by Bob Stewart · August 26, 2015
Divine/Intervention is a great production of playwright E. Dale Smith’s play. The original concept and direction are by Braden Chapmen, whose drag persona is Mimi Imfurst from RuPaul’s Drag Race; his work is tight, disciplined and fully realized. Smith’s premise is basically that “fame has a price.” The play recreates Divine/Glenn Milstead’s last night on earth before he died suddenly of Enlarged Heart Syndrome. It examines how he struggled to be considered a “character actor” and not a drag performer. (For all you kids out there who don’t know who Divine or John Waters were, I can only say: “Google it & Download.” You’ll be thrilled and surprised.)
Two actors play Divine. Ryan Walter plays the meek Glenn Milstead and Bobby Goodrich plays the glamorous, Uber-Creation that Glenn sees in the mirror. Both are wonderful. Actors Cosimo Mauriano, Terrell Green, and Nicolas Scheppard play everyone in Divine’s life and do it very well, to the audience’s delight. Deeply appreciated are also the terrific set by Mark A Dahl, lights by Kenneth Jordan and costumes by Bobby Fabulous Designs.
The script’s story is one that we’ve all heard before about a performer hating that they are trapped in their own creation. That being said, the evening is very entertaining but probably more for Divine fans. I’m not sure anyone else would understand the complete anarchy that Divine and John Waters created in the 1970s based on this play. That anarchy is missing. Smith does display some of Divine’s stage acts over the years and that is appreciated, fun, but brief.
What Smith does splendidly is recreate the early years of the world trying to put together in its head that a drag performer could rise to such fame as Divine did. You feel Glenn/Divine’s struggle as they recreate a period in time that was very fearful about Gays during an AIDS epidemic and how he glamorized the newly created Trash-Aesthetic.
Inspired by the play, I thought how amazing Divine would have been if he'd lived. He would had probably done the Broadway musical of Hairspray and the film version too. He would have been on Reality TV several times over by now by exploring the heady Divine character and embracing the demure Glenn Milstead as the playwright has done with this play. America loves loud, talent-free-characters (Jersey Shore, The Kardashians, DONALD TRUMP) and Divine was one of our pioneers.
Smith’s play also reminds us to treasure our early Gay Explorers. You’ll enjoy the effortless, 90-minute evening as a straight-up bio and for its sometimes anarchic, filthy mouth fun. I know I did!