Adelante interviewed director/writer Danny De La Paz, and Producer/writer Joe Castel of the original comic parody The BLVD set to premiere at the Macha Theatre March 11 and run through April 18.
Adelante: So what’s this play about?
De La Paz: It’s a parody of two classics Sunset Blvd and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, except in our satirical version, Norma is a transgender, Joe is a down and out actor who works for the Beverly Hills Nude Maid Service and Max is an alcoholic who cross dresses as Baby Jane Hudson to get back at his employer. Norma, or Norman as we call him, hires Joe to help her prepare for her big comeback in Simply Divine, the film biography of the late, great drag queen Divine.
Things get messy though when Joe lands a part in the movie and Norman is replaced as the lead by Harvey Fierstein. To add insult to Norman’s injured ego, Joe jilts Norman when he falls in love with the film’s screenwriter, Nick Novarro.
Adelante: Doesn’t West Hollywood have enough drag parodies?
Castel: If you go to the clubs or bars here in LA, it seems like patrons can’t get enough of a good drag performance. What makes this production different is that it isn’t a lip sync contest or cabaret. We’ve been able to flesh out the characters and reign in the camp to sustain the two hour plot.
Adelante: Why Sunset Blvd and Baby Jane?
Castel: We love these two films, as do many audiences, particularly gay viewers. I think we are able to pick up on the nuances of the characters, and other subtle references that resonate with us on some intrinsic level.
Adelante: Aren’t you worried about copyright infringement?
Castel: The art/writing of parody and satire is protected under the “Fair use” doctrine under the United States copyright law. That’s why we’re able to see parodies about films/commercials on Saturday Night Live, MadTV and even the old Carol Burnett Show where the comedienne used to mimic Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in her skits. But our Norman isn’t anything like Burnett’s garish imitation.
De La Paz: Our parody is able to go beyond the cabaret spoof because our characters come from a place audiences can identify with such as getting old, being unemployed, dreams of success, getting dumped, being used. We’ve even toned down the costumes to reflect a transgender who would go out into public, not in sequins and boa feathers, but in fashionable couture.
Castel: And our themes are timeless also, such as, abusing power, obsession with fame, and trying to control other people who are no longer in love with us. We’re able to satirize the films while delivering some poignant perspectives on fame and what some are willing to do to become famous.
Adelante: Yes, I heard that the Norman character who wants to portray Divine has to eat real s—t. Do you actually show her doing it?
Castel: No, never, but it’s just the thought of it that really upsets people.
De La Paz: It’s a metaphor for what some stars do to regain fame like appearing on those celebrity rehab and reality shows.
Adelante: How do you weave in the Baby Jane Hudson plot?
Castel: The tables are turned in Act II when Norman slips on the steps of her grand staircase and is wheelchair bound. Norman gets caught in her own web of deceit as she is at the mercy of Max, who through his drinking has taken on the demented persona of Baby Jane Hudson because he’s had enough of Norman’s abuse. Locked in her room, Norman is tormented by Max, who replaces her dinners with dead pets and other unappetizing edibles to make Norman afraid to eat as well as lose her mind.
Adelante: You cast French model and sex symbol Quentin Elias as Joe. Isn’t Quentin known for his singing and how did you get Alliage’s former boy band signer to star in this production?
De La Paz: I wrote to him on MySpace and soon thereafter we became friends. I sent him the script and he loved the humor and the Joe character. He had never even seen Sunset Blvd or Baby Jane before, so it was refreshing to see that someone who wasn’t even familiar with either movie could resonate with the plot and characters. Since 2001, Quentin has focused his career both on singing and acting appearing most recently in Cinemax’s Chronicles of Zane and on our opening weekend, Quentin will perform at Club Eleven on March 12.
Adelante: Will Quentin appear nude?
Castel: Well, his character does work for the Nude Maid Service, but it’s not as gratuitous as you would think because we don’t want to distract too much from the humor and plot. After all this is theatre, not live cam. Quentin is very funny and talented and his beefcake is an extra bonus, not the focus of the play.
Adelante: Who else is in the cast?
De La Paz: Michael Harrington, alias Miss Lana Luster, who has appeared in Dante’s Cove, is our Norma(n) and he’s taking our character to heights I’ve never seen before in a drag character. Joseph Velez (former Calvin Klein model) is a compelling and charismatic Nick, the love interest. Brad Milne is a solid actor with a lot of theatre experience. And Joe Garcia is a veteran performer of Hollywood theatre for the past 20 years. He steals the show when he releases Max’s repressed pathos to his alter ego Baby Jane.
Castel: But once again, we hold back on the slap shtick and try to let the humor emerge from our characters’ miseries and dysfunctional behaviors instead of an all-out camp production.
Adelante: You say this is Macha’s first Latino production. How so, when Odalysis Nanin has produced shows there for three years?
Castel: We’re the first Latino production outside of Macha to stage a play there. And when I say Latino, I mean, Danny and I wrote the play, Danny is directing it and I’m producing it. We also made a conscious effort to cast as many Latino actors in the show as possible because as we don’t normally get to play such plumb roles as a German valet or studio executive. But as writers and producers, we can be anything we choose. We hope to see more Gay Latino based productions at Macha.
The BLVD runs from March 11 through April 18 at the Macha Theatre (next to Hugo’s Restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd), 1107 North Kings Road, West Hollywood , CA 90069. Free theatre parking and public parking structure across the street. Performances: Thurs., Fri., Sat., at 8 p.m., and Sun. at 7 p.m. Tickets: $28.00 For tickets and reservations:
(323) 960-1055 or online ticketing at www.Plays411.com/theblvd