing), and at other times one of them turns around and becomes Noël Coward, first-person style, like, "Check it out, I'm totally Noël Coward! Aren't I awesome!?" (Paraphrasing again.) Once or twice they were all Noël Coward at the same time. The effect was muddling.
There were small pockets of magic, naughty swatches of charm, and the talent, by and large, was as thick as the queen's mustache: But all this goodness was bogged down in fusty chatter and tons of corn, delivered in a much too wink-wink, nudge-nudge manner for the likes of me. And God knows, two full hours (plus intermission!!) is too long for any revue. Sir Coward would agree.
After A Marvelous Party, one is encouraged to remain for Pinkaboo!, a gay cabaret sort of thing. I mean, one is encouraged to remain by ACT, not by me. I suggest you run screaming into the night.
At the risk of hurting the feelings of darling people who have lingered on the fringes of Seattle's theater since the dawn of dirt—people I see almost every fucking day on the street—let me say, in all fairness, that the best thing about Pinkaboo! is that it ended. And/or that it didn't kill me, maybe. But it was close.
What we are dealing with here is your basic, older-than-old-skool Drag-Queen-and-Straight-Man lounge-act shtick (Phoncia and Vic, respectively), with all of the pathos and none of the 'zazz. They patter, they spar, they cocktail, they tell jokes that just. Aren't. Funny. Every night of the month-long run, local notables will make guest appearances. The night I reviewed, these guests included two young "drag kings" who dressed like David Bowie in The Hunger and tangoed in their stocking feet (weird), a real burlesque stripper (nobody told me there'd be boobs... but there were), and some complete dork wielding one of those damn life-size Janis Joplin puppets and a way-too-serious expression (dude, relax, it's a fucking puppet). Oh, and Peggy Platt. Peggy came to sing, which she did, and I thought it was darling, but Peggy could roll out covered in vomit and slap me, and I'd still love her. So. Grain of salt.