David Cerda’s camp parody of Mervyn LeRoy’s 1956 film The Bad Seed, about a murderous, extremely narcissistic child, takes drag to a new level, working as both a hilarious send-up of a creaky but beloved old movie (itself adapted from Maxwell Anderson’s 1954 Broadway hit and William March’s award-winning novel) and as an engrossing, entertaining story on its own. Cerda transfers the setting from mid-20th-century America to today, and transforms the dramatis personae from a bunch of stiff upper-middle-class cis squares (plus a few on the fringe) to a panoply of LGTBQ+ characters, some in drag, some not. In Cerda’s version, the murderous child is no longer a willful eight-year-old girl but a charming yet spoiled genderqueer named Carson who dreams of glory on RuPaul’s Drag Race and will destroy anyone who gets in their way (played with exquisite comic timing by Kristopher Bottrall).
Cerda’s play bristles with great one-liners, and the production, under the direction of Cheryl Snodgrass, is packed with superb comic actors. Ed Jones plays Carson’s sweet, oblivious mother, a woman who, as in the film, takes way too long to figure out her child is a killer. Fans of the original movie will especially enjoy Elizabeth Lesinski’s only slightly exaggerated caricature of Eileen Heckart’s turn as the boozy mother of the “bad seed’s” victim. Keith Ryan’s wonderful wig design tops it all off. v