Lana Verner, Lana Verner
Theater LaB continues its ultra-silly Camp Alamo series with the world premiere of Blair Fell's Lana Verner, Lana Verner, an outlandish, floozy bit of laugh-out-loud, totally tasteless fluff that leaps back into 1950s Hollywood, where blond bombshells ruled the world.
The story starts when Lana (Therese Kotara) meets Sasheemi (Tracy E. Wheat) in a maternity ward somewhere in the "skid row" bowels of Coney Island. Both women have just given birth to illegitimate girls. But Lana's blond "angelic little bastard" is the child of the archangel Gabriel, who apparently swept down to earth long enough to, um, plant his seed before flying back to heaven. Sasheemi, on the other hand, has given birth to Satan's child, horns and all. The biracial child is destined for a life of sorrow; anyone, after all, who is not blond (or white) suffers in this land of movie-industry stereotypes.
An embodiment of the old Hollywood African-American stereotype, Sasheemi begs Lana for work, saying she doesn't want pay, just enough food and clothes to take care of herself and her child, Lima Beena (Rebecca Tindel-Bivens). True to type, hard-hearted (and very blond) Lana agrees, then promptly runs off to Hollywood to make her fortune, leaving her child, Vita (Tiffani Ginn), with the kindly, hard-working Sasheemi, who lives to serve.
But lancing racial stereotypes is just one part of this shameless script. Everything from Nietzsche to Mormons to lesbians falls on Fell's skewer. In a "blonds only" school, where Lima Beena is "passing," the kids play "Nietzsche Says"; when Lima Beena grows up and is forced into the stripper's life, she gets hit on by a hard-boiled lesbian who wears a lot of flannel.
Teetering on the edge of offensiveness (a nearby patron harrumphed "that's tasteless" halfway through the play), the production stays upright thanks to the marvelous cast -- both Kotara's Lana and Wheat's Sasheemi are hysterical -- and to Bill McDonald's razor-sharp direction. Not for the faint of heart -- even abortion gets a bloody moment on stage -- many modern-day cynics will find Lana Verner, Lana Verner irresistibly funny.
Lana Verner, Lana Verner runs through March 25 at Theater LaB, 1706 Alamo, (713)868-5516. $20-$22.
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