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For Randall Kenneth Jones, playing the femme fatale even better than Olivia de Havilland role


On stage for just six more performances at Lab Theater is this summer’s smash hit parody, Hush Up Sweet Charlotte. In the role of conniving cousin Miriam is the incomparable Randall Kenneth Jones.

Highly intelligent, deeply introspective and ridiculously well-connected (among a legion of notable actors, athletes and celebs, he counts Erin Brockovich and Peggy Post as close personal friends), Jones sheds light on the macabre and twisted character he plays in Lab’s Hush, Hush parody.

“The best part of Sweet Charlotte is that I’m a femme fatale,” he effuses backstage while doing his best to conceal his eyebrows under a thick layer of foundation. “There is really no male equivalent for the femme fatale, and that’s what makes Miriam so much fun to play.

Indeed. Miriam is a boundlessly ambitious, coldly calculating, monstrously brutal beauty who gleefully employs her intellect, looks and cunning to get what she wants. At the top of her short list of demands and desires is wealth, independence and control. Neither men nor close personal relationships make the cut. In Miriam’s purely transactional view of life, family, friends and especially men are merely means to a quantifiable end.

“The closest parallel to the femme fatale is perhaps Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” Jones postulates upon further reflection. Valmont is a nihilistic pleasure-seeker who enjoys inducing people to sacrifice the values most important to them. For him, social events chiefly represent opportunities to exercise his considerable talent for seducing and ruining women. “I know a hundred, a thousand ways of robbing a woman of her reputation,” says Valmont haughtily. “But whenever I have tried to think how she might save herself, I have never been able to think of a single possibility.”

By contrast, there are numerous examples of the femme fatale archetype in both film and theater. Most would agree that Lily Powers in the 1933 film Baby Face, played by the immortal Barbara Stanwyck. Embodying Frederick Nietzsche’s infamous will to power, Lily sleeps her way to the top at a big Manhattan bank, ruining everyone she encounters along the way, including the bank president. While there are numerous intervening iterations (Joan Bennett as Kitty March in Scarlett Street, Rita Hayworth in Gilda, Kim Novak as Madeline Elster and Judy Barton in Vertigo and Laura Harring as Rita in Mullholland Dr.), it’s unnecessary to go any farther back in time for a chilling example of the femme fatale than the diabolically ruthless Amy Dunne (played by Rosamund Pike) in Gone Girl.

In Hush Up Sweet Charlotte, the carnage wrought by conniving cousin Miriam is impressive. But not only are sweet, demented Charlotte Hollis and her loyal housekeeper Velma dead in her sights, but so is her accomplice, good doctor Drew Bayliss. Without giving away the show’s ending, suffice it to say that Dr. Drew thinks he has the upper hand when it comes to his paramour, but the dissembling, double-dealing physician is just so much filthy lucre in Miriam’s grand scheme. Like all the other men who’ve fallen victim to a femme fatale, Drew has been blinded by Miriam’s raw sexuality and seductive prowess.

Kudos are in order not only for the way in which Randy Jones portrays the character, but for director Annette Trossbach, whose wardrobe and make-up choices illustrate the essence of Miriam’s perverse psychology and mental composition . Coiffed in sassy short auburn hair, Jones spends much of the evening sashaying about the stage wearing the standard garb of a femme fatale – bold red dress, red velvet lipstick, and bone pumps.

And all this serves to heighten the satire that underlies great parody. That it’s a man with the height and physique of an offensive lineman or middle linebacker rather than a sleek vampy woman playing the part serves to ramp up the farce, irony and pastiche of the entire production.

“There’s nothing I like about being a woman,” remarks Jones, who admits to having a  profound new appreciation for the lengths to which women are willing to go in the name of beauty and fashion. “I don’t get the eyelashes, the make-up, the hair,” he says flatly. “And the heels are excruciating. They’re ridiculously painful.”

But he wears them because they draw laughs.

“In them, I’m 6’5” or six. I go through the pain because it’s ridiculously funny to see me towering over everyone else.”

Suffice it to say that he and his co-star, Brian Linthicum, are happy with their gender assignment.

Nor are they women wannabes. Rather, they’re just two funny men in dresses.

“Drag queens work at their craft. We’re more comedians in dresses [in the tradition of] Harvey Korman on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Tom Hanks when he started out, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie or Robin Williams [in Doubtfire]. Drag queens? Now that’s a skill!”

June 22, 2018.




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