Friday, November 2, 2007

Die Mommie Die! - November 1, 2007

Normally I am no fan of movies being turned into stage productions. The spark of originality in a live show is part of the excitement of live theater. The incestuous back and forth that has gone on from screen to stage and vice versa is a bit tiresome. However, when I saw that Charles Busch was bringing Die Mommie Die to the stage there was no way I could stay away.

Busch is nothing if not innovative and God knows, witty - not to mention a knockout in a red wig. So my hopes were high and I'm happy to say I was not disappointed.

From beginning to end this show has a clear vision of what it is and where it's going and that in itself is a more than many shows Off-Broadway, or on, can provide lately.

The original music by Lewis Flinn is a perfect homage to films and singers of the 1950s-60s era. The collective sigh that went through the audience was clear indication that I was not the only one blown away by the absolutely stunning set design by Michael Anania. Jessica Jahn's costumes are sheer knock-0uts one and all, and Mr. Busch's costumes by Michael Bottari & Ronald Case are so stunning and vintage film perfect (the black and white mourning dress is just insanely cool) they look like they just came out of a time machine from Elizabeth Taylor's and Lucille Ball's closets. If I could get Katherine Carr to design a wig for me I'd wear it every day.
photo credits: Carol Rosegg

This sort of tongue in cheek comedy is not easy to pull off - there is a risk with over the top comedy to go a little too far over the top and be lost. But the cast of Die Mommie Die hits just the right level of camp and fun and never pushes too far beyond - and let's face it, when a suppository becomes an instrument of murder it would be easy to push too far. No pun intended.

Given what a wonderfully fun and polished evening of theater this is, it would be difficult to point to any one person as the standout - except of course that Charles Busch is on stage. This is a performer who is so present at every moment and so in touch with his audience at all times that it is difficult to watch anyone else, yet he is also very clearly a part of an ensemble and never steals focus from any fellow actor. Watching a performer who is so warm and giving, and let's face it honey, looks FAN-tastic in a short skirt is a rare treat.

The rest of the cast deserves mention as well and I would be remiss not to point out that once again Kristine Nielsen (the Nixon-loving maid, Bootsie) kicks ass in every way - as she always does. Chris Hoch (Tony Parker) makes a delightful gigolo. Newcomer to New York, Ashley Morris (Edith Sussman) has great comic timing. Van Hansis (Lance) is "NOT CRAZY" but plays it well, and Bob Ari (Sol Sussman) turns from doting daddy to psycho husband on a dime.

Director Carl Andress has done a wonderful job with Mr. Busch's script and the action moves smoothly and surely towards its 'tragic' conclusion. This production runs only through February so make sure you get tickets, otherwise you will have to be content with the movie version. I suggest you see both.

Die Mommie Die
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)


Gary said...

This show was simply fantastic. You are so right about Mr. Busch being a generous performer. It is clearly his character that we came to see but he never hogs attention and operates in the ensemble beautifully.

I think I shall steal some of his clever deliveries and vocal inflections. I am up for going again if you are.

Anonymous said...

loved it, loved it, loved it! Charles Busch is a genius and Bob Ari was excellent, but i couldn't take my eyes off Ashley Morris when she was onstage-she's gorgeous and hilarious! if Charles Busch had a daughter it would have to be Ashley Morris. her comedic timing was perfect. it said she this was her first professional show-i can't believe it. i'll be back!