Review by G.W. Mercure
A recent gala was entertained by a drag queen whose name, although fabulous, it isn’t necessary to know. “If you enjoy the show, my name is…” she said. “And if you don’t, my name is Dina Martina.” It was a good-natured shoulder punch that revealed just how large looms the lady.
There’s a reason for that. When it comes to drag queens, Martina is the godsister. And her recent performance at the Crown & Anchor was every last bit the consummate performance – edgy, dynamic, professional, with winking, nose-tweaking intimacy – that one would expect from one of the hottest shows in town. It was also absurd in a way that made few concessions to subtlety.
It is easy to consider drag shows as longful and adoring tributes to the unexplored beasts of femininity, approximating and fully, extremely, campily exposing our culture’s most soaring archetypes of womanhood. The women depicted in drag shows are often the charred and tattered remains of the male gaze, fit to a queer filter. And the women they approximate are easy reads, usually: Liza, Marilyn, Cher. But that’s not the case with the extraordinary and extraordinarily gifted Dina Martina.
To look for a diva parallel to Dina Martina is fun over drinks, but it misses the point. Norma Desmond? There’s a little. But the decay and dank postmodern detritus in which Dina Martina lives is not like this world and does very little to present itself as if it is. It is almost entirely absurd. Her performance includes singing that is poor to the point of testing credibility; dancing that it isn’t much of a stretch to call dangerous; old film clips with her trademark cherry-red goblin grin stitched in; malapropisms that pile onto one another faster than you can even recognize them; and monologue after monologue that never, ever fails to be both deadpan and breathtakingly unexpected.
Of course, disbelief is suspended. A drag audience is involved in the very deliberate suspension, pretending to pretend, so to speak. What is Dina Martina sending up? What is being portrayed? Some mad amalgam of myriad divas, pinups, talk-show hosts, and talking heads? Yes, but if it’s all that, and the world it creates abandons the signifiers and footholds of our world, and the audience knows and knows it knows, then what is being impersonated, who is Dina Martina? It doesn’t matter because she is absolutely hilarious with no qualifiers. But the answer is: drag performance itself, and the personality at the center of it. Dina Martina is Dina Martina, and her show is the filthiest completely pure thing in the world.
Dina Martina performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday – Sunday through September 3 and then Fridays and Saturdays through September 16 at the Crown & Anchor, 247 Commerical St., Provincetown. For tickets ($40) and information call 508.487.1430 or visit onlyatthecrown.com.