When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to become Madame. Yes, the late Wayland Flowers’ jewel-dripping dummy that appeared regularly with him on Hollywood Squares in the 70s. A drag queen trapped in a puppet’s body, Madame had a costume and a quip for every occasion. After Flowers died in 1988, Madame understandably disappeared, and over the years other bawdy inanimate upstarts — those annoying Crank Yankers, the kids living on Avenue Q — attempted to fill her void. Now the original bitch is back with a brand-new partner, Joe Kovacs, in her first full-length live show in 18 years. A tell-all autobiographical extravaganza, A Comeback from Abroad (The Cutting Room, 19 W 24th St, July 24 and 31) chronicles Madame’s adventures over the past few decades and believe me, she hasn’t mellowed with age. She looks exactly the same, too. I’m guessing she’s had some work.
Speaking of comebacks, one of my favorite companies, the Classical Theatre of Harlem, is remounting their brilliantly bloody 2003 staging of Macbeth (July 28 and 29 in Brooklyn’s Von King Park; August 1, 4 and 5 in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park). Now I know what you’re thinking. Hunky Liev Schreiber (one of my few straight-boy crushes) just wrapped up his stint in the Scottish Play in Central Park. Well, I’ve seen both productions and I can honestly say that CTH’s absolutely slays its starry competition. And like the Shakespeare in the Park offering, CTH’s Macbeth takes place outdoors and is completely free.
Last October, groundbreaking African-American playwright August Wilson died at age 60. Last month, his frequent director, Lloyd Richards, succumbed to heart failure. Back in 1996, the duo collaborated on the Tony-winning Seven Guitars, one of Wilson’s 20th-century cycle plays chronicling the black experience in America. To celebrate Wilson’s legacy, Signature Theatre Company is launching a three-play tribute to the late Pulitzer Prize winner, beginning with Seven Guitars (Peter Norton Space, 555 W 42nd St, July 31-September 23). Helmed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who won a Tony Award when he appeared in the Broadway production of the play, the show explores hope and heartbreak in Pittsburgh’s Hill District as seven people share frustration, joy and loss in 1948. Ultimately though, it’s the loss of both Wilson and Richards that will weigh heavily on the proceedings. Yeah, I know this sounds depressing but it’s worthwhile. And with tickets only $15 a pop (in honor of Signature’s 15th season), you can get your culture, and pay your credit card bill, too.