Last month, Roadside Attractions opened Off Broadway’s new version of “Plain Badgers,” a hilarious play by Kate Hamill about a protagonist with some unexpected—and enjoyable—revelations about her life.
In the production, an elderly lesbian (played by Rebecca Stead) receives a voicemail from her former lover, urging her to return to his life in Montana with his wife and toddler. She’s clearly disturbed, but is lured back into his world with a mortgage foreclosure scam. Through it all, Hamill connects with her protagonist as a fierce champion of progressive ideas, but also a flawed woman who faces her shortcomings head-on.
But imagine how different that plot might look if you gave this woman a lesbian partner instead of a heterosexual one. In a new online series, called “Plain Badalikas,” Keenen Ivory Wayans aims to do just that. The comedy sketch has involved dozens of sketches taking place at various lesbian themed events. In one of the latest, the show pays homage to New York drag culture, with actresses playing a chorus of lip-synching Broadway characters in tap-dancing drag and elaborate hair and makeup.
In other recent sketches, Wayans plays a stylist, who is motivated to perform her funeral planning at the center of a lesbian bar. And even more recently, he’s appeared as a shopper at a trendy Manhattan boutique who is shocked by the price of custom-fit lingerie for a customer. Her emotional response hits home in the context of the cost of women’s insecurity, and helps break down the heteronormative chain of assumptions that often drive modern female consumers to seek out expensive beauty products.
“Plain Badalikas” isn’t only parodying the intense way many women desire beauty, it’s also asking us to contemplate how our intimacy with the same gender can change the very foundations of our relationships. There are some highlights—most notably Wayans’ soliloquy about his musings about the game ball playing on a kids’ version of Wii U. But others, like his punning “Mullet Factory” sketch, fall flat.
While Wayans may be an acclaimed comedian, it’s his reluctance to embrace inclusion that leads him to struggle to put together this stellar sketch series. As his sketches show, despite his stereotype-breaking performance in comedy classics like “Scary Movie” and “Scary Movie 3,” Wayans has yet to really fully embrace LGBT themes, or even acknowledge them at all.
Viewers can catch “Plain Badalikas” on YouTube, and for more information about the series, head over to the page.