Drake brings his show home

Theater

One-man show: David Drake will perform in, and film, his Obie Award-winning "The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me" at the Theatre Project.

May 10, 1999|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Although much of David Drake's semi-autobiographical one-man show, "The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me," takes place in his home state of Maryland, he has never performed the entire show here -- until now.

Beginning Wednesday, Drake will repeat his Obie Award-winning performance at the Theatre Project, where the show -- a portrait of the artist as a gay young man -- will be filmed before a live audience for release as an independent feature.

"Many of these experiences, as well as my understanding of the obstacles in my life, started in my childhood, and that was in Maryland. So it's almost like confronting them in the place where they were born. It's sharing them and exorcising them," Drake, 35, said from his New York apartment last week. "Plus my love of performing started there. It started there, at the Spotlighters and places like that."

Drake said that because several previous film offers had fallen through, he was hesitant when he was approached by a young producer a little more than a year ago. And indeed, that producer eventually backed out, too, but not before introducing Drake to director Tim Kirkman, who is best known for the documentary "Dear Jesse," about Jesse Helms. By the time the producer had reneged, Drake said: "We were too far along. I said, `Let's do it.' " They decided to co-produce the film themselves, along with three other producers.

Not having performed the show since 1995 in Australia, Drake plunged back into rehearsals a few weeks ago with his original stage director, Chuck Brown.

Although the bulk of the show will remain unchanged, Drake has re-written the final section, which was originally set on New Year's Eve 1999 and now takes place Dec. 31, 2015. Listing some of the events his character describes, he said, "I've got two little kids now, Richard and Bobby. One is obsessed with the new `Star Wars' movie. The other one is obsessed with his superhero movie, `Wonder Woman,' starring Ru Paul. I'm out to show cultural shifts and attitudes. My fantasy is still a fantasy, and it's a satire, but it's a vision of the elements of change and the elements of hope."

Besides preparing for the film, Drake has had a busy year since he directed "The Mirror of Love" as part of the Theatre Project's annual "Queer Cafe" last June. Two months later, he participated in a workshop production of fellow Marylander Anna Deavere Smith's "House Arrest" at her summer institute at Harvard University.

He also co-produced, co-wrote and co-starred in a short feature film called "The Trey Billings Show," in which he played "this public-access, celebrity chat-show character and his guest, who is this '50s warhorse TV sitcom comedienne." And he starred as a "Judy Garland drag queen in psychotherapy" in a short run of a new musical, "Dream Analysis," which is expected to open off-Broadway in the fall.

Right now, however, Drake is happy to be back in the place where his acting career began. "It does feel like a sort of completion, honest to God. I'm finally bringing it home," he said.

Show times for "The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me" at the Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St., are 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, May 12-22. Tickets are $15. (Call for information about the subsequent week of by-invitation filmed performances.) The number is 410-752-8558.

Everyman's season

There's lots of news from Everyman Theatre. Artistic director Vincent M. Lancisi has just announced the 1999-2000 season, which includes two new company members (popular Baltimore actresses Tana Hicken and Rosemary Knower), and the theater is gearing up for its first gala benefit.

The four-play season features a Tony Award-winning play and two Baltimore premieres. In honor of the centennial of Noel Coward's birth, the season will open with his rarely produced "Nude With Violin" (Sept. 17-Oct. 10), about the human vultures who circle after the death of a famous artist; Grover Gardner directs. Next comes the local premiere of Alfred Uhry's 1997 Tony Award winner, "The Last Night of Ballyhoo" (Nov. 19-Dec. 12), about a family of German-American Jews in 1939 Atlanta, starring Knower and directed by Lancisi.

This will be followed by Tennessee Williams' classic "The Glass Menagerie" (Feb. 11-March 12, 2000), starring Hicken and directed by her husband, Donald Hicken. The season will end with the other Baltimore premiere of Martin McDonagh's recent Broadway hit, "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" (April 28-May 21), with Vivienne Shub and Tana Hicken playing an embattled rural Irish mother and daughter, under Lancisi's direction.

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