PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lamont

Not to be confused with the similarly titled hit podcast and HBO series, Dope Queens is a play written and directed by Grafton Doyle that recently had its world premiere in Los Angeles at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre. The story centers around three friends reuniting and sharing a single room in San Francisco shortly after getting out of a men’s state penitentiary.

Blake (Michael Antosy) is a drug addict on the verge of a relapse while Goldie (Donzell Lewis) and Angel (theatrical newbie Malaya) are transgender woman of color who just want to get back to work on the streets. All are outcasts of society and their families, desperate to change their lives for the better while supporting each other as a “chosen family.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lamont

The two-act production, inspired by the real-life world of the Tenderloin District, takes place on a summer night in 2012 and attempts to tap into the gritty energy of the neighborhood. And it’s certainly captured in Tom Buderwitz’s seedy scenic design of a single-room occupancy hotel where all of the action (or non-action) takes place. It’s amazing what a stained carpet and patchy wallpaper can convey.

While it’s clear that writer-director Doyle is interested in the stories of those stuck in the socioeconomic traps of society and tries to tackle issues of otherness, queer identity, and addiction, he seems to lose focus at times on what can really drive a narrative: a compelling plot. While the characters are all vividly brought to life, especially the magnetic Lewis who makes Goldie a dominant presence, the play hits a few lulls along the way and ends up relying a bit too much on the trio’s dynamics and the assumption that the audience will want to stay in one room with them. Since the film version of Dope Queens is currently in development (with Doyle attached to direct), the stage version seems more like a work-in-progress that needs to smooth out a few of its awkward, rough edges.

Dope Queens runs through Sunday, September 22 at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood.

@TheFirstEcho