Guess Who’s Coming to the Drag Show? “Ms. Delight”: A Review

md4The titular character of Straton Rushing’s one-act comedic drama Ms. Delight is drag queen Stella Delight (Witti Repartee), a middle aged, highly sought-after but somewhat world-weary diva who sees nothing wrong with getting on stage a bit late for a New York City club performance.  Keeping the audience waiting is nothing new for larger-than-life performers: Grace Jones, one of our ultimate pop culture icons, even dedicated an entire chapter (named “Delay”) of her 2015 biography I’ll Never Write My Memoirs to her reputation for being… shall we say, “less than punctual”. Repartee’s Ms. Delight echoes that philosophy when she tells the no-nonsense club manager Kayla (Rebekah D. Wilson), “The audience will eat up the musical stylings of Ms. Stella Delight, whether I’m on fourth, or tenth, or in the alley way after the show!  The order is not important!”  An affinity for lateness is just one of many things we learn about Ms. Delight in Rushing’s provocative play, directed by Cammerron Baits.  The piece enjoyed a one-night-only production at New York City’s TADA Youth Theater as part of Emerging Artists Theatre’s New Works Series.  Later on in the play, we also learn that Ms. Delight’s alter ego is Roy Young, a former family man who traded his Mormon underwear for glittery eyelashes, high heels, and a busy itinerary of performing at gay clubs.

md3Cammerron Baits is a New York City based professional actor and acting coach.  He’s also a fine director. Equally as important as his directorial skills is Baits’ knack for choosing superior works to direct.  Ms. Delight is a fine example of that: a one-act play that establishes character development, absorbs the audience into the plot, and offers a believable conclusion in a relatively brief running time.  That conclusion, incidentally, doesn’t tie things up neatly in a gift box with a lace ribbon.  Rather, it leaves the audience hungry for more, promising many post-performance discussions.  Playwright Rushing and Director Baits can also boast the benefit of having Witti Repartee, a New York City-based performer and activist, in the lead role.  In real life, Repartee is a popular drag artist who has been performing for 20 years.  Repartee’s Stella Delight is a popular drag artist who has been performing for 15 years.  The setting of the play is Stella’s dressing room.  An array of brightly colored sequinned gowns hang on a rack, while a row of wigs compete for attention.  There’s lots of makeup, accessories, and an emblematic can of AquaNet.  We learn that Stella gets her own dressing room, while the newer, younger queens– who Stella teases for their choice of “punny” names– have to share a smaller space.  Just like with her lateness, this queen can get away with her empress-like behavior because, well, she has “the name”!

md2Watching Ms. Delight slowly and carefully apply her makeup with her symbolically ornate mirror, we know that there’s a million stories in that traveling dressing room.  If Ms. Delight is already late in getting on stage, she’s about to be even later: The colorful setting is interrupted with the impact of a pothole explosion when Ms. Delight receives an unexpected visitor: her trembling teenage son Roy Young Jr. (Brandon P. Raines), who traveled all the way from Utah to track down the star.  Revelations are revealed and souls are bared until this unplanned family reunion almost spontaneously combusts with emotion, climaxing in a near-physical altercation.  What will the two learn about each other?  Will this father and son come to any kind of understanding and mutual respect?   More importantly, will Ms. Stella Delight EVER get on that stage? .

Ms Delight packs a wallop of emotion, intelligence, and wit into its under-an-hour running time.  All three main characters are excellent. Repartee is superb as Stella Delight, who uses her quick, sardonic wit as a keen defense mechanism.  The character has formed a hard shell from the years of emotional challenges, but is able to soften up ever so slowly when the prodigal son returns.  In contrast to his father’s defensive coolness,  Brandon P. Raines’ Roy Jr. is all restless, vulnerable, and nakedly candid emotion.  Raines perfectly captures his character’s hungry soul. Rebekah D. Wilson is engaging as the sassy club manager Kayla, who REALLY earns her money for managing this wild night of drag.  Wilson’s Kayla isn’t afraid to throw it right back at her headlining star.  In a brief role, Sarah Wiesehahn is thoroughly cute and charming as drag queen “Sasha Away” (Get it?).
This reviewer, for one, is hoping that this Delight-ful one act play makes an encore performance!

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