Advice columnist Dan Savage has branched (back) out into theater, writing and directing "gay-drag reworking/re-imagining of The Miracle Worker," the biographical play about Helen Keller, a blind and deaf feminist, anti-war, and workers' rights activist, and the teacher, Anne Sullivan, who facilitated Keller's communication skills.
Savage's "irreverent" camp version differs from the original in some key ways, like, for instance, the addition of "simulated sex acts" and "disgusting language," about which a posted sign outside the theater warns/entices. The play is also, as noted in this review, "awash in Keller jokes." Because if there's one bitch who needs to be taken down a peg, it's Helen Keller.
Director-writer Savage, noted author and gay activist, twists the saga of the untamed, disabled Keller and devoted teacher Annie Sullivan into the taming of a deaf, blind and mute drag prodigy, Helen Stellar (Jonathon Pyburn), by butch therapist Annie (a strong Hannah Victoria Franklin).Oh, well, as long as it's got a sentimental heart as it exploits Keller's life story and milks disablism for a laugh!
The more ludicrous gags, as when little Helen stumbles and bellows in her pathetic act, score big laughs — and big winces. And some bits (undescribable here) are just gross-outs.
But "Miracle!" can be less crudely amusing, and it has a sentimental heart. As dicey as the dexterous Pyburn's mocking of Helen's spastic pratfalls is, the show pulls for the kid's rehab.
Cue the accusations I just don't understand campy humor, I'm humorless, I don't get satire, blah blah yawn. Except that Chicago is an amazing theater town, and that includes amazing camp/drag theater. There are brilliant camp/drag companies in Chicago: I've been to countless performances and have known people who performed, sometimes for years, in camp and/or drag shows. A lot of their material was genuinely edgy and challenging and subversive. Some of it was problematic. But none of them ever had to mock a person with disabilities to get a laugh.
[H/T to Deeky.]