OFFBEAT: Hell in a Handbag bringing mix and new and old Camp for 2013 stage run

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-03-02T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Hell in a Handbag bringing mix and new and old Camp for 2013 stage runBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Our own playwright-actor-director-writer Northwest Indiana claim-to-fame David Cerda, a 1979 graduate of Hammond High School, is already promising a "can't wait to see it" holiday gift for audiences, even though December is 10 months away.

His Hell in a Handbag Productions, Chicago's leading camp and parody theater company, now in its 11th year, announced Friday their 2013 season, including a new holiday show debuting in December.

But first, he says they are kicking off the season with what he calls "a sudsy potboiler about race, mothers and daughters and looking fabulous."

It's called "L'imitation of Life," adapted by Ricky Graham with the Running with Scissors Theater Company in New Orleans, and playing at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. on Chicago's north side. It starts preview April 4 and 5, the opening night set for Saturday, April 6 and the show continuing through May 10. All showtimes are 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $15 to $25 with premium VIP seats available for $35 to $100.

I'm told this show promises to be "a wicked parody of 'Imitation of Life,' the classic Douglas Sirk directed (a three hankie tearjerker) film.

I'm told Handbag ensemble member Ed Jones will channel post-murder trial Lana Turner in all of her scene chewing glory. Cerda invites: "Don't miss as Handbag tackles racism and drag in spiked heels."

Just in time for the arrival of autumn, while most birds will be flying south for winter, Cerda's feathered friends of funny camp are returning.

His stage parody "The Birds" first perched in The Windy City with critical acclaim in October 2007.

Cerda created and wrote it with Pauline Pang and once again, it's being staged at The Coach House at Berger Park, 6205 N. Sheridan Ave. along the lakefront in Chicago. Previews are set for Aug. 8, 9 and 10, with the opening night on Sunday, Aug. 11. It runs until Sept. 15 and Cerda is already working on another ROAR Foundation Benefit with what he promises will be "an EXTRA special guest to be announced." All Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. and tickers are $28 to $48.

This will be a remount of one of Cerda's most popular shows he's ever produced.

When I saw it in 2007, Cerda had me on the floor laughing in his tightest sweater playing the schoolteacher role the late, great raspy voiced Suzanne Pleshette portrayed in Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1963 film.

Originally produced under Sweetback Productions and directed by Kelly Anchors, Cerda's version of "The Birds" is both a ridiculous parody of the classic Hitchcock film, and a look inside the mind of then newcomer actress Tippi Hedren, with narration via a fun impersonation of author and American social critic Camille Paglia. (There's even a touch of David Lynch thrown in for good measure.)

Endorsed by none other than Ms. Tippi Hedren herself, who has seen the original 2007 Cerda production, "The Birds" stands out as one of Handbag's most critically acclaimed and memorable shows. The environmental staging at the Coach House on Berger Park in Lake Michigan makes it a unique experience audiences never forget.

To end off the 2007 season, don't consider it a lump of coal in the stocking of audiences that Cerda has decided after 15 years, it's time to give his ever-popular "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer" a rest, (but don't worry, not retirement).

This year, audiences will enjoy "Christmas Dearest" written and created by Cerda and staged at Mary's Attic and starting previews Friday, Nov. 29 and the opening night on Saturday, Nov. 30. It will run until Dec. 28 with tickets priced at $15 to $25, with the option of VIP Packages for $38 to $100, which includes premium reserved seating and a first drink coupon.

Built around the premise that everyone should to embrace the wonders and blessings of the holiday season, the story has everybody at Hell in a Handbasket Productions (a fictional, plucky Chicago theater company), is thrilled to be producing a brand new holiday show. However, it seems nothing any of the company members do is good enough for founder and Artistic Director David Carda (hmmm...a familiar sounding name, eh?), who is starting to act, and look more and more like the legendary Hollywood actress Joan Crawford, he so loves to portray onstage. Will David learn his lesson and embrace the holiday spirit and finally learn to appreciate what he has or will the spirit of Crawford via "Mommie Dearest" alienate him from all those who love him the most?

For reservations for any of the shows, call (800) 838-3006 or visit Brown Paper Tickets online at

Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music, and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit Corporation.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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