The Cat's Meow

What do you get when you mix crooked cops and sequin-gowned transvestites with conservative politicians and an upcoming presidential election? The answer is Go-Go Kitty, GO!, a delightfully wacky gender-bender musical playing at the Lucille Lortel Theatre as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. When a beloved drag queen named Po-Po is involved in a suspiciously timed car crash minutes after fleeing from the stage of the Club Fuzzy Gimbal's Twist-o-Rama, her two friends Wanda (Kim Ders) and Sugar (Erin Quinn Purcell) vow to avenge her death. Wanda and Sugar are not your usual heroines. Dressed in leather shorts, high-heeled go-go boots, and beaded bra tops, they call themselves the Go-Go Kitties. They ride motorcycles, swagger into bars, dance at the club, and break more than a few hearts and bones while doing so.

But beneath their tough leather exteriors are two loyal friends who will stop at nothing to find out what happened to Po-Po, even if it means risking their own lives. They know that the conservative senator of Washingtonville who hopes to run for president, Thomas Patrick McDonald (Vin Knight), is somehow involved in the murder, especially since he mysteriously faints at the mention of Po-Po's name. Unfortunately for the Kitties, McDonald's top presidential aide, shifty-eyed Dick (Marc Aden Gray), will go to great lengths to protect his boss's reputation.

The story is told through a series of playfully loony scenes leading up to a moment of truth where McDonald must come to terms with his role in Po-Po's accident. In the meantime, the Kitties save the life of an old man at a gas station after a flirtatious glance from Sugar gives him a heart attack. They also expand the horizons of McDonald's preppie teenage daughter, Peggy (Nicole Fonarow), at Busty Bronco's Roadhouse, where she has her first encounter with casual sex and hallucinatory drugs.

Each set is elaborately constructed with clever cardboard props that inspire fresh rounds of laughter when presented. To add to the set's uniqueness, Go-Go Kitty, Go! provides authentic smashing noises every time a cardboard wine bottle or a bottle of Jack Daniel's is thrown to the floor. Sound effects punctuate much of the play's comic scenes, such as when the Kitties fight the bad guys kung-fu style and drums emphasize the force of their kicks and punches.

Yet there are some deep truths and touching lines beneath the layers of satire. At Busty Bronco's Roadhouse, Peggy McDonald discovers she has a desire for self-expression that her restrictive environment has shamed her from indulging in. Her father the senator also looks deep within himself to find out who he is, as opposed to what his political advisers want him to be. What he finds is a surprise too precious to reveal.

Purcell and Ders have a wonderful chemistry as Sugar and Wanda, respectively. You sense that they share a history, having had other adventures before, and there will be many more to come. Gray gives a fine performance as Dick, who is intent on upholding morals though he scarcely hides the fact that he has none himself.

He plays well off Knight, who is instantly likable as the puny presidential nominee pulled in every direction by his family and political team. When McDonald's aides attempt to toughen his public image by sending him to the podium in a camouflage coat and boxing gloves, his expression is so riddled with terror that you don't blame his opponent, President Schwartzenberger, for calling him a "girlie man."

There is something contagious about this play's energy, which had the audience consistently clapping and howling at the songs, jokes, and political jabs. The story has a great climax, with a twist ending you will not see coming. Go-Go Kitty, GO! provides a much-needed release from today's grim headlines. The play allows us to transcend reality for just a little while, with the promise that in its world you are guaranteed a happy ending.

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