Maybe the attraction of an Elvis impersonator is finally passé, replaced by a spectrum of drag queens in the pop culture world.
At least he is in Flying Anvil Theatre’s current production of Matthew Lopez’s 2014 play “The Legend of Georgia McBride.”
Men dressing up as women as been a staple in theater since the ancient Greeks, who invented the art form. Even in Shakespeare’s time, women were not allowed to officially be part of professional theater.
In the age of television, Aunt Miltie, the character created by Milton Berle, the medium’s first star, and Flip Wilson’s Geraldine were loved by the mainstream.
But they were theatrical characters, not drag queens, the category of fanciful, excessively exaggerated personas who lip-synched their way into public consciousness.
The TV success of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” now in its 10th season, along with RuPaul’s recent appearance on “Jeopardy,” in trade for host Alex Trebek’s appearance on RuPaul’s show, have brought the world of drag queens into the heart of pop culture.
In “Georgia McBride,” Casey (Ethan Graham Roeder, who is almost never off-stage) finds out the hard way that his Elvis act isn’t bringing in a crowd into Cleo’s, a beach-front bar in Panama City, playwright Lopez’s home town.
Eddie (Donald Thorne, rotating in the role with David Dwyer) the bar owner fires him, but not before bringing in his cousin, Bobby (My’Chyl Purr) and his costar Norman. Bobby performs as Miss Tracy Mills, while Norman (Collin Andrews) is Anorexia “Rexy” Nervosa.
Casey learns he is fired when he encounters Tracy and Rexy in the dressing room and Eddie, almost casually tell him he’s been replaced. Eddie doesn’t want to argue about it because he has a migraine, which Eddie, in one of the play’s best lines, describes as “like giving birth to a baby by pushing it out through your eyeballs.”
That leaves Casey desperate. He is about to be evicted because he can’t pay his rent and he’s just learned that Jo (Aleah Vassell), his wife, is pregnant.
But Eddie isn’t cold-hearted. He gives Casey a chance to be a bartender. That doesn’t last long because Rexy goes on a bender and Tracy has to have a partner.
So Georgia McBride is created on the fly. Casey turns out to be good at it. The bar starts to make big profits. Even Jo comes around and becomes the talent manager.
Director Jayne Morgan utilizes her actors well. She does her best to bring life to Lopez’s dialog that only occasionally sizzles.
Casey and Jo’s landlord, Jason (doubled by Collin Andrews) during one of the play’s most touching moments when Jo confronts Casey for not telling her he lost his job or what his new one is, tells a story about once dating a transgender woman and the shock of discovering an unexpected body part.
He also discovered that he really liked her. “The heart wants what the heart wants and I was focused on the wrong organ,” he says.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” plays at Flying Anvil Theatre, 1300 Rocky Hill Rd, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2, through June 24. Tickets are available at the box office at 865-357-1309 and at www.flyinganviltheatre.com.