The cutting — sometimes even stage blood-drawing — edge of drag performance is displayed in “Trannyshack,” Sean Mullens’ survey of the notorious weekly San Francisco club’s first decade. Sure to delight gay fest auds worldwide, entertaining if slightly exhaustive docu could conceivably win a few arthouse playdates before accessing niche DVD sales.
A far cry from the “old-school drag” acts of glamorous female impersonation and show tunes, Trannyshack has drawn loyal, mixed audiences to witness sometimes X-rated rock ‘n’ roll wig outs by self-proclaimed freaks hell bent on provocation and outrage. Beyond men cross-dressing as tragic and trashy women, there’s room for drag kings (women as men), and even faux-queens (women unleashing the inner drag queen trapped in a real girl’s body). Grand Guignol themes, nudity, ill-advised pyrotechnics, and hilariously ill-tempered co-founder/hostess Heklina make frequent appearances. Generous performance excerpts, off-stage interviews, and numerous eccentric digressions highlight this high-energy effort that loses some momentum around the 80-minute mark. Jazzy editing and graphics highlight the crisp package.