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While Demon-Slaying Drag Queens is intelligent, engaging and funny, what really makes its heart beat is compassion and empathy. Playwright/director Vincent Gomez hits the target with unerring accuracy throughout this delightful work of fiction, while the cast bring his characters to life with wit, sensitivity and just the right dose of camp.
Center stage are the magnificent drag queens. Lilith, played by Damien Diaz, is a balletic paragon of physical beauty whose gentle, bloodthirsty soul compels her to defend all humans from evil even as they reject her. Delilah, portrayed by Nick Endres, is a perfect Asian androgyne with moves like a Shaolin warrior and a mouth like a Hollywood hooker. Their differing styles mesh beautifully in the well-orchestrated fight scenes while creating endless opportunities for humorous dialogue.
Eric Anderson truly breathes life into the character of Brian, The Hated One, whose infernal mission is the destruction of cross-dressers everywhere. A self-hating homosexual predator, he manages to evoke sympathy and moments of real tenderness before he’s through, which is quite a feat.
Dean, played magnificently by Jeffrey Manabat, a young gay man reluctant to accept his demon-slayer destiny, is the most complicated and sympathetic of all. Portrayed with gentle charisma and genuine charm, he draws us into his journey of self-acceptance, rebellion, self-discovery, healing and redemption with the artless ease and power of a true craftsman.
Denesa Chan’s portrayal of Lois deserves special mention. Oscillating effortlessly between strength and vulnerability as she trains the demon-slayers and guides Dean on the road to self-realization, her pivotal role is artlessly understated.
The entire cast makes all of this possible. From the touching humanity of Aaron Brewer as Auntie in the opening scene to the self-congratulatory and scheming Tricksters, played competently by Jon Gale, Susan Kawashima and Gedaly Guberek, to the acrobatic dance of the attacking demons, it all combines to amuse, provoke, and ultimately, to enrich.
Artist Naomi Barrett deserves special mention for her masks and costumes which are both cleverly conceived and grotesque, with just the right touch of creepy.
In the opinion of this reviewer, while DSDQ is good theater, it would translate easily into an amazing pilot for a Netflix series. Good as a break from your anxiety!
Why not have a look, and see for yourself?
Billy Bang Douglas is a freelance writer from New York City, where he worked on the Editorial staff of Newsweek Magazine for five years. He lived in London, England before moving to Los Angeles in 1990. He has been a singer and recording artist with Wideboy/Universal Music, Mercury Records and EMI, and toured the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan. A lifelong heroin addict and manic depressive, he has been clean and sober for five years, and is currently the editor of Painted Brain News, an online newspaper that promotes mental health awareness through the arts. Occasionally, he teaches life skills and meditation. He resides in Los Angeles, California with his third wife, Naomi.