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Stage Review

In ‘The Ebonic Woman,’ a superhero confronts a villain — and he sure looks familiar

Qya Marie in “The Ebonic Woman” by Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans.Michael von Redlich

Not that there should have been much doubt to begin with, but “The Ebonic Woman’’ firmly establishes Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans as members of the Resistance.

Landry’s uproarious new musical sendup of the superhero genre, which is playing at the Machine nightclub through May 26, has a notably sharp political edge — by which of course I mean an anti-Trump edge.

If you’re exhausted or enraged by the presidency of Donald J. Trump, you may find the ferocious lampooning of 45 in “The Ebonic Woman’’ to be a cathartic experience. Indeed, the scenes in which we see Trump (Tim Lawton) behind bars in an orange prison jumpsuit register like an alternate-universe postscript to the Mueller Report. Contrariwise, if your taste in headgear runs to MAGA hats, well, what the heck are you doing at a Ryan Landry show?


At the helm of “The Ebonic Woman’’ is Kiki Samko, a gifted actress who is directing her second Orphans show and has performed in six (including this one). Samko more than justifies Landry’s confidence in her abilities, driving the production forward at an invigoratingly frenetic pace. That velocity does not obscure the pointed message about bigotry, intolerance, and the danger of building walls, literal and figurative, that underlie the knockabout antics of “The Ebonic Woman.’’

Playing the title role, and with great panache, too, is Orphans regular Qya Marie. It’s gratifying to see Marie, who has often shone in supporting roles, occupying the spotlight as Hennessey Brown, an idealistic science whiz. Hennessey is developing a serum called “Harmony’’ that will make everyone who takes it color-blind and thus, she hopes, cure racism. However, due to a mixup involving her inept maid, Peona (Sarah Jones, morosely hilarious as ever), Hennessey ingests a larger-than-advisable amount of the serum. She is suddenly transformed into the Ebonic Woman, complete with knee-high gold boots, a hot-pink costume, and superpowers.


Those superpowers may be needed to combat Trump, who, it hardly needs be said, is no fan of harmony. He gets sprung from prison and undergoes a transformation of his own into an even more nefarious alter ego, Bald Eagle, played by Lawton at even fuller throttle, while attired in an eagle mask, large wings, and yellow leggings. Bald Eagle heads immediately to . . . Lynn. As part of his crusade to combat diversity and engender social division, Bald Eagle is determined to build “the world’s largest gated community’’ there — a goal that wins him the fervent support of the Paranoid White Ladies Society.

An ally-of-convenience to Bald Eagle is Ivy League, the city’s conniving and ambitious mayor (and Hennessey’s aunt), who hopes Bald Eagle can help her win the governor’s office. Ivy League is played with considerable gusto by director Samko, attired in a tomato-red pantsuit that even Hillary Clinton would have left in the closet. Costume designer Scott Martino, who somehow manages to top himself each time the Orphans take the stage, has again stretched a presumably tight budget into something special: The bright-colored, tight-fitting outfits he devised offer a lavish visual correlative to the show’s subtitle: “A Comic Book Farce.’’ (Martino also brings an entertaining dose of snark to his portrayal of Polly Wannacracker, the buxom, not-so-helpful helpmeet to Trump/Bald Eagle.)

To be sure, the Ebonic Woman has allies of her own in her battle to save Lynn and the wider world from the villains. There’s the League of Ethnically Diverse, Sexually Fluid, Non-denominational Superheroes, for instance. And there are Ivy League’s kindhearted sister, Gemini Brown (Landry); Hennessey’s boyfriend, Cliff Hanger (Adriean Delaney, making his Orphans debut); and Cliff’s father, Dr. Lowe Hanger, played by the estimable Damon Singletary.


A classically trained veteran of the stage, Singletary is also appearing in his first Orphans show, and he seems to be having the time of his life. “The Ebonic Woman’’ underscores a not-insignificant achievement by Landry and the Orphans: that they consistently remain a cohesive unit while welcoming newcomers to their ranks — and those newcomers usually become part of the company’s esprit de corps.

Your own spirits might well need a lift nowadays, given the current political environment. Your spleen might also need venting. If that’s the case, here’s a bit of non-fake news: There is no reason to resist “The Ebonic Woman.’’


Written by Ryan Landry. Directed by Kiki Samko. Presented by Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans. At Machine, Boston, through May 26. Tickets $49-$59.

Don Aucoin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@GlobeAucoin