Thoughts & Musings

2nd Story – Die, Mommie, Die!

It’s a dish that’s guaranteed to vanquish summer doldrums.

By Kathie Raleigh, Woonsocket Call
  • 21st July 201521/07/15
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Murder never has been treated as irreverently as it is in “Die, Mommie, Die!” Charles Busch’s over-the-top melodrama now on stage at 2nd Story Theatre.

Wildly exaggerated characters, preposterous circumstances and a murder that will make you squirm even as you laugh add up to off-beat entertainment. A fabulous cast, led by female impersonator Payton St. James, makes all the maniacal behavior hilarious.

The story centers on Angela Arden, a be-wigged, be-jeweled but has-been entertainer struggling to make a comeback. Feeling oppressed by a husband she no longer loves, as well as two weird kids and a meddling housekeeper, Angela plots to escape with her lover, an apparent ne’er-do-well but notoriously well endowed.

When her husband, failing film director Sol Sussman, gets in the way, she murders him (the method involves a suppository), but alas, her imagined future is thwarted by her suspicious children.

Those details, however, are just the starting place for a story that goes off in so many unlikely directions that there is no point in trying to make sense of it. The play satirizes everything it touches, from overly dramatic actresses to stereotypes like the controlling husband, the troubled adolescent or the housekeeper who keeps tab on all that goes on. Even the convoluted story spoofs standard murder-mysteries by outdoing the twists, turns and surprises that are the hallmarks of the genre.

If this were a program on HBO, however, it probably would get that perfunctory warning about adult language and content; here, it’s sometimes done for shock value but mostly in the name of satire.

The acting is as wild and crazy as it can be. The versatile Valerie Westgate, who previously has played a cop and Joan of Arc, literally jumps around the stage as Edith Sussman, a strangely devoted daddy’s girl. Patrick Mark Saunders is her absurdly gay brother, Lance, an amoral rebel without a real cause who comes home after burning down the college gym – the one his father paid for. Margaret Melozzi quietly makes housekeeper Bootsie Carp a hoot.

William Oaks taps into his inner outrage to play Sol Sussman, always making frantic funny, while Wayne Kneeland is the opportunistic Tony Parker, Angela’s purported champion who seems only too willing to form other alliances.

Busch, the playwright and a drag queen, often played Angela, and casting St. James follows that tradition. With glamorous gowns and affected demeanor, St. James is all diva – with good timing: the moment she seizes on the opportunity for murder is played perfectly.

This show is like a comic stew, and the main ingredient is irreverence. It’s a dish that’s guaranteed to vanquish summer doldrums.

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