(Andy Webster’s article appeared in the New York Times, 12/7.)
After the countless drag queens who have paid tribute to Judy Garland, you’d think her stardust might be running low. But no, the actor and performance artist John Fleck grabs a handful in his spirited, heartfelt, one-man show “Mad Women” at the Club at La MaMa. Mr. Fleck and three other artists — Karen Finley, Holly Hughes and Tim Miller — were at the center of a controversy over content in the early 1990s when the National Endowment for the Arts revoked their grants. There is no controversy in “Mad Women,” only affection for Garland and bittersweet recollections of Mr. Fleck’s past.
This is not a strict Garland impersonation. Bedecked at times in a black wig and pink jacket, Mr. Fleck lip-syncs to portions of a performance she gave at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles when her veneer was splintering, if not already in shards. (She died in 1969.) He segues into memories of playing aliens in multiple “Star Trek” spinoffs; roles in HBO’s brief series “Carnivàle” and Showtime’s “Weeds”; and his relationship with the drug Ambien after the breakup of a love affair.