It’s New York, not Paris, that’s currently burning in an off-Broadway drag show entitled Wig Out!.
Its dynamic actors remind one of the 1990 documentary film Paris is Burning, which described the ball culture of poor African-American and Latino gay and transgendered people who engaged in drag balls that involved contests in new-way and old-way vogue dancing.
In the first of two acts, we meet five males who live in the House of Light, two who live in the House of Di’Abolique, The Fates 3 (gals who explain the action in song, much like a Greek chorus), and Eric, a seemingly straight handsome guy who is tempted to come out.
In Act II, we see the two houses engage competitively as they “walk” the runway and are judged on appearance, dance skills, costume, and attitude. With laughter and tears, the audience marvels at the elaborate costumes, the consummate performances by every actor, and the unexpected conclusion.
In November 2008, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play was shown at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Since opening at the Vineyard Theater on 30 September to rave reviews, the play has been sold out nightly and will close in November.
To get ticket holders back to their seats after intermission, a several-hundred-pound femme queen dishes individuals who are late or eating, “shading” or “dissing” them so the show can go on.
Straights are shocked. Gays and lesbians are picking which person they want to meet afterwards at the stage door (like Erik King, Clifton Oliver, or Andre Holland, the last of whom, if you sit close to the stage during the nude sex scene, you can see under the sheet).