The audience for the opening night of the Urbanite Theater In the wake of a dead Drag Queen seemed as excited as co-artistic director Brendan Ragan to be back in the theater as he welcomed them after an 18-month hiatus due to the pandemic. (You could tell even with the masks everyone was wearing.) And they also seemed to wholeheartedly embrace the story told in this play by Terry Guest, a two-character play that mixes sharp comedic dialogue with truly moments. touching and angry, all with a dash of drag queen costumes, wigs and lip-sync music numbers.

To wake up First introduces us to a young black drag queen working in the heart of Georgia named Courtney Berringers (real name Anthony Knighton), played by Donovan Session with a mix of smiling confidence and underlying pain. Courtney is performed in the drag queen style; after all, he knows what he wanted to do and be since he was only 7 or 8 years old. The other character, a white newbie to the trade named Hunter (Shea Petersen), is less sure of himself, but knows they don’t fit into the macho male Southern mode where repairing cars is normal activity. .

Hunter (on stage as Vickie Versailles) turns to Courtney for advice, and along the way, the two begin sex (as you might expect, there is some frank talk and action here) , but one where Courtney warns they’re really “just friends.” To complicate matters: both have tested positive for HIV / AIDS, although Hunter has no symptoms or illnesses so far.

That’s not the case with Courtney – that’s why we’re on the back burner. But Courtney is determined, even after death, to play her life with glitter, while Hunter begs the darker truth to be told.

The two performers, under the direction of Damian Lockhart, are as natural as they get. In their locker room scenes, as they apply makeup or change their costume, we have the impression that we are listening to anecdotes about the movies outside the doors, revealing a little about their upbringing and mentioning the models (women) that they admire everyone, from Judy Guirlande to Cher. (Towards the end, there’s even a long streak where Courtney is dancing to “Get Happy” with Garland onscreen behind him, in the movie. Summer stock; starting happily, it gradually changes to a much darker tone as Courtney’s disease worsens.)

It’s easy to be engaged by the straightforward, sassy session as Courtney, but it’s also impressive how truly vulnerable Petersen displays in a role that wouldn’t work without it. Both actors never miss a beat as they navigate the changing and emotional road that awaits them, and the result is a spectacle that is sure to touch your heart.

Not to mention the fun and outrageous costumes by David Covach (that Petersen wears Marie Antoinette’s outfit while singing an opera aria is too much, complete with a laundry hoop skirt) and convincing queen wigs by Susan Haldeman. . The visuals really help set the right atmosphere here.

In the wake of a dead Drag Queen continues until December 5 at Urbanite; call (941) 321-1397 or visit urbanitetheatre.com for tickets.

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