Set in 1931, satirist Charles Buschs politically incorrect farce pokes fun at preHays (censorship) Code movie melodramas from the 1930s. Starring luminaries like Barbara Stanwyck or Marlene Dietrich, these films, which frequently harbored racist undercurrents, told tales involving up-from-their-bootstraps babes who traded sex for wealth and power. Directed by Ken Salzman, this staging features a cross-dressed R. Christofer Sands as Lady Sylvia Allington, a steamy siren who accompanies her husband on a diplomatic mission to Shanghai and becomes embroiled in a pot-boiling affair with a diabolical Chinese general (Christopher Chen). Before plays end, the unfortunate drama queen has become hooked on opium, been branded as the generals slave, and put on trial for murder. Its all pure escapism and ably executed, especially by Sands, a seasoned veteran of cross-gender roles. Also skillfully entertaining are Chens snide, sneering villain and Minda Grace Ware unerringly on-target in male drag as Lady Allingtons no-goodnik first spouse. Lively production values David Calhouns set, Maro Parians costumes and SanZmans sound contribute to the fun. Unfortunately, at 90-plus minutes without intermission, the materials predictably campy humor eventually wears thin, and the tiny theater with the players and the audience in such close proximity ± constrains performances in a piece intended to be played vastly larger than life. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through December 20. (818) 500-7200.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Nov. 15. Continues through Dec. 20, 2008