Female Trouble | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Female Trouble

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FEMALE TROUBLE, Sweetback Productions, at Griffin Theatre. Following the model of their late-night hit based on Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space, the folks at Sweetback Productions have created another camped-up homage to a cult film, John Waters's wonderfully loathsome 1974 film Female Trouble, about a bad girl gone wrong (played of course by Divine). The show is full of wonderful sight gags--outrageous costumes, on-the-mark impersonations, sets that re-create the feel of Waters's down-and-dirty locations--and it captures the anarchistic energy of the film. Still, it's not nearly as good as the original.

What's missing is the liberating subversive eroticism of Waters's films. Female impersonator Daisy Mae re-creates Divine's girth and her tendency to overplay her lines, but none of the undercurrent of white-trash sexiness that made Divine so fascinating--and so dangerous to a straight, uptight world. Edith Massey, who played Aunt Ida in the film, was an awful actor, yet even when she read her lines like a kid in a school play something true and moving came through; the same cannot be said for Monte, who plays Aunt Ida here.

Unlike Wood, Waters knew what he was doing when he made Female Trouble and Pink Flamingos, and he did it well. Anyone trying to do an ironic send-up of a movie that is itself an ironic send-up--of Hollywood, exploitation flicks, the whole damn glamour industry--is looking for trouble.

--Jack Helbig

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