The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes
Just as Rose Nyland would tell us that it makes sense to smoke your herrings because that's the best way to get your house to smell like herrings, so, too, one of the best ways to recapture the holiday feel of decades and TV dens past is to take in this year's staging of "The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes."
When the original TV series aired back in the 1980s, it was impossible to imagine any other women than Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Estelle Getty portraying our beloved Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia.
But not, thankfully, impossible to imagine drag queens doing so. Which, for the past handful of years, Bay Area residents have been blessed to witness.
Annually the talents at Victoria venture through two classic "Golden Girls" episodes. This year we are offered the coming out of Blanche's brother Clayton and the ill-fated attempt of the girls to go their separate ways to Christmas with their families, only to discover that they are indeed the only family their ever need.
The situations are not particularly hilarious or memorable; the laughter and the warmth comes from some very silly lines and the realization of the formed family all of us share.
There would not be much fun if the actors endeavored to accurately reprise the original performances. Bea Arthur's performance always suggested a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman...and none of them trying terribly hard. That subtext makes Heklina's blunt deadpan delivery all the more hilarious.
Pollo Del Mar takes things to a new level this year with incredible parodies of Rose's baffled astonishment, using bared teeth to dazzling effect; and Matthew Martin slinks and sullies through Blanche's Southern roots like a pig wallowing in pool of whatever crap Southern pigs wallow in. We're not sure what that is, but afterwards you need a cigarette and a shower.
The most curious performance to get used to is that of Cookie Dough's turn as Sophia. Humor being the most common genetic marker in families, it was always easy to see in Arthur's sarcastic delivery of Dorothy's biting humor her upbringing under Getty/Sophia's sarcastic commentary, each biting quip rising to an exclamation.
Dough's delivery is flat, ending in a downward note of resignation. The lines are still funny as ever, but create an entirely different connection to Dorothy than suggested in the original.
Between scene the audience is treated to audio blurbs of commercials past, chuckling to the fifth-grade innocence of lines such as "crunchy nuts" and and "granny panties." Shakespeare it's not, but then, he never was any good at making his house smell like herring.
"The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes" runs through Dec. 30 at Victoria Theater, 2961 16th St. in San Francisco. For info or tickets, call 415-863-7576 or visit www.victoriatheatre.org