A whole new world of ‘Wizard of Oz’

The Painted Bride presents Eric Jaffe and Foster Longo’s ‘Lizard of Oz’

2 minute read
What if the queer subtext were just text? Eric Jaffe as Smelphaba in ‘Lizard of Oz.’ (Photo by Joe Mac.)
What if the queer subtext were just text? Eric Jaffe as Smelphaba in ‘Lizard of Oz.’ (Photo by Joe Mac.)

What if the Land of Oz had a Broad Street, a Dunkin’ Donuts, and an East Passyunk? More importantly, what if all the queer subtext of the various iterations of L. Frank Baum’s beloved story were just…text? Then it might bear a striking resemblance to Eric Jaffe’s hilarious parody, The Lizard of Oz, now onstage at the Painted Bride as part of Philly Theatre Week.

Jaffe cowrote, directed, and stars as Smelphaba, the green girl so wretched and reviled for her unfortunate complexion—and even more unfortunate stench.

Philly, Oz, and everyone else

There’s no flatulence, funk, or putrid smell that doesn’t get offered up for laughs in Lizard of Oz, but the show’s hilarity goes far beyond cheap gags. The entire production is winkingly self-referential, pillorying the source material’s more unpopular subplots and milking every Philly stereotype you can think of, best exemplified in Brittany Marie’s tracksuit-wearing, wooder-drinking, Target-shopping Linda, the Okay Witch of Northeast Philly.

Act I is an almost scene-for-scene parody of Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked, wherein Smelphaba comes into her own as a shy, shunned student at Shitz University. Under the tutelage of Madame Horrible (Amanda Sheffern), she discovers that she’s a powerful magic-user who someday might work directly under the majestic Lizard of Oz (cowriter Foster Longo, AKA Lili St. Queer), who may or may not be one of the feared lizard people (don’t Google it) whom Professor Jake Gyllenhaal (CJ Higgins) rants about in class with increasing paranoia.

Meanwhile, Linda is fobbing off her would-be love interest The Rock/future Tin Non-Binary Person (Jaedto Israel) on Smelphaba’s tragically coiffed sister Kesha Rose (Stephanie C. Kernisan), the Cowardly Lion appears in the form of Rum Tum Tugger from Cats, and St. Queer has a delicious riff on “Sweet Transvestite” from Rocky Horror Picture Show in her introductory scene.

Wicked, The Wiz, and a couple of Dorothies

Act II delves into a marvelous mashup that pulls not only from Wicked, but also from the 1939 original Wizard of Oz film and 1978’s The Wiz, with Shannon Turner’s doe-eyed Dorothy segueing into a delightfully tragic Judy Garland and (unsuccessfully) squaring off with Philly vocal artist Jakeya’s BDSM-loving Dorothy, whose Toto is a very different dog than any Ozian production has seen before.

Completing the main cast is Prince Wywy as Fiyero/Scarecrow, who loves brunch and just wants to buy some Champagne.

The whole affair is lewd, crude, and utterly delightful, from Jordan Leigh’s gleeful choreography and Miss Elaine’s brilliant costuming (most notable are Linda’s tracksuit gown and Jakeya’s Dominatrix Dorothy ensemble).

In vivid glory

The entire production is an unauthorized, sex-affirming, cannabis-loving, body-positive riff on one of the 20th century’s most beloved stories—leaving the audience weeping with laughter (but not falling out of our seats, as the Painted Bride’s seating is far more fat-friendly than most area theaters).

The entire ensemble pours their collective heart and soul into a campy night of spoofs and satire where every gender expression and body type are represented in vivid glory on stage.

What, When, Where

Lizard of Oz. By Eric Jaffe and Foster Longo. Directed by Eric Jaffe. Through February 16, 2020, at the Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine St., Philadelphia.

The Painted Bride is a wheelchair-accessible venue.

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