‘Drag Me 2 Hell’ Review

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Gunnar Montana wowed audiences during this year’s Fringe Festival with “Basement,” a dark descent into fetishistic hell or sado-machistic heaven. Was it a serial killer’s playpen? Or BDSM play room? Only Montana knows for sure to the delight of audience members who enjoy their dance with a side of the macabre. Montana was a company member with Brian Sander’s JUNK before branching out on his own during the last two Fringe Festivals. (The two will actually be collaborating for Sander’s next show “Snowball,” an installation piece at Annenberg this winter.) To say that “Drag Me 2 Hell” (DM2H) picks up where “Basement” left off, would be a stretch but there are clear influences. Perhaps it would be better to say that all of the performers involved drank from the same glass yet explored similar themes through their unique expression of drag under Montana’s direction. “It’s like a gay remix of ‘Basement,” says Montana, smiling. A few pieces are repurposed from “Basement” for DM2H but make no mistake DM2H is a drag show, whereas “Basement” was choreographed dance. The important word here is choreographed. Because while DM2H is clearly more loose and playful “Basement” it is scripted nonetheless. Rather than offering up one piece after another with time between filled by a chatty EmCee, for those familiar with the drag scene, most of DM2H’s pieces move from one to the next with the precision of dance. For that reason the show, has a 15 minute intermission so that audiences can refresh their drinks. The show runs 1 hour with the intermission.

Some highlights from DM2H include a femme fatale aerialist, larger than life sized robot drag, disemboweling Santa, the conjuration of a demon (or a dark angel), frying pans and disembodied heads—a love story, and limb removal with the appropriately tongue in check remix cover of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on stage just to name a few. The musical selections are a fun mix of classic covers remixed with new voices, a French chanson, other songs that will be familiar and yet presented in a new way, a clear theme of the show. The show itself transforms night after night never giving you exactly the same set of performers or performances even though each piece tends to connect in one way with another.

I spoke with Montana after the Tuesday evening show and he agreed that there are critical similarities between dance and drag, both are about giving the audience permission to look and about the performer’s craft in directing the human gaze to a particular place, whether its to a particular part of the body, movement, or expression of emotion or relationship between the performers on stage together. DM2H is a delight for the eyes and the senses because of its talented cast. Courtney Lapresi (Wynter), Goldi Fox from Peek-A-Boo Revue, Luna LaVey, The Lady Poison, Pretty Girl, and of course Montana rounded out Tuesday night’s luscious cast that begged us to look, whether for titillation or discomfort sometimes blending the two together. There is plenty of eye candy to go around for audience members of any gender or inclination.

In one scene, Goldi Fox dressed as a dark angel is carried on stage by Montana wearing a real pig face and stained apron to be deposited center stage. Soon after The Lady Poison rises up and draws a circle and begins to conjure her, her essence animated the dark angel into dance. One part drag, one part dance, one part dark fantasy.

But I don’t want to spoil it for you. Because you really want to see this show for yourself.

“I’m trying to reinvent the drag scene in a way. I want to present drag queens as artists,” says Montana. Whatever Montana is doing, it’s working. To the point where you don’t know if you should tip during numbers, clap after them or hold your breath to see what’s next.

“Drag Me To Hell” runs through Halloween (Thursday 10/31/13) at Underground Arts. Tickets are $10 available at the door or online at https://www.eventbrite.com/event/9090494915. 21+

Montana’s next show “Hybernate” is schedule to debut in early 2014.

See more photos from Drag Me To Hell…click below

Read Related Posts...