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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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