Review by Steve Desroches
Elle Emenopé takes to the stage looking like an intergalactic pirate, sizzling with a universal sex appeal and a sly sense of humor, quick to give a wink and a shimmy. With a teal pompadour wig, purplish-full beard, and bare hairy chest under a brocade Louis XIV French court coat, Elle Emenopé isn’t a drag queen, but rather a “drag dandy,” dressing up a feminine masculinity. Using any pronoun, be it he, she, or they is appropriate as the answer to which one is correct would be “yes.” So as Elle walks into the crowd tearing into the opening number, a simultaneously gritty and dazzling cover of Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time,” the lyrics “And I guess it’s just the woman in you, that brings out the man in me” takes on new meaning in this fabulous glam rock fantasia. Elle takes a hammer to the constraints placed on gender and in particular, on drag performance, which is refreshing to see as neither should ever have any braces placed on them in the first place. The Boy from Helltown is a lush and fresh, exquisitely executed commentary and exploration of queer life with humor, candor, and intelligence.
The Boy from Helltown is a must-see as its part of a new wave in Provincetown that examines LGBTQ culture through a new prism, as a fulfilling compliment rather than a competitor to the performance community at large. The show is akin to Pee Wee’s Playhouse hosting a Queer Nation meeting, puppets and all. It’s a marvelous component of the new leadership at the Crown and Anchor that is committed to supporting and promoting queer artists, utilizing the Wave Bar as a black box theater giving high production value and an investment of resources and spirit to propel these emerging acts to a higher profile in Provincetown, home to a wonderfully packed schedule of shows creating a de facto fringe festival each summer.
The narrative of The Boy From Helltown is as fluid as the gender expression within the show, creatively telling the tale of Elle Emenopé and their experiences coming to Provincetown proper from Helltown, a fictional version of the very real encampment that existed just south of Hatches Harbor from the 1880s to the 1960s, so named for the debaucherous reputation of its residents. The Boy From Helltown is a clarion call for a celebration of LGBTQ culture and the identities within, calling for a revolution. The pressures of a hostile conservative movement are enough; the queer community should be the last place to find the shackles of expectations of uniformity, moral panics, or judgement. Adding to the performance’s appeal is the use of a rock and roll set list, all sung live by Elle, celebrating the often hidden and ignored queer elements to the macho genre and acting as a reminder that rock is gay as hell.
The Boy from Helltown: The Untold Story of Elle Emenopé runs every Thursday now through September 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St. Tickets ($35) are available at the box office and online at onlyatthecrown.com. For more information call 508.487.1430.