Where else but MBS Productions could you find a loopy, gabby, tragicomic heroine with the panache of Lovely Uranus? Lovely is (of course) a drag queen and the protagonist of Forever Lovely, the latest in a trilogy (so far) featuring herself and various lovers, friends and consorts. Very often Lovely finds herself in the awkward position of navigating gatherings where she’s been sexual with more than one guest. And not necessarily one at a time. In a sense, playwright Alejandro de la Costa is exploring the chaotic culture of propriety, sexual intimacy and gay men. Costa suggests that one can take multiple lovers without necessarily rejecting character or integrity, or perhaps, that doing so isn’t as uncomplicated as men (dogs that we are) would like to think. In short, Costa brings his moral compass to shenanigans involving male homoerotic behavior, trying to inject some intelligence, clarity and responsibility into the often messy, impulsive realm of grown-up sex. He challenges the idea that we queer guys (or maybe any guys?) are just a bunch of wanton trollops.
In Forever Lovely, we find Lovely cohabitating and romancing with Casey, a cute, delectable guy, with lots of fizzy energy. Add to the mix Keith, Paul and Roberta (transgender Robert) whose paths have all crossed in some way, at one time or another. Gradually it comes to light that Casey is more ill than he or the rest of them realize. [*SPOILER ALERT*] Sadly, due to negligence, insouciance and denial, Casey learns he has full blown AIDS, far too advanced to treat effectively. Lovely’s black and white dream reunion with his ghost is one of the most effective scenes in the show. Whether we credit playwright Costa, director Charles Ballinger or producer Mark-Brian Sonna, MBS Productions has a strange gift for getting the most from quirky, oracular devices. Who knew?
There are strategic and craft issues, but I’m fond of the Lovely Uranus pieces for numerous reasons. The play previous to this one : The Importance of Being Lovely, felt stronger and a bit more vibrant. In all three shows, the characters make it very clear that “Lovely” transgenders for entertainment purposes only. He supposedly wears men’s clothing in his day-to-day life. Yet we never see him in boydrag. Not once. I’m not saying there can’t reasons for this, but the treatment begs the question and there are no answers forthcoming. The dialogue tends to be overwritten, Costa uses more words than he needs to make his point, and, generally speaking, some distillation would pick up the pace.
All this being said, after witnessing actor Mark-Brian Sonna become more and more comfortable in the process of drag performance, it’s impressive to see the depths and authenticity he achieves wearing Lovely’s outlandish, clever, nearly extraterrestrial ensembles. It verges on the comical, and yet, somehow, the combined effect is giddy, bittersweet and inexplicably moving. I believe drag is rarely used for the sake of gravitas (Torch Song Trilogy and Kiss of the Spiderwoman being notable exceptions) but here, this is exactly what happens, and it shouldn’t be missed.
MBS Productions presents : Forever Lovely, in an extended run through August 17th, 2013. Stone Cottage Theater, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, Texas 75001. 214-477-4942. www.MBSProductions.net. Starring : Kyle Amos (Paul) Charli Armstrong (Roberta) Adam Nick Hill (Keith) Dylan Peck (Casey) and Mark-Brian Sonna (Lovely Uranus).