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Glenda Frank


“Make Me Gorgeous, ” written and directed by “Donnie” (Donald Horn)
Playhouse 46 at St. Luke’s, 308 West 46 St., NYC.
Feb. 21 through March 24, 2024.
Sunday – Thursday at 7:00 p.m.; Friday & Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday & Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $49- 139 at GorgeousPlay.com or groups@GorgeousPlay.com.

Darius Rose aka Jackie Cox in "Make Me Gorgeous." Photo by Maria Baranova.

Theatre thrives on synergy, and nowhere is it on better display than in “Make Me Gorgeous” by writer/director “Donnie” (Donald Horn) at Playhouse 46 through March 24. The inspiration for the one-person play was Kenneth/Kate Marlowe, one of those indomitable, overlooked LGBTQ trailblazers, a bundle of irrepressible creativity who remade themselves over and over.

Marlowe is brought to us, is resurrected by Darius Rose, aka the charismatic Jackie Cox, one of the top five contenders on the 12th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In less accomplished hands, “Make Me Gorgeous” could have been simply a history lesson, but the show is filled with extraordinary performances. And then there are the stunning costumes by Jeffrey Hinshaw in a lovely pink set, complete with a leather-studded statue, by Walt Spangler, with lighting by Jamie Roderick. Among other lures, the show is a visual delight.

We move not only into Marlowe’s life but also through highlights of the era. Sally Rand was an early influence, and Jackie Cox’s fan dance is extraordinary. Marlowe’s first show biz opportunity after prostitution, was as a stripper. They were too broke to buy a costume, so they designed a “dirty napkin skirt” from restaurant findings. The bit is one of the comic highlights of the show. As are the double entendres that pepper the narrative.

Marlowe’s salary went from a most welcome $30 to $60, and then up to $100/week, but they were working for a possessive mobster, who believed in violence and a tight ship. Marlowe tried a short-lived stint as a missionary. “What do you do when you quit drag? Go to church.” Their job for an answering service led to work as Mr. Madam. They worked as a hairdresser for the stars, and late in life, Kenneth hired Dr. Fisk to help him became Kate.

The show is delightful, but it could be more. The script keeps it light by glossing over the violence, rejections and dangers of Marlowe’s life. One of the most memorable episodes was when Kenneth was drafted. They were gang-raped, then discharged from the Army. Marlowe returned home to the mother who had taught the youngster a guiding adage: Problems can always be solved. It seemed in parts that all they had to do was wish it, and new possibilities appeared, but Marlowe was an innovator. When their career hit a wall, they cut a new path. After one of the dead ends, they authored 17 books.

In an interview, Darius Rose observed, “This role gives me an opportunity to act, sing, dance and bring dozens of roles to life, both in and out of a wig. I’m excited to combine my theatre background with my drag and cabaret work to bring Kenneth/Kate to life.”

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