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Mae West: Come on Up and See Her in 'Dirty Blonde'

Erin P. Doherty
By Erin P. Doherty
Posted on Jun 08,2015
Filed Under Entertainment , Local Style,

Photo by Matt Liptak
Alexandria Guyker(Jo)

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - "Dirty Blonde" seamlessly toggles between Mae West’s career in the 1920s through 1950s and the friendship between two fans—Jo (Alexandra Guyker) and Charlie (Daniel J. Calderon) who meet at her resting place shortly after her death at age 87 in 1980.

Before the show commences, a marquis and movie screen with curtains shows a montage of 14 posters with names of West’s songs and productions, effectively conveying showing the duration of West’s career.

Later, full scenes are projected here, thus enabling a single piece of furniture, such as a piano or bench that serves as a seat in the car, to be swapped out quickly enough to keep pace with changes in costumes, time, and space.

The two-hour production, which has no intermission, also moves swiftly through 1911 to 1984 and in and out of the lives of West and her multiple male attendants (Chris Gillespie and Daniel Doeuk).

LTA’s cast includes five actors who “own it” whenever wearing flamboyant or uncomfortable garb. Janet Moman (Mae West) captures West’s facial expressions, singing voice and delivery of double entendre.
Both musicians, David Dender on piano and David Burrelli on bass, provided excellent accompaniment.

New York police had shut down of West’s 1926 production of “Sex,” after 41 weeks of sold-out performances. Flashing police lights are humorously depicted (Marzanne Claiborne). “The Drag,” a male drag show of West’s, was reportedly the real target of the attack on “Sex.”

Calderon aptly plays Charlie, an awkward and nerdy archivist who is smitten with the “blonde and tough and ready for sex” Mae West. He visits her New York apartment, showing her his fan scrapbook and continuing to yearn to be her.  Guyker realistically plays Jo, a struggling actress with a beautiful singing voice. Their mutual admiration of West leads to honest self-exploration while being accepting of one another and open to wherever their relationship evolves. West was compelled to pursue success and stage presence, perhaps sacrifice meaningful relationships in the process. Conversely, Jo and Charlie reach a comfort level with one another that they could not with others. Similar to West’s missed opportunity for true intimacy, Jo said, “She [West] never saw Paris…but she could have.”

West was not beautiful; however, she honed her aggressive stage presence based upon her self-image as an object of desire. West had self-confidence and called her own shots. These are what make her most alluring to her modern-day fans. Under Jennifer Lyman’s direction, this production humorously and sensitively chronicles West’s impact on modern-day fans.

Come on out and see “Dirty Blonde” before it concludes on June 27 at the Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St. Tickets are available either by calling 703-683-0496 or visiting the Web site at

Photo by Matt Liptak
Janette Moman (Mae West), Chris Gillespie (Actor 1)
Photo by Matt Liptak
Daniel Doeuk (Actor 2), Alexandria Guyker(Jo)
Photo by Matt Liptak
Janette Moman (Mae West)
Photo by Matt Liptak
Janette Moman (Mae West)
Photo by Matt Liptak
Daniel J. Calderon (Charlie)

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