Unlike the signature rule of the 1999 classic film “Fight Club,” the most important rule of the “First Wives Fight Club” is to “TELL EVERYBODY!” The performers in this drag-style interpretation of two cult films made it especially clear that you should not, by any means, take your eyes off of the stage — and that you should, by all means, rave about the show for days to come. It was an hour and a half of flying wigs, plenty of choreographed “action” sequences and an endless stream of self-deprecating jokes raining over the audience members, who were already in an uproar. And this feat — the perfect combination of camp and class — is none other than the doing of the legendary Peaches Christ.
Quintessential San Francisco drag queen Peaches Christ has put on yet another queer-centric musical movie parody for the masses. Choosing to combine the 1996 film “The First Wives Club” and the 1999 film “Fight Club,” she and co-writer Varla Jean Merman flawlessly brought the raunchiness and opulence of the drag scene to the Castro Theatre stage on Sunday.
Anyone who has been to an actual drag performance at a club or bar knows that it’s a beautifully chaotic act of passion, music and more often than not, a plethora of dollar bills. In other words, the drag scene is sometimes seen as overtly flamboyant. “The First Wives Fight Club” embraced that while still retaining the dramatic components of two movies that have their own comedic undertones. Peaches Christ’s inspiration for her collection of movie adaptations seems to be to take existing films that hold significance to the queer community — and to recreate them in drag.
The plot of the show primarily follows “The First Wives Club,” with Annie being played by Raja (winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 3), Brenda being played by Ginger Minj (“RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 7) and Elise being played by Brooke Lynn Hytes (“RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 11). Peaches Christ plays Helena, a character that borrows heavily from both Maria from “Fight Club” and Cynthia from “The First Wives Club.”
Each woman has had her husband leave her for various reasons: Annie’s banker husband leaves her for her therapist, Brenda’s gym-rat husband finds a younger girl, Elise’s director husband casts a younger girl in film — and a love life — that should be hers and Helena’s mogul husband (appropriately named Durden Tyler) taking over their successful soap company and leaving her.
Beginning with a powerful musical number as the four girls are in college, the cast immediately pulls the audience into the show. The plot later follows the girls each getting revenge on their husbands, all played by Peggy L’eggs, while simultaneously finding pleasure in physically fighting each other. April Kidwell, known for her role as Nomi Malone in “I, Nomi,” plays the part of all the husbands’ love interests in an flamboyant, risque manner. Near the end, the classic “Fight Club” twist is deployed with Helena and Annie. The script also makes many references to pop culture and staple queer TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” “The First Wives Fight Club” is an avid “Drag Race” fan’s dream, considering the star-studded cast.
At first sprinkled, but eventually heaved onto the show are bits involving crude humor, such as Brooke Lynn urinating into a trash can and being infatuated with her single Oscar, jokes being made at the expense of Ginger’s weight and Peaches falling off of a fake balcony a mere two feet from the ground. “The First Wives Fight Club” is packed full of gags, both purposeful and accidental. Peaches Christ’s wig comes off in a mock paper shredder as she fights Raja, to which Peaches ad libs an angry statement about getting back at her — a heated moment that’s particularly gagworthy.
Ginger, during her main dance number could not keep up with some of the dance moves; if the backup dancers kicked right, she kicked left. While it’s unknown if this was intentional or not, it sure added to the laughs. Raja also forgot some of her lines throughout the show, which seemed funny at first, but later detracted from the show’s consistency and humor. To give her the benefit of the doubt, Peaches Christ did say that the cast had only rehearsed for three days before performing.
Besides the small blunders which were likely worked out in subsequent shows, “The First Wives Fight Club” dazzled and stunned. The queens embraced their flaws and limitations in a fitting way, adding to the comedic tones of the show. They captured the big emotions, big culture and big hair that define drag. It’s a well-crafted production that balances the art of a parody with the art of a drag show. Peaches Christ has successfully slayed another show, and audiences can eagerly await her future productions.
Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected].