“RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Raja appears in “The First Wives Fight Club,” a parody onstage at the Castro. (Courtesy Mathu Andersen)

Drag artists star in live ‘First Wives,’ ‘Fight Club’ mashup

By Joshua Rotter

Drag performer Raja grew tired of doing lip sync number after lip sync number.

That’s why the season three winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was thrilled to be invited to join the cast of longtime San Francisco drag character Peaches Christ’s production of “The First Wives Fight Club,” which debuts in The City on Sunday.

“It’s like throwing yourself into the lion’s den for somebody who’s never done it before,” Raja, born Sutan Amrull, said. “Like wow, that looks fun, that looks challenging, that looks scary and that’s what I wanted to feel again in drag.”

In the live musical parody mashup of two cult films — Hugh Wilson’s 1996 revenge comedy “The First Wives Club” and David Fincher’s 1999 action drama “Fight Club” — three former college friends reunite at a fourth’s funeral, despondent over their husbands leaving them for younger women. They decide to get their aggression out by forming an underground fight club before turning their rage on their exes.

Raja stars as Annie, the naive, more vulnerable first wife, played in the movie by Diane Keaton. Fellow “Drag Race” stars Ginger Minj and Brooke Lynn Hytes play acerbic Brenda and vain Elise, respectively. Peaches Christ co-stars as their late friend Helena.

Raja decided to make a foray into theater after noticing how saturated and formulaic drag had become in recent years.

“Anyone with access to a lace front wig, acrylic nails and YouTube tutorials can call themselves a drag queen today,” said Raja. “How could I stand out?”

Thinking back to a time when wearing wigs, dresses and heels was “forbidden,” “punk rock” and even “dangerous” for queens, Raja took inspiration from drag trailblazers like Joey Arias, Sherry Vine, Jackie Beat and Raven O, who fearlessly told raw, rich stories.

After two decades in the business, the “Drag Race” winner decided to share interesting tales in a similar way.

Raja began with two autobiographical solo shows, 2017’s “Gawdess,” about the importance of embracing feminine energy, and 2018’s “Masque,” which questioned the gay community’s reverence of masculinity as well as the digital masks people use, from Grindr torsos to Instagram and Snapchat filters, to shield themselves from each other.

Raja is currently writing a third show and hopes to one day act in films.

“I need to feel that excitement in drag again because I’ll be 45 this year,” Raja said. “I’ve lip synced for my life and my livelihood for over 20 years, relying on being beautiful and walking around in a figure eight really glamorously and collecting cash. But the most important thing you can do as an artist is trying out new ideas, and that’s a live performance for me.”

IF YOU GO

The First Wives Fight Club

Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.

When: 4 and 8 p.m. Sunday, April 7

Tickets: $20 to $140

Contact: (415) 621-6120, peacheschrist.com

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