Wanzie’s “Ladies of Lake Eola Heights” – Episode 1: Daddy’s Funeral
Created by Michael Wanzie
Directed by Kenny Howard
Originally presented at the Footlights Theater 2006
As we flounder through this brave new world of all digital entertainment, it’s nice to look back on what we’ve missed. Local empresario Michael Wanzie created his “Ladies of Lake Eola Heights’ and created six episodes with a rumored 7th instalment pending. The premise is a stereotypical Orlando red neck family dealing with all the crises that befall life, but with the cast in drag and with better gags. This was the initial production presented at the Parliament house back when that venue was Orlando happening night spot. We meet Pearl (Wanzie) stuck in a wheelchair and spending her time buying stuff off QVC. Ruby (Tommy Wooton) drops by; it’s the anniversary of her prom and that is not a pleasant memory. Self-righteous Opal (Doug Beazer) plays the cranky and moralistic sister. She’s offended by everything, but mostly by the tuneful Jackson (Sam Signhaus) as “Miss Sammy”). Jackson thinks he’s “June,” and belts out selections from the “Great American Songbook.” While Pearl and Ruby are ok with this, Opal is outraged. Of course, she’s outraged at everything. Pearl is an Outrage Master, but Jackson’s minor piece of drag really sets her off. Daddy’s dead, he keeled over at the I-Hop on Summerlin recently. And if that’s not enough drama, we are only 15 minutes into this show.
Despite the campy acting and the vigorous cross dressing, this is a classic southern drama of missed opportunities, family and personal decay, and over-the-top acting. When Michal Wanzie is the calm center of a story, Jim Cantore can’t be far behind as this hurricane of dram spins up. Mr. Ba’aser plays the tight, narrow minded southern doyenne that disapproves of everything, including disapproval. Miss Sammy brings bright charm to the craziness on stage, and I suspect entire ward robe tucked into the backstage Tardis. Mr. Wooten’s contribution comes as a rubber band, pulled left and right and up and down by the dynamics of the story, and Mr. Wanzie succeed at doing what he does best: Play himself on stage. Along with all the Faulknerian “South of The Mason Dixon” drama, tis recording takes us back to the heyday of the Parliament house, before they pressure washed the disco balls and replaced the smoke saturated carpet. Perhaps we can return to these golden days some point the future, but for now, theater on the small screen is all the theater we can get.