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BUA reprises MOMMIE QUEEREST at the Alleyway for “Summer Camp 2019”

THE BASICS:  MOMMIE QUEEREST, a camp comedy by Jamie Morris, inspired by the Joan Crawford biopic “Mommie Dearest”, presented by Buffalo United Artists, directed by Todd Warfield, starring Jimmy Janowski, Michael Blasdell, Michael Seitz, and Christopher Standart runs through August 4, Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 7 at the Alleyway Theatre’s main stage, One Curtain Up Alley (886-9239). Limited refreshments, but a “free second drink” coupon for “Q” on Allen Street is in your program. Runtime: one hour fourty-five minutes with one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: As actor Jimmy Janowski said from the stage at the show’s end, spontaneous do-it-yourself entertainment is a feature of summers in the gay community of Provincetown, and, often as not, things start by imitating and “sending up” movies starring icons such as Joan Crawford. That’s the spirit of this Jamie Morris script. As the play’s wig designer, James Cichocki told me at intermission, “Mommie Dearest” is “central to who we are.” And so, the play MOMMIE QUEEREST pretty much follows, scene by scene, the movie.

Photo by Cheryl Gorski

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Camp is defined as “outrageous in concept and wild in its execution with double entendres flying every which way.” And every summer, Buffalo United Artists puts on a show they call “summer camp.” A recent favorite had Jimmy Janowski starring as CLEOPATRA and even more recently as “Hannibal Lecter” in SILENCE! THE MUSICAL.

If you look up the movie “Mommie Dearest” based upon the memoires of Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter Christina, you won’t see rave reviews. As a serious movie, it’s a flop. The editing is herky-jerky, and the acting by Faye Dunaway as Crawford is consistently over the top. In fact, some say it almost killed Dunaway’s career it was so bad. Which of course makes it PERFECT for a camp send-up.

This is the team that has been delivering the goods for years at BUA: Director Todd Warfield is back with his crew: tall, leggy Jimmy Janowski with his “take no prisoners” swagger as Joan Crawford; Christopher Standart and his expressive eyes and disdainful glances in a number of utility roles; Michael Seitz in still more roles, and (as listed in the program) Michael Blasdell as the choked, slapped, and beaten with a wire hanger daughter Christina. There are all sorts of sight gags and props involved, including a generous cloud of prop “Bon-Ami” cleanser just before intermission.

Adding to the fun were obviously tacky “home-made” movie clips inserted at times, all starring cast members well as other BUA regulars. A favorite clip had Janowski/Crawford outside the bus station encountering her famous rival, Bette Davis, played by Christopher Standart in a reprise of their wonderful BETTE & JOAN: THE FINAL CURTAIN which was BUA’s “summer camp” play for 2015.

It’s an Alleyway tradition for the actors to quickly go from backstage into the lobby for a meet’n’greet after every show, but Mr. Janowski always does one better. He simply walks up the aisle, taking the audience with him, and then is extremely gracious, chatting and posing for selfies with his fans. A group which will include you, if you haven’t gotten the Jimmy Janowski bug already.

We’ll give this one four Buffalos. The production and the play are absolutely NOT “of high caliber” but, that’s the point. So, “if the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.”

Photos: By Cheryl Gorski

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For over 20 years, as a producer and program host on WNED Classical (94.5 FM), he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?" These days Peter can be heard regularly on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5.

On “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?" As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take."

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he was an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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