Next up for me at the Intiman Theatre Festival is "Miracle!" written and directed by our own local columnist Dan Savage. As noted in his director’s statement, "Miracle!" comes out of his history of doing what he calls "bar theater" with its motto: "My life is drama. Make me laugh." With that history in mind, go to this show expecting edgy, raunchy humor and you’ll have a great time. What might surprise you is how much heart the show has.
In "Miracle!" Savage reworks the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, asking the questions: What if Helen had been a deaf/blind drag queen and Annie had been the lesbian social worker sent to teach her? Crystal Pain (Burton Curtis) is an aging drag queen who runs a bar with a drag show. In her youth, she fathered a child. When the baby got sick and became deaf and blind, the biological mother abandoned the family, leaving Crystal to raise the boy alone.
With a lot of love but very little understanding of how to handle and communicate with a deaf/blind child, she brings the child up into young adulthood as a budding drag queen known as Helen Stellar within a family of drag performers. When one of the performers, Bailey Legal (Drew Highlands) tires of Helen’s tantrums and wig-stealing, she calls Child Protective Services, who sends out Annie Sullivan (Hannah Victoria Franklin).
Annie insists she must be with the young drag queen day and night to find a way to communicate with her, so the obvious solution is to perform with her on stage in the drag show. When she fails to get through to Helen, she decides to do something more drastic: remove her from her familiar environment to a lesbian bar run by a friend where Helen and Annie’s drag act is added to the open mic show.
"Miracle!" is sparkling with sequins and shot through with hilarious physical humor and one-liners. We move back and forth between the live shows being performed at the bar and the action in the dressing room back stage, shown as an upper level on the set designed by Jennifer Zeyl.
Some favorite moments include Gloria Blaize (Timothy McCuen Piggee) in a ravishing leopard print body suit sashaying over to the bar during her lip sync number "I’m Every Woman," to have a drink while continuing to lip sync with her hand as a puppet. Another memorable scene is when all the drag queens try to choose an appropriate drag name for Annie Sullivan and settling on Miss Kitty Bukakke: "I like it!" She says, "It’s Japanese!"
A choice moment features Helen Stellar staggering toward the front of the stage during her number with a big smile pasted on her face and then reeling back moaning in distress as her shock collar, fitted by her mother to keep her from falling off the stage, goes off. Another features Annie chasing around after Helen trying to sign everything into her hands: "bra," "dyke," and "falsies."
There is also the ridiculous spoken word poetry done by a Lesbian Beat Poet (Angela Rose Sink) at the dyke bar Acres of Clams. And the down and dirty number done by Bailey Legal with backup dancers Thing 1 (Jonathan Crimeni) and Thing 2 (Angela Rose Sink) to Khia’s song "My Neck My Back (Lick It)" wherein she gathers spit from both dancers, lubes up the leg of a bar stool, lowers herself carefully down onto it and does the nasty in fine form.
As a side note, if you’re worried that you might find the show offensive, you might want to Google that last song and listen to it while visualizing the scene I’ve described, to test yourself.
Time passage is marked by the progression of drag numbers: Each queen has a signature number performed in its entirety at the beginning, then in shortened form later to demonstrate the passing of many nights. Choreographer Waxie Moon (Marc Kenison) as well as Drag Coach Jerick Hoffer aka Jinx Monsoon did a wonderful job putting together numbers that both entertained the audience and provided the structure around the story.
If you’re looking for it, you can probably find plenty to offend here! But I’d suggest that those who are offended might want a little more spit lube of their own to remove the sticks from their you-know-where. Underneath the drag and glamour, "Miracle!" is still the story of a challenging child being raised with love in an unusual family.
Helen Keller (the real one) said, "Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." I’d say this show falls on the side of overcoming it and the night I was there the whole audience cheered Hellen on as she achieved communication, and a knock-’em dead drag finale. Great and lofty theater it is not, but it is a whole lot of fun.
"Miracle" runs through August 25 at Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer St. in Seattle. For info or tickets, call 206-441-7178 or visit www.intiman.org.