The Facts of Life—Satan's School for Girls provides a Halloween showcase | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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The Facts of Life—Satan's School for Girls provides a Halloween showcase

Hell in a Handbag's spoof of Mrs. Garrett and 21 Jump Street is far from a drag.

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As luck would have it, the most expedient way to describe vanguard camp comic and longtime Hell in a Handbag collaborator Ed Jones to the uninitiated might just be "imagine Mrs. Garrett from The Facts of Life, only ten times Mrs. Garrett-ier." So it's an added bonus that this Halloween musical parody by David Cerda (score by Cerda and Andrew Milliken), which smuggles coke, ritualistic goat slaughter, and dry humping into the all-girls Eastland boarding school, gives Jones an opportunity to pay drag homage to his sister in spirit.

Suspecting that her younger sibling's disappearance was the result of foul play, an amateur detective (Cerda) pulls a 21 Jump Street and infiltrates the prep school as a student. Alongside her hapless cohort disguised as a janitor (Marissa Williams), she goes about uncovering an extracurricular sacrificial cult while navigating life as a teen for a second time.

The colorful, neighborly, boozy upstairs stage at Mary's Attic presents a tricky catch-22 here, where the atmosphere and vibe feel perfectly conducive for kitschy sketch fun, but the sound system is clearly more suited for MaryOke-Karaoke than an entire ensemble cast wearing face mikes. But once Jones and Cerda start pulling faces and chewing scenery in the grand and glamorous Charles Busch tradition, it's hard to mind. Madison Smith's witty and irreverent production also serves as an impressive showcase of young comedic talent, including Alexa Castelvecchi, Katy Campbell, and Graham Heacock in costumer Gregory Graham's jaw-droppingly fishy drag.  v

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