Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
As part of the New York International Fringe Festival an extraordinary group of talented people are presenting “Divine Intervention,” written by E. Dale Smith with an original concept and direction by Braden Chapman, well known as his drag queen alter ego “Mimi Imfurst” from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The production, which had a great critical reception in Pennsylvania, sets up a plot based upon the last night of the celebrity Divine, who was made infamous by John Waters in several films. The date is March 7, 1988, “Hairspray” is about to open and the setting is a dressing room table…one half occupied by Bobby Goodrich as the show business personality Divine and the other half by his real life character Glenn Milstead, Divine’s real name, played by Ryan Walter. Both actors are hefty images of the fat star but Walter is dressed in a T shirt and sweat pants and Goodrich is in Divine’s tiger stripped mini in full makeup. They are arguing because Milstead wants to drop the Divine character and do character part acting and has a date the next day for a part on Fox’s “Married With Children.”
John Waters is played by Nicholas Scheppard who also doubles as Milstead’s father. Cosimo Mauriano plays three parts: Miguel, a make up assistant, Daniel, a trick, and Bernard, their British agent, all fully rounded characters. Terrell Green does a wonderful turn as Lee, a straight bartender whom Milstead seduces, takes away from his wife and children, and then abruptly abandons him after seven years. Green also appears effectively as Peggy, a drag queen working the club in a small town in the South, who admires and insults the Divine character. That’s one flashback and there are great flashbacks to Divine’s act at the Hippodrome in London.
Milstead is broke. Milstead spends his days watching TV and smoking dope. They never receive any checks from their records and the Bernard character insists Milstead play Ibiza for money. There are vocal interviews with voices portraying Tom Snyder, a British interviewer, and an Australian interviewer, always referring to the lurid scenes in Waters’ movies.
The first part of the play is dominated by Goodrich as the strong Divine, bullying Walter as Milstead, and giving strong recreations of Divine’s live appearances, singing and cracking filthy insults at the audience members who shout faggot talkbacks at her. But in the second half of the play Walter is effectively arguing his need to change his career and become a TV character actor, which might even become “a recurring character” according to Bernard. This shatters Goodrich as the Divine character. Of course, those of us who remember Divine know that that change never came when he died.
This is one of the best International Fringe Festival events and even if you don’t recall Divine you will be constantly entertained and touched by this remarkable play. The entire production is professionally performed and designed. And all these elements are superb.
“Divine Intervention” plays two more performances, Friday August 28 at 4:45 pm and Saturday, August 29 at 3:00 pm. The performances have been sold out so reservations are absolutely necessary. The production was originally scheduled for the Lynn Redgrave Theatre but the venue was changed Monday to SoHo Playhouse. Go to TheDivinePlay.com on line to order tickets and get more information.