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The Week Ahead

Cross-dressed for Hollywood success

October 06, 2003|David C. Nichols

Devotees of female illusion are in for three times the mascara when "Girls Will Be Girls" opens Friday at the Sunset 5. Writer-director Richard Day's satiric look at Hollywood ambition stars Jack Plotnick, Clinton Leupp and Jeffery Roberson as three Tinseltown trollops who happen to be played by men.

Leupp, familiar from Jim Fall's film "Trick" and Bravo's "Boy Meets Boy," has earned multiple Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation media nominations for his shamanic Beautiful-Breck-Girlish Miss Coco Peru. Garland Award-winner Roberson, who made his television debut in February as streetwalker Rosemary Chicken on "All My Children," is locally revered as Cheese-Whiz-gargling coloratura Varla Jean Merman.

Executive producer Plotnick, who played Ian McKellen's interviewer in "Gods and Monsters" and Jay Mohr's assistant in "Action," has performed en travesti at benefit events. His improvised turns as an alcoholic harridan led to a gig with Leupp at AIDS fund-raiser Quest for the Crown, which cemented Day's inspiration for "Girls."

"I wanted to write for Jack's actress character," Day recalls, "and when I saw him and Clinton together, I knew I'd found the perfect foil." "Girls" pits Plotnick's Evie Harris, a morph of Elaine Stritch's id and Edie Falco's worst nightmare, against Leupp's self-mutilating Coco, who pines for the abortionist who got away.

Complications arrive via Roberson's Varla, an Arkansas amazon with a taste for apple crumble and a tacit agenda.

Initially conceived as a short, "Girls" was shot on HD video in 18 days, mostly at Day's Beverly Hills home. Financing the $400,000 production himself, Day borrowed half the decor of Evie's outlandish domicile from Plotnick's collection of '70s kitsch.

The stars supplied their own wardrobe and makeup (applied in Day's master bathroom) and were, as co-producer Michael Warwick puts it, "the epitome of professionalism." Since Roberson was performing in San Francisco during shooting, Varla's close-ups were shot first, with Roberson playing to a tennis ball.

Leupp and Plotnick did their pickup reactions later, to an X on the wall. Since its Sundance premiere, "Girls" was recognized for screenwriting and ensemble cast at Outfest 2003, and it took a tripartite acting honor at the U.S. Comedy Festival in Aspen. Observes Day, whose coming projects include a "Girls" sequel, "This may be the first time the award was ever given to best actor and best actress, for the same roles."

-- David C. Nichols

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