John Patrick Trapper’s The Golden Gays has just opened at Casita Del Campo in Silverlake, and though this men-in-drag Golden Girls spoof runs about half an hour too long (and would do better with a stronger focus on the “girls” themselves), it provides laugh after unsophisticated laugh and is a likely crowd pleaser.

We begin in the office of therapist Dr. Leche (Aaron Barerra), who’s been having serious problems with four of his patients, beginning with Samuel (David Romano).
Samuel: I tell them I’m upset with Sophia and they think I’m gay.
Dr. Leche: Why do they think you’re gay? You’re not attractive. You’re not that old broad, and you never say anything funny, so just get well!

Next up is Blaine (John Downey III), who’s recently had two more “incidents” in public places.
Dr. Leche: Business as usual for Blaine.
Blaine: I know. I seem to have sex wherever I go. Why can’t I be like Blanche? She was a slut and everyone accepted it.

Dr. Leche’s next patient is Roger (Irwin Moscowitz), who arrives with an enormous bandage on his left jaw covering an unsightly bruise. “How was I to know they were Bloods and Crips?” he asks the good doctor. To the doctor’s relief, it appears that Roger has stopped a local gang war with some unpronounceable German baked goods.

Finally it’s Damien (John W. McLaughlin), who tells Dr. Leche that he really doesn’t know why he’s in therapy, to which the doctor replies, “You think everything gets fixed with a sarcastic, bitchy comment. You think you know everything, like Dorothy. Why can’t you be sweet like Rose?”
When Damien goes on to to compare himself with Dorothy (they are both “sort of groundbreakers,” he says), Dr. Leche realizes that his four patients all have the same problem. They are forgetting the fact that The Golden Girls aren’t real people, but only characters on a TV show—played by actresses.

When the last of Dr. Leche’s patients has left, the frustrated Spanish-accented therapist realizes it’s time for professional help—from The Jeffersons’ sassy maid Florence (prerecorded voice of Marla Gibbs). He phones Florence, who advises “drag therapy.” It seems that all four of Dr. Leche’s patients are suffering from Sitcom Defective Affectation Disorder, and must pretend to be The Golden Girls in order to recover (or something like that).

Before you know it, Dr. Leche had donned Diana Ross drag and is singing “I’ve Never Been To Me,” retitled “With Wigs And Make-Up On,” and featuring new lyrics: “With dresses, wigs, and make-up on, we’ll all move to South Beach.” Soon, Samuel, Blaine, Roger, and Damien have returned in full Golden Girls mode—as Sophia, Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy, the resemblance stupefyingly spot-on.

About twenty minutes into the show’s 140 minute running time, an actor named Ron (just Ron, a la Cher and Madonna) shows up as a hunky AC Repairman (and the girls don’t even have AC). Before long, Ron’s shirt is off, exposing a smooth, tanned, well-toned torso which gets our Golden Gays (and audience gays) to salivating, particularly foot-fetishist Blanche, who makes sure the AC Guy’s shoes are off as well—and then goes on to sing a take-off on Grease’s “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” newly titled “I’m Just Not That Kind Of Guy.”

Damien/Dorothy installs a trigger on the doorknob and TV remote to simulate TV sitcom sounds and music, and a pair of claps is all that’s needed to set off canned audience applause. He/she has also signed the four “girls” up for the talent show at the HIV prevention center…and the songs keep coming.

Ron (shirt back on, sadly) solos “I Dreamed A Dream Where Men Were Men” (and girls were girls), to the music of Les Miz. The Golden Gays and Dr. Leche (as Florence) harmonize to “Brush Up Your GG,” formerly known as Kiss Me Kate’s “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” Dr. Leche, in Tyra Banks mode, sings “Tyra’s Lament” (formerly “Adelaide’s Lament,” from Guys And Dolls).

Ultimately, at about the 110 minute point, Dr. Leche decides that “intense therapy” is in order. The four guys need to recreate a real Golden Girls episode, and as any sitcom fan knows, that means still half an hour to go. (My guest quipped, “Honey, this is longer than The Little Foxes.”)

Trapper’s spoof is best when it concentrates on his four leading men/ladies, who do almost uncannily real (and absolutely hilarious) imitations of the Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty originals. McLaughlin captures all of Dorothy’s dry humor and dirty looks (and looks great in and out of drag). Moscowitz makes for a perfectly ditzy Rose. Downey looks and sounds almost uncannily like McClanahan, and has a great pair of gams to boot. Romano is such a hoot as Sophia that the late Miss Getty would give thumbs up. In addition, the quartet’s many (uncredited) costume changes get almost as many laughs as the script itself.

 Ron Who?

Ron too holds audience attention, though more opportunities could have been found for him to doff his shirt. Also, one can’t help wondering, by keeping his last name a secret, does this young actor not want anyone to know he’s in this show? A pretty blonde (biologically female) actress named Julia Lillis shows up in Act Two as various characters, including Dr. Joyce Brothers no less. (Lillis has a powerful musical theater belt of a voice.)

As Dr. Leche, “dragographer” Barerra is a talented female impersonator, but a little of Diana, Florence, Tyra, and for the last half hour or so Beyonce, goes a long, long way. Eighty minutes or so of four grown men in Golden Girls drag (plus ten minutes or so of Ron for spice) would have made for a perfect ninety minutes of Golden Girls gaiety.

Director Lori J. Ness Quinn deserves credit for helping her four leads polish their Bea, Betty, Rue, and Estelle tributes. The Golden Gays’ crew is completed by choreography consultant Doug Anderson, musical director Robert Glen Decker, and Castro Gonzalez and Jim Thomas Mora recreating the Golden Girls set on Casita De Campo’s small stage.

Diehard Golden Girls fans, particularly of the gay male variety, are likely to eat up The Golden Gays. The Opening Night audience gave them a standing ovation.

The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

—Steven Stanley
September 10, 2009

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