Dante Alighieri’s epic 14th century poem The Divine Comedy is very much alive and swell at the Laurie Beechman Theatre and embodied in the luscious and multi talented form of television star and theatrical siren BenDeLaCreme. No worries though. This is not a dark and morose Hell. This is more like a Hell on wheels with a comically creative motor that blasts the fun right ‘atcha and leaves you thoroughly satiated in its wake but still wanting more.
For those not up on their religious studies, this great work tells the story of Dante’s journey through the afterlife. In the poem Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth’s core. It is the realm of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen. Or as our drag queen laureate tells us in her opening number “that’s what Wikipedia says” and she’s right. I looked it up.
In the poem Dante is guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. Not so for us. With writer, performer, and RuPaul’s Drag Race Miss Congeniality winner BenDeLaCreme as our tour guide, DeLa to her friends, followers, and admirers of which there were many in the house, we begin our journey through the underworld.
DeLa will take on many forms as we progress and her first is Carnal Cruise Line’s Cruise Director Carol. We board the naughty ship and make several stops and along the way we’ll encounter a bevy of wonderful characters. There are Furies, Centaurs, a messenger from God, a harpy, an unforgettable femme by the name of Indulgence Gluttington, and after having traveled down all nine suffer rings we even meet Satan himself. All of these are performed live, or on truly well produced rear projections, or even as puppets by DeLa’s alter ego Benjamin Putman. I almost dare not mention his name for fear of ruining the illusion but let’s give credit where credit is due. Ben and DeLa meld together into a consummate singularity of entertainment perfection.
Between the musical numbers, the multiple live characters, the costume changes, the puppets, the characters she plays on the screen, and her flawlessly timed interactions with her prerecorded selves BenDeLaCreme’s working her well rounded keister off and yet the show appears to be sublimely effortless. DeLa is without a doubt a smart, funny, vivacious, sultry, devilishly playful, and remarkably talented tour guide and Inferno A-Go-Go is her wildly entertaining drag show domain. As an allegory, The Devine Comedy represents the journey of the soul towards God and enlightenment. Whether or not God, or the Devil, are in the details you will most definitely leave this trippy theatrical sojourn uplifted.
Laurie Beechman Theatre 407 W 42nd St New York, NY 10036 212.695.6909 web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/959376 May 24 – June 3 25 - $50
Edward Medina is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) and welcomes comments at EdwardMedinaAuthor@gmail.com.
From an original post on TheaterScene.
All photo credits Richard Termine.