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Dobama’s ‘At The Wake Of A Dead Drag Queen’ is anything but a drag

It is June, 1981 (a beastly hot month even for rural Albany, Georgia) and Courtney Berringers...aka Anthony (Jason Eno) has died of complications from AIDS, in particular, pneumonia. His protege and lover, Vickie...aka Hunter (Dan Hendrock) has moved to New York City to seek his fortune.

Up to Vickie’s leaving, the two drag queens were an item, sharing costumes, make-up ideas, performing secrets and their beds. Vickie is also HIV positive but is asymptomatic while Courtney’s chronic cough is a hint as to how very sick he is. In spite of his illness, Courtney plays at life in a very wide manner. She is brash and to the point and the very embodiment of “Carpe Diem” as she lives to perform on stage. This is the essence of Terry Guest’s “At The Wake Of A Dead Drag Queen” now on stage at Dobama theatre.

To the uninitiated, Drag Queens are an entertainment phenomena that has been around for centuries in various forms dating back to Greek Theater and Shakespearean times. Even during the Victorian Era when those who were found to be gay were imprisoned or executed men would “dress up” and strut their stuff.

These days, men (both gay and straight) dress up in very complicated and complex outfits complete with high stiletto heels to perform on stage while lip syncing anyone from Joan Crawford, Dianna Ross, Dolly Pardon, Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald and Shirley Brown to name a few.

Be aware...This is an adult themed show and one not suitable for children. It contains language, themes and situations that should not be considered entertaining to youngsters. It is geared for mature audiences only so use your discretion.

In the words of Dobama Theatre’s Artistic Director Nathan Motta, “This irreverent, hilarious, and moving new play thoughtfully uses storytelling, drama, and drag to celebrate life and love. It’s a raucous, entertaining, and thought-provoking script that is equal parts drag show, comedy, and drama. We are thrilled to share this dynamic production with audiences.”

In a word, it is a complete show. There is biting comedy. There is pathos. There is romance. There is drama. There is even some audience interaction. Most of all there are some great drag queen stage performances that will take your breath away. We spend the scant 85 minutes (without intermission) learning of the lives of the two protagonists turned lovers as they share their lives growing up in rural Georgia in the 60s. Each has a gripping story of how they “came out” and the reactions of their family, relations and towns people to their reveal.

As for the production, it is top notch. Jason Eno as Courtney is (as my wife puts it) “manly stacked” yet through the art of make-up, wigs, concealment and prosthetic is transformed right in front of our eyes into a woman and a very convincing one at that. His partner, Dan Hendrock as Vickie is equal to the task, especially in returning the verbal barbs that fly throughout the play. There are some truly laugh out loud moments between the two.

The stage by Benjamin Needham with props by Vanessa Cook is divided into three sections of back stage dressing room, stage and bedroom. The lighting by Benjamin Gantose gives superb separation so that it is easy to follow the various scenes. The costumes by Suwatana Rockland are exquisite and drag consultant Onya Nurve excellent work is evident throughout the performance. Megan Culley does a great job with the sound design with the singing performances coming out loud and clear. The show is spritely directed by Preston Crowder.

If you have ever been curious about the behind the scenes world of drag queens, now is your chance to experience up close and personal a slice of their lives. This production delves beyond the surface to give us an in depth portrait of two very complex characters. Paint your lips, swing your hips and come experience a moving story...high heels optional.

The Dobama Theatre production of “At The Wake Of A Dead Drag Queen” will be on stage at 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio through February 18, 2024. For more information and tickets go to or call (216) 932-3396.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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