Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Lady in Question
The Vortex Theatre
Review by Stephanie Hainsfurther


Garrick Milo and Kenneth Ansloan
Photo by Phillip J Shortell
Perhaps it's too soon after the election, but when the young Nazi does an authentic goose-step across the stage at the start of The Lady in Question, the audience turns to stone. Somber as it is, don't let this first, brief scene set the stage for what comes next. The Lady in Question is a comic, affectionate homage to movies of the 1930s and '40s and their leading ladies.

That the leading lady in question in this production at the Vortex Theatre is none other than Kenneth Ansloan of The Dolls drag troupe adds immeasurably to the fun. Ansloan plays Gertrude Gar-NAY (Gertie Garnet to those who knew her when), a honky-tonk piano player who has transformed herself into a concert pianist. She and her companion Kitty, Countess de Borgia (Lisa Fenstermacher), have landed in Germany in advance of Gertrude's concert, looking for a respectable hotel.

Instead, they meet Baron Wilhelm von Elsner (Rick Huff), who is smitten by Gertrude and invites the two ladies to stay at his family castle. There they meet assorted guests and the Baron's formidable mother Augusta (Carolyn Wickwire). Also at the castle is the Baron's niece Lotte (A.J. Carian, another member of The Dolls). Lotte is a mean girl with very long, blonde braids.

The self-centered Gertrude does a one-eighty when she meets the mother of Professor Erick Maxwell (Garrick Milo); the woman (Carolyn Wickwire as Raina Aldric) is sentenced to die in a few days at the hands of the Nazis. Maxwell asks for Gertrude's help in liberating Raina. What ensues is silly, sometimes slapstick, but Ansloan is always the glittering center of attention. His costume and wig changes are many and well curated by set designer Aleah Montano. Ansloan gets Gertie and is perfect for the role.

The plot is interspersed with foreboding music and lightning flashes as in the old movies. There is a love story between childhood sweethearts Heidi Mittelhoffer (Sara Escobedo) and the young Nazi, Karel Freiser (Bryan Durden), that makes more sense toward the end of the play. The castle set is suitably grim, with a fine portrait of Adolph Hitler over the mantle. The awkward, moveable backdrops work well for the penultimate scene when Gertie and Erick are skiing for their lives; they should be dispensed with in the opening sequences. A few glitches in the sound system caused some punchlines to be lost at the performance I attended. I am sure these problems will be worked out before the next three weekends of the run.

Director Hal Simons entertains us with his regard for World War II-era films and the "happy Hollywood ending." If you like old movies and are fond of send-ups, get out and see The Lady in Question—but leave your politics at home.

The Lady in Question, through March 5, 2017, at The Vortex Theatre, 2900 Carlisle Blvd. NE. For more information, call 505-247-8600 or visit vortexabq.org.


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