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THEATER REVIEW

'Elections and Erections'

South African Pieter-Dirk Uys speaks truth to power -- in drag of course.

October 06, 2009|Charlotte Stoudt

Performer, writer and tireless civil rights activist South African Pieter-Dirk Uys has walked the talk -- in high heels.

His alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout, has dined with and dissed the powerful, including members of the African National Congress, the Clintons, even Oprah. This past weekend, Evita graced UCLA's Glorya Kaufman Hall in "Elections and Erections," which will also play at REDCAT and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

Uys is somewhat of an institution in South Africa, having performed (mostly illegally) for 40 years; Nelson Mandela calls him a national treasure. "Elections" is part confessional, part drag satire and all politics, surveying the state of democracy and sex education in his native land.

Uys opened with impersonations of the Clintons that felt a little tired. The best sexual anecdotes came from his own past, where lust proved instrumental in radicalizing the young Uys. Risking his life for a tryst with a colored South African, he realized how deeply racism had permeated his strict religious upbringing.

But the most compelling portion of the evening was his frank discussion of the challenges of HIV awareness in South Africa. Uys speaks to thousands of students a year, educating them in safe sex practices. The infamous Evita showed up to close the show, but an earlier visit from her sister, Bambi Kellerman, proved far more intriguing. Cool, blond and deliciously unnerving, she arrived carrying her husband's ashes in a martini shaker. (Herr Kellerman was apparently a member of the Third Reich.) She described a Nazi cocktail party in which Adolf Eichmann and Martin Bormann wonder why they were allowed to get away with so much before the rest of the world pushed back. Bambi mused about the West's slow response to AIDS in Africa. What happens, she smiled, when a new strain resistant to current drug treatments makes its way back to America?

Starting late and running longer than two hours, "Elections" rambled a bit. But Uys' message -- that the health of a country depends on citizens leading their politicians and not the other way around -- resonated powerfully. "Give a man a mask and he'll tell you the truth," Oscar Wilde once observed. Uys dons fake eyelashes, and presidents listen.

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'Elections and Erections'

Where: REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood

When: REDCAT: 8:30 Friday; Gay and Lesbian Center: 8 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday

Price: REDCAT: $16 to $20; Gay and Lesbian Center: $20

Contact: (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org; (323) 860-7300 or www.lagaycenter.org/

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