Now in its 10th month, L.A. stage show “Streep Tease” serves as both a reminder and an eye-opener.
The reminder is how much New York real estate can influence theater. “Streep Tease” is the kind of retro show that used to populate the burnt-out storefront theaters of the East Village back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But while Manhattan real estate today is just too pricey to accommodate such inspired theatrical nonsense, Los Angeles has an overabundance of empty buildings, and the Bang Studio, among the Jewish delis and thrift stores on Fairfax Avenue, serves as a perfect home for the homage and/or sendup of Meryl Streep.
The eye-opener is that Streep, long celebrated as the pinnacle of the Serious Actress, has somehow become a camp icon.
In the show, Roy Cruz and eight other male actors perform scenes or monologues from Streep films, and Cruz recalls how it all started:
“?’The Devil Wears Prada’ had just come out, and I’d always do it when I did my standup. When I approached the other actors, they all had a favorite Meryl Streep movie.”
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With the cross-gender serio-comic stage show, Streep thus joins the exalted (and sometimes assaulted) ranks of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Maria Callas, Liza Minnelli, Cher, Madonna and Kim Cattrall.
Streep lacks the drug addiction, suicides, multiple tragic romances and offstage dramas that most of these women had/have. But she does share their thirst for theatricality, at least onscreen, and in one Streep scene after another it’s evident that here’s a true drama queen of the first order.
Big hair, big makeup, big fashion. Those are the ingredients that have always defined these female role models, because, if drag queens can’t easily replicate the look and manner, the women don’t qualify.
Unlike a gaggle of drag queens, however, the men of “Streep Tease” wear a basic uniform of black jeans and T-shirt, sans makeup. While Cruz makes no attempt to soften his Filipino accent when delivering the “cerulean” scene from “Prada,” other actors play it pretty straight when doing scenes from “Sophie’s Choice” and “The Bridges of Madison County.” Others are rather over the top, such as in the delivery of the entire “Out of Africa” in less than six minutes.
Just as Terrence McNally’s “The Lisbon Traviata” and “Master Class” turned Callas into a gay camp figure, Cruz’s show could work similar magic for his heroine of choice.
“I think the concept of camp has broadened,” this actor-producer says. “I never intended it to be camp. If you say it is camp, I’ll take it.”
So far, Cruz hasn’t gotten any complaints of copyright infringement from the movie studios in town. “I think this falls under the category of parody,” he offers in defense.
So if a hetero-camp show like “Rock of Ages” can travel from L.A. to Gotham, why not “Streep Tease”?
Cruz is ready to take his show on the road, and is in talks with places as far-flung as Ohio and Argentina. As long as there are actors and cheap real estate, there will be “Streep Tease.”