Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-12-12
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



THEATER REVIEW L'Imitation of Life
by Kerry Reid

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Playwright: Ricky Graham with Running with Scissors, adapted from the film Imitation of Life

At: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-327-5252;; $29-$34. Runs through: May 6

Douglas Sirk's storied run of lush cinematic melodramas ended with 1959's Imitation of Life, starring Lana Turner and Juanita Moore as two single mothers in New York—one white and striving to be a Broadway star, the other Black and just hoping to find a home for herself and her light-skinned daughter, who resents being trapped in a "Black" identity. Of course, the white woman shoots to the top, while the Black woman is consigned to the role of long-suffering housekeeper and confidant.

The film was Turner's comeback from the 1958 stabbing death of her mobster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, by her 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane. The death was ruled justifiable homicide, but the scandal lingered.

That story forms one of many meta running gags in Hell in a Handbag's L'Imitation of Life, a remount of the company's 2013 parody of Turner, Sirk and problematic racial tropes masquerading as social awareness. I missed the earlier incarnation, but Stevie Love's staging, despite a few pacing hiccups here and there, provides a fantastic vehicle for Ed Jones as Turner and Robert Williams as Annie Johnson, her housekeeper.

When I say "fantastic vehicle," imagine a pink Cadillac Eldorado convertible with chrome for days. Jones' Lana ( the script strips away the film character's name ) parades around in a narcissistic fog, never remembering Annie's name, literally using people as coat-racks, and jumping from man to man at the drop of a gauche evening gown ( credit to costumer Gary Nocco ). "You're not cheap," one of her paramours tells her. "You're drastically marked down."

Williams, meantime, balances these excesses with perfectly timed nonverbal hints of exasperation for Annie, whose workload grows as Lana's star rises. Katherine Bellantone brings warped pixie charm to Suzie Turner, her mother's Mini-Me who keeps a collection of knives and lusts after Mom's pedophilic boyfriend, Steve Martin ( "Not that Steve Martin" ), played with greasy insouciance by Chazie Bly.

A montage at the top of the second act juxtaposes Jones' face on actual Hollywood fan rags with images from the Jim Crow era, reminding us that Sirk's film was already headed toward relic-of-another-age status when it was released during the heating up of the civil rights movement. It also reminds us that Hollywood's relationship to social justice has always had a whiff of the self-serving and hypocritical.

But the played-for-laughs histrionics go down a notch at the end, as Ashley Hicks' prodigal daughter, Sara Jane ( who ran away to pursue her own show-biz dreams ) returns and brings out the earnest ( if still somewhat operatic ) emotions that Sirk unabashedly utilized in his work. It moves L'Imitation of Life from camp to homage—and it works.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

The Play That Goes Wrong 2018-12-12 - Playwright: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields At: Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. Tickets: . Runs through: Dec. 16. ...

Gay News

Hedwig' tour in Chicago in 2019 2018-12-12 - John Cameron Mitchell—the Tony-winning, Golden Globe-nominated co-creator of Hedwig & the Angry Inch—will bring his rock spectacle to the United States for the ...

Gay News

The Second City 107th Mainstage Revue, Algorithm Nation or The Static Quo 2018-12-11 - Writers: Ryan Asher, Tyler Davis, Jeffrey Murdoch, Emma Pope, Nate Varrone, Kimberly Michelle Vaughn At: The Second City Mainstage, 1616 N. Wells ...

Gay News

T.R. Knight talks about upcoming 'Dream' role 2018-12-11 - T.R. Knight might still be best known for his five-season run as Dr. George O'Malley on ABC's Grey's Anatomy—and for the infamous 2007 ...

Gay News

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins 2018-12-10 - Author: Michael Daily, from the book by Eric Kimmel At: Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice Ave. Tickets:; $20-$25. Runs through: Jan. 5 ...

Gay News

The Santaland Diaries 2018-12-10 - Playwright: Steve Scott, adapted from the essay by David Sedaris At: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Tickets: $15-45; . Runs through: ...

Gay News

Critics' Picks 2018-12-10 - Buttcracker: A Nutcracker Burlesque, ( Sub )version Productions at Reggie's Music Joint, through Dec. 26. Fan-dancing snowflakes, a glass-eating "Calavera Catrina" and a ...

Gay News

Stomp 2018-12-10 - By: Luke Cresswell and Steve MacNicholas At: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St.. Tickets:; $39-$84. Runs through: Dec. ...

Gay News

Les Miserables comes to Cadillac Palace Theatre July 2019 2018-12-10 - CHICAGO ( December 10, 2018 ) Cameron Mackintosh's acclaimed production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's Tony Award-winning musical phenomenon, Les Miserables, will ...

Gay News

Twelfth Night 2018-12-10 - Playwright: William Shakespeare At: Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Ct., Glencoe. Tickets: 847-242-6000;; $35-$80. Runs through: Dec. 16 In Shakespeare's mostly rollicking ...


Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.