Sunday, February 01, 2009

Royal Weekend: from Mummys to Merman

Founder of Monotheism

The Pharaoh who tried to eliminate the polytheism of ancient Egypt figured prominently in the Emory Tutankhamen show Starr, Jeanie, and I saw this weekend.

The boy king who died at the age of 19, possibly from an injured leg, was either Akhenaten's son or grandson, or nephew.

When he died, various advisers and military leaders took charge until Ramesses I became Pharaoh and began a new and powerful dynasty. It was, of course, Emory University which found, identified, and returned to Egypt the mummy of this king.
^ "Egypt's 'Ramses' mummy returned", BBC (26 October 2003)

Inspired by so much royalty, Starr, Dar and I went to see Queen Varla Jean Merman in the action packed performance of Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte at the 14th Street Playhouse last night.
Our seeing the original, Hush, Hush Friday night greatly enhanced our enjoyment.

Here's a bit of review:

Varla Jean Merman storms Atlanta with ‘Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte’

By Mike Fleming | Jan 22, 2009 | 1:25 PM


Hold onto your wig.

If you only know drag icon Varla Jean Merman and her winning pink jumpsuit in last season’s “Project Runway” drag challenge, or from her saccharine-sweet role in the film “Girls Will Be Girls,” you’re in for a treat.

Varla takes her first official bow in Atlanta Jan. 22 when her creator and alter ego, Jeffrey Roberson, brings “Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte” to 14th Street Playhouse. The parody of the 1964 camp classic “Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte” plays through Jan. 31 after an award-winning run in New Orleans last year.

The cheesy, over-the-top film gives the parody a lot of material.

“Anything in the movie that is funny where it wasn’t meant to be, we pick up on those points and take them to the next level,” Roberson says. “The movie doesn’t really make sense, the whole story is so convoluted and confusing, and we just exploit every detail.”

Even if there’s a special connection for audiences that relish the original, you don’t need to know the movie to enjoy the play, Roberson says.

“It’s insane,” he says. “Whether you are familiar with the movie or not, the whole thing is so out of left field, unexpected and completely crazy. People will be rolling in the aisles.”

imageThe play stars accomplished actor Ricky Graham in the Bette Davis role of Charlotte, who is believed to have beheaded her boyfriend some 35 years ago. Varla Jean plays the Olivia de Havilland part, something Roberson says is quite appropriate.

“Olivia was known for her roles as the good girl, like in ‘Gone With the Wind,’” he says. “She’s the evil cousin here, so for her it was a departure — one that doesn’t work at all in the movie, but works for us perfectly, because Varla is sort of known as the girl next door, and I play it up to the hilt.”

But let’s get down to the dirt. Project Q Atlanta spent a half hour this week with Roberson (who slipped in and out of Varla) on the eve of her local debut. Roberson, like Varla, was notably friendly and forthcoming.


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