We’ve got trouble, my friends, right here in Massachusetts.
Hennessy Brown (Qya Marie) was a black-market baby who, as a little girl, watched her adoptive fathers get gunned down by an illegal immigrant dressed as a nun on the streets of Lynn. Twenty years later, she’s a brilliant young scientist who is working to create a serum that could bring an end to racism. Her particular target is the Lynn chapter of the Trump-loving “White Ladies Paranoid Society” who are responsible for spreading divisive and bigoted rhetoric all over the North Shore, and they’re big supporters of corrupt Lynn Mayor Ivy League (Kiki Samko), who has bigger political aspirations in mind.
As luck would have it, disgraced President Donald J. Trump (a perfect Tim Lawton) has just gotten out of prison and is ready to return to the spotlight. For this next chapter, Trump takes on a kind of superhero alter ego, Bald Eagle, who throws his support behind Ivy League and doubles down on his hateful rhetoric, hoping to draw his supporters out of their penthouses and trailer parks. His vision? An entirely fenced-in luxury community in Lynn. Unlike walls, he says, fences are actually better because immigrants can climb over walls, sneak into our homes, and finger us while we sleep. And no one wants that. Oh, and he has also created a nuclear weapon (fueled by fried chicken) that threatens to end humanity as we know it.
But never fear, The Ebonic Woman is here. After a mix-up involving her desegregation serum, Hennessy develops super powers beyond any white man and transforms into The Ebonic Woman. With the help of a riotous band of superheroes of all creeds and colors (Paxton Crystal is The Green New Deal; Rose Garcia is Hot Tamale; Felton Sparks is Aladdin; Jessica Barstis is Bat Mitzvah; Matt Kyle is Mr. Stretch), The Ebonic Woman takes on Trump and his gorgeous henchwoman Polly Wannacracker (the divine Penny Champayne).
The play is filled with wall-to-wall laughs and the kind of shameless irreverence and first-rate camp that is the hallmark of the extraordinary Ryan Landry, and I don’t know if I’ve had a better time at the theater this year. It isn’t just that The Ebonic Woman is a laugh-a-minute riot, but the direction (by the iconic Ms. Bubbles Goldberg, DDS) is inventive and moves at the speed of light.
And there’s one particular musical number worth the price of admission alone in which the White Ladies Paranoid Society—those self-righteous sisters of sobriety—put their own spin on “Springtime for Hitler” from The Producers.
Scott Martino once again proves that he just might be the cleverest costumer in Boston, and Windsor Newton’s comic book-themed set and Michael Clark Wonson’s lighting are impressive, especially given the limitations of the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts, where the Orphans have been in residence at Machine nightclub for over 20 years.
This will be the Gold Dust Orphans’ final production at Machine. The building is set to be demolished, but rumor has it that the new developers are considering some sort of performance space where Landry and his band of Orphans can continue to make their biannual magic. In a post-show speech on opening night, Landry implored us to contact Joyce Linehan at the mayor’s office if the thought of an Orphan-less Boston is too much to bear.
Indeed, while The Ebonic Woman imagines a world in which the only unacceptable skin tone is orange, imagining a Boston without Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans is only slightly less terrifying than the idea of four more years with Trump. A smart pick-me-up for our politically pestilent times, The Ebonic Woman is the super musical that we need now.
THE EBONIC WOMAN. THROUGH 5.26 AT THE GOLD DUST ORPHANS AT MACHINE NIGHTCLUB, 1254 BOYLSTON ST., BOSTON. GOLDDUSTORPHANS.ORG
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.