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'Drag Float' Floats Your Boat

A review of Robert Matson's comedy about drag queens and others stranded on the ocean.
Elizabeth Hurd Modified: August 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm •  Published: August 22, 2014

Robert JM Productions previews “Drag Float” to a unique audience. “Drag Float” is both written and directed by Robert Matson, who also takes the role of commentator/chorus. In times past, new plays destined for Broadway would preview in Connecticut, among other places. Gauging the response of critics and audience, the playwright and director would make any alterations necessary to move the show to the big time. In Oklahoma City there is a dinner theatre and bar called The Boom, where, like Connecticut in the olden days, new plays are previewed.

“Drag Float” is about a group of shipwreck survivors including four gay men who are also drag queens and two women. The ‘straight’ man is actually a woman, a maternal figure who mothers, umpires and mediates the others as needed. All six survivors explore their internal selves as well as disagree over their physical facades. They find some solace in life as they face losing that life while lost in the middle of the ocean. Matson makes the situation funny as the group fights over wigs rather than water and compares fig leaves rather than dreaming of Fig Newtons. Matson himself is the chorus known as Shameless Beauty who appears alone between scenes to comically declaim the events.

Theatre is a multi-dimensional art form. One way to see this is to see the writer as one aspect, the director as a second, and the actors as a third. An individual can often work from two positions, but three may very well overload the play with one aspect of quirkiness as happens in this play. Matson’s personal and unique humor are not universal and while “Drag Float” definitely speaks to the gay audience there is great diversity among the gay and drag populations that seem to be overwhelmed by Matson. As a director, Matson is very good, as a writer Matson is good, as a performer Matson is very good but as all three he lacks dimension. Matson does have some re-writes to do, of course, and perhaps he should consider using another director to deepen the perspective.

The casting is perfect and in this area Matson excels. Carmen Deveraux (aka Paul Stafford) is hysterically funny at each and every moment as Medusa. Tim Pesch is spectacular as Dinah Ross Spectacular. Dougie Rankin as Hannah Bedhead is delightfully different in his characterization. Terry Veal is wonderfully unrecognizable and unique as Rose Petals and Heidi Sue Wallace is perfectly, insecurely but sincerely Hippalyta shining through a dull exterior. Dressing in drag is fun in all sexes! These are all the gay survivors aboard the “Drag Float” in drag. The one spark of sanity in this diversely similar group is incidentally the only heterosexual. Anna Holloway plays Shirley Hill brilliantly as she mothers and mentors this group of misfits (as we all are in a group). Shirley Hill has a gay son, and because of him she has learned to understand and appreciate her companions. Unfortunately, her character was frequently blocked by others due to the flamboyance of costumes. Fortunately Holloway is a brilliant actress and compensates expertly. The seventh performer is Robert Matson, a shameless fellow who portrays Shameless Beauty as a provocative commentator. His performance is great and brings a little clarity into the show along with nonsense.

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