Dame Edna
(© Kevin Berne)
Dame Edna
(© Kevin Berne)
Dame Edna makes Liberace look tasteful. In the outrageous ensembles and piercingly loud eyewear she sports in Dame Edna -- Live and Intimate in Her First Last Tour, now at San Francisco's Post Street Theater, the Aussie entertainer (aka Barry Humphries) proves once again she's no shrinking violet. And her special brand of showmanship is on parade for over two hours -- one of which is very good. No one can say Edna doesn't have legs -- she's been performing for many decades -- but maybe the pantyhose have seen better days.

As ever, the star's lacerating wit and unbridled offensiveness are heinously hilarious, although her vicious wit and rude barbs are all the more amusing as they are delivered in her sugar-sweet, couldn't-hurt-a-fly, feigned polite British manner. But, as should be expected for a woman whose fashion sense insists that more is more, Dame Edna clearly doesn't comprehend the notion that brevity is the soul of wit. And too often, the rigmarole involved in setting up an audience participation sketch has an insufficient payoff.

Once again, as in previous shows, Edna discusses her lifestyle as an absolutely fabulous celebrity hobnobber. She sings (with Andrew Ross on piano) and shares about her deceased husband's "prostate murmur." But mostly she chitchats with her audience in what she often describes as less a show and "more like a lovely conversation between two people, one of whom is a lot more interesting."

Edna's signature bit is to interview audience members for ammunition -- and then rip them to shreds. While this exercise is no doubt excruciatingly mortifying for its victims, the audience participation is a hoot for those of us safely out of her reach. Edna particularly relishes ridiculing audience members' personal appearance and age. But she also enjoys making fun of one's home size and/or location, one's career, or simply the selected humiliatee's hesitancy to answer personal questions. (That said, she retracted her claws with a recent widow at my performance, revealing some disillusioning civility.) She also acts as matchmaker, bartender, fortune-teller, and unsolicited feeder of cheese cubes.

If not everything works, My First Last Tour still sparkles with the delightfully bizarre, brazen, and gargantuan personality of this barking mad great Dame.