The swell of holidays that wrapped up 2019 came and went in a flurry, bringing with them all the joy and cheer this time of year promises: silver bells and jingle bells, carolers and more filling the streets, TV sets and radio stations with jolly tidings. While the Bay Area certainly got more of a wet Christmas than a white one, the season was filled with a joyous sum of ways to celebrate the holidays.
Last Christmas, local drag queen superstar Peaches Christ gave us her heart in the form of her own Christmas reverie, “FEMLINS!” — a parody of one of the most iconic Christmas films of all time, 1984’s “Gremlins.”
Staged at the beautiful Castro Theatre, audiences came in casual droves, lining up and chattering excitedly in the organized chaos outside of the theater. At any given moment, one could hear talk of the few degrees that separated audience members from the queens starring in the show, showcasing the extent to which Christ has comfortably situated herself as an institution in the San Francisco LGBTQ+ community.
“FEMLINS!” comes as the latest entry in the string of parodies staged by Christ at The Castro Theatre. The show was followed by a screening of the film “Gremlins,” a slight deviation from the usual nature of Christ’s parodies in order to honor the film’s 35th anniversary. “FEMLINS!” featured stars such as Detox, Miz Cracker, the notoriously villainous Phi Phi O’Hara, local queen Migette Nielsen and, at one point, viewers in audience. The show was a side-splitting and raunchy reimagining of the classic film.
While all of the queens delivered show-defining performances, it was O’Hara who shone brightest. In an elaborate and stunning costume, O’Hara channeled her vicious reputation into playing the perfect villain. But even more than this, the star lent a creativity to the show that elevated the production value immensely. At the end of the show, as the cast was introduced and celebrated, Christ thanked O’Hara for her commitment to the show, stating that it was O’Hara who created Jizmo’s (yes, that was the character’s name) ears — a feat that truly brought the costume to life.
The theater itself was decorated in the classic reds and greens of the season, though the nod to Christmas would prove hilariously ironic in a show that foregrounds Cracker’s own Jewish background, a main conflict for her character being that she does not actually celebrate Christmas. The mobile backgrounds that decorated the small stage were kitschy and simple, but incredibly versatile as a result.
These weren’t striking works of hyperrealistic art but rather a testament to the nature of the show itself: doing a lot with what may appear as a little.
Christ, aside from acting, was the wily director who kept the show grounded in its madness. Her creativity shone brightest in moments when the limitations of a small theater were most evident. The climax of the show featured a shattering of the fourth wall where a video of the audience was projected onto the big screen as members were instructed to become gremlins themselves. All around the theater, patrons stood and danced, charmingly engaging with the show.
Furthering the locality of the show, Christ concluded the production with a costume contest in which audiences were encouraged to come as their favorite ’80s icon. Members took to the stage in anything from vague ’80s dress to a well-executed replication of Janet Jackson circa “Rhythm Nation.” The winner? A young boy dressed in a cloak who had come as a villager from the 1880s. These were the kinds of antics that made it evident that the show was far more than a campy take on a cult classic; it was a destination for locals in the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate the full, marvelous chaos of the holiday season, in whatever capacity that may be.
Contact Areyon Jolivette at [email protected].