‘Cherdonna’s Doll’s House’ is an absurd and poignant satire of femininity

Performance artist and drag queen Cherdonna Shinatra crashes her crazy-clown makeup, massive wig and even more massive personality into a version of Ibsen’s infamous play about a stifled wife who walks out on her family.

According to theater lore, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen kept a live scorpion in a beer glass on his writing desk. When it looked sick and sluggish, he’d supposedly throw a berry or piece of fruit in the glass — the scorpion would furiously sting it until it felt better.

Even if that isn’t strictly true, the image is fitting for Ibsen, who wrote “Hedda Gabler,” “The Master Builder,” “A Doll’s House” and other canonical plays about people (usually women) trapped in domestic cages and the emotional poison that can flood neat and tidy households.

In 2017, who better to walk us through a production of “A Doll’s House” than drag queen/performance artist Cherdonna Shinatra (pronounced as a bar-slurry composite of “Cher” plus “Madonna” plus “Sinatra”)?

Theater review

‘Cherdonna’s Doll’s House’

Through May 15, Washington Ensemble Theatre at 12th Avenue Arts, Seattle; $15-$25 (washingtonensemble.org).

The set at 12th Avenue Arts looks typically Ibsen-esque: wood paneling, wood furniture, piano, Oriental carpet, oil painting on the wall. There’s only one hint that we’re in for something strange: a giant, puffy pink chair just offstage, ringed by a halo of light bulbs. Before the show even begins, the stage looks like Pee-wee Herman is about to crash an episode of “Masterpiece Theatre.”

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Then our host stalks out. Cherdonna, in her signature clownish makeup that is a satire of drag itself (this play is a triple-decker satire sandwich) and a wig that looks like a cresting white tidal wave, wears a neon-green outfit that looks like a cross between a dress and a pantsuit. “Hello! How are you?” she…

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