Who Killed Joan Crawford? Credit: Glitterati Productions

“I think the most important thing a woman can have—next to talent, of course—is her hairdresser,” once said Joan Crawford, the ultimate diva of old Hollywood. She would have been horrified by the bad wigs on the cast in this midwest premiere of Michael Leeds’s comedic whodunit, directed by John Nasca for Glitterati Productions. She would have been quite proud, though, of the cast of six men, dressed in drag versions of her most famous roles and personifying another Joanism, “I love playing bitches. There’s a lot of bitch in every woman—a lot in every man.”

Set on a dark and stormy night in a secluded cabin, the fun, campy story begins at the Joan-themed birthday party of soap star Trick Rogers, who is nowhere to be found. The party guests are all frenemies and members of his orbit, and their acerbic banter and well-timed physical comedy set the tone for the wacky and mysterious disappearances that follow. Standout performances include a surprisingly grand and glamorous Michael Jack Hampton as psychiatrist Stewart Fry and a catty and self-absorbed Patrick Rybarczyk as composer Leo Lawrence.

That the year is 1993 is made clear from running commentary on the Tony Awards, playing in the next room, and humor throughout the play is inspired heavily by the musical theater world and quotes from the prolific Crawford’s filmography. One memorable scoff, criticizing “a man who thinks that Ethel Merman was the sidekick in I Love Lucy,” may be a good barometer when considering attending.  v