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Tom Tangney

Dan Savage brings very un-PC Helen Keller play to Seattle stage

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The very un-PC "Miracle!", a drag version of the Helen Keller drama "The Miracle Worker" created and directed by Dan Savage, premiered Saturday at Seattle's Intiman Theater. (Chris Bennion/Intiman Theater photo)

It's exactly what the world has been clamoring for, right? "The Miracle Worker" done in drag. Well, maybe not. But the creative juices of Dan Savage can't be denied, so "Miracle!" - yes, that's miracle with an exclamation point - came to life for the very first time Saturday night at the Intiman Theatre. And at last, we can finally answer that age-old question "What if Helen Keller was a deaf and blind drag queen?"

Offensive? Well, of course. That's sort of the point. And it's not that Savage doesn't warn us, right up front. As the audience walks in, there's a giant written announcement up on stage that warns "this play will be deeply offensive to the deaf/blind community, so please don't tell them. Keep your hands shut!"

Miracle! is a very broad and bawdy drag show that indeed sets the Helen Keller story in a drag bar. Her father is the bar owner and drag emcee (who goes by the name of Crystal Pain) and insists that his deaf and blind daughter Helen Stellar perform each night along with all the other drag queens who lipsynch their way to glory.

The first time we see Helen perform is one of the most- cringe worthy and funny bits you can expect to see on a Seattle stage all year. She can't hear the music and she can't see the stage, so you can imagine what her dance routine must be like. Or then again, maybe you can't. Let's just say, she has to wear a dog collar that zaps her whenever she gets too close to the edge of the stage. It's so politically incorrect, it takes your breath away.

And that's when Miracle! works best, when it pushes the envelope of good taste, when it dares to go beyond the pale. There are a lot of outrageous puns and I guess you could call them "dirty" one-liners but a lot of the material is hit and miss. I would encourage Savage to dare to be more outrageous than he already is. He has a great conceit at its root: take a powerful and sentimental play about human triumph (the Helen Keller story) and do a send-up of it that both mocks and underscores the story's inspiring tale.

In Savage's hands, the Helen Keller story gets worse, way worse, before it eventually gets better.

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About the Author


Tom Tangney is the co-host of The Tom and Curley Show on KIRO Radio and resident enthusiast of...everything. As the film and media critic on the Morning News on KIRO Radio, he espouses his love for books, movies, TV, art, pop culture, politics, sports, and Husky football.

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