STONEHAM — This spring, drag performance is bustin’ out all over.
At Oberon in Cambridge, men in glittering gowns are stalking the runway in “Wig Out!,’’ Tarell Alvin McCraney’s drama about a showdown between rival drag houses, coproduced by Company One Theatre and the American Repertory Theater. At the Plaza Theatre, the all-male cast of Zeitgeist Stage Company’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!’’ sport tutus and toe shoes as their characters rehearse a dance from “Swan Lake.’’ At Boston’s Machine nightclub, a begowned Ryan Landry glowers haughtily from beneath a red wig as the owner of a Wild West saloon in “Brokelahomo!,’’ the latest from Landry and his drag-centric Gold Dust Orphans.
Now comes Matthew Lopez’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride,’’ at Greater Boston Stage Company, formerly doing business as Stoneham Theatre. Directed and choreographed by Russell Garrett, “Georgia McBride’’ revolves around Casey (Jared Reinfeldt), a struggling Elvis impersonator who finds success, solvency, and, just possibly, his true self when he trades his jumpsuit for a dress, a wig, and a jaunty new stage moniker.
Lopez’s comedy is breezily enjoyable but given to a sitcom-ish broadness and shallowness, along with more than a whiff of commercial calculation. All of that has apparently paid off for the playwright, who is adapting his script for a movie to be headlined by “Big Bang Theory’’ star Jim Parsons. At a minimum, “Georgia McBride’’ demonstrates the versatility of Lopez, whose “The Whipping Man’’ — an unflinching exploration of slavery’s legacy — was presented by Watertown’s New Repertory Theatre in 2014.
“Georgia McBride,’’ by contrast, sets out to entertain, not to challenge. Like “Kinky Boots,’’ the play essentially wants to have it both ways, delivering a frisson of transgression while also reassuring risk-averse audiences that they have nothing to fear.
That said, you can have a good time at “Georgia McBride.’’ Reinfeldt, who attended Boston College and trained at Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, brings a buoyant energy and an appealingly ingenuous demeanor to Casey, and the actor winningly handles the transition to the more worldly Georgia. The performances by Rick Park and Alex Pollock as a pair of veteran drag performers are a treat, and the costumes by Gail Astrid Buckley are sensational. Jade Guerra does what she can with the underdeveloped role of Jo, Casey’s pregnant wife.
Things are tense and money is tight on the homefront for Casey and Jo, and then matters deteriorate still further when Eddie (Ed Peed), owner of a dingy bar in the Florida Panhandle, hires Rexy (Pollock) and Miss Tracy (Park) to replace Casey because his Elvis act is failing to draw customers. But when Rexy is too stoned to perform one night, Miss Tracy urges Casey to go on.
He does, lip-synching to Edith Piaf in high heels and a black mini-dress. It doesn’t go well at first, but Casey gets the hang of it, and gets the bug, too, eventually finding aspects of himself in Georgia that weren’t there in Casey. “Georgia never lets anyone down,’’ he explains. Left in the dark for a long time is Jo, who believes that Casey is tending bar all those nights he’s away from home. The moment when Jo discovers the truth registers as anticlimactic, however.
Much of the fun in “Georgia McBride’’ is had when Pollock and Park are onstage. Park conjures a Miss Tracy who is rough-edged yet nurturing, and a fearless performer, including a Marilyn Monroe number in a pink gown. There are few Boston actors more intense than Pollock, and he invests the role of Rexy (whose stage name is Anorexia Nervosa; “I’m Italian,’’ he snarls by way of explanation) with a ragged, ferocious edge.
It is Rexy who gives voice to a manifesto that digs deep in a way “Georgia McBride’’ should do more often than it does, as he spells out to Casey what drives him to put on those dresses and gowns: “Drag ain’t a hobby, baby. Drag ain’t a night job. Drag is a protest. Drag is a raised fist inside a sequined glove. Drag is a lot of things, baby, but drag is not for sissies.’’
THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE
Play by Matthew Lopez. Directed and choreographed by Russell Garrett. Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company, Stoneham, through May 20. Tickets $45-$55, 781-279-2200, www.greaterbostonstage.orgDon Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@GlobeAucoin