“Die, Mommie, Die!”
For a laugh riot of a show, be sure to catch "Die, Mommie, Die" at 2nd Story Theatre.by Tony Annicone, Theatre Mirror
2nd Story Theatre’s third summer show done in repertory with “I Hate Hamlet” is “Die, Mommie, Die” by Charles Busch. The show is a comic melodrama, a play that is part Greek tragedy and part Hollywood kitsch. What a drag which means it stars a female impersonator in the leading role of Angela. Faded song stylist, Angela Arden is trapped in a loveless marriage and estranged from her ill tempered offspring. She attempts to set herself free by murdering her ailing husband. When her children begin to suspect their mother in their father’s death, Angela’s hopes for a new life fall outrageously apart. This clever, kitsch, psychedelic satire of ’60’s celluloid classics will give “summer camp” a whole new meaning. Director Ed Shea picks the best performers for this comic and high camp roles. He infuses them with high energy to make this a laugh riot all night long.
Ed gives his cast off the top shtick to carry off and obtains stunning performances from one and all. Charles Busch wrote this play for himself as Angela. It’s a take off on the Bette Davis, grande dame movies of the 1960’s, with many sarcastic one liners and unsavory situations. The play has many twists and turns in it, becoming a whodunnit type later on. Female impersonator Payton St. James commands the stage in this diva role. The show opens in 1954 with Payton as Angela singing “Why Not Me” which receives thunderous applause. The show jumps ahead to Beverly Hills in 1967. She is hilarious as this larger than life character, looking like Auntie Mame and displaying the talent of Carol Burnett in a revelation sequence in the second act. Payton’s mannerisms and facial expressions are perfect and there is a scissor throwing scene that has to be seen to be believed. The multitude of gorgeous costumes are by Ron Cesario and each one of Angela’s outfits are show stoppers.
This is a huge show with many layers to it. Just when you think you know where it’s going, it veers off in another comic direction. The rest of the cast are terrific in their roles, too. The boy toy, tennis instructor is played by Wayne Kneeland who has a hidden agenda. He appeals to men and women in the show because the character is well hung. The gay unstable college son is played by Patrick Saunders who dyed his hair platinum blond. Lance just got cast as Ado Annie in “Oklahoma” at his college but he burnt down the gym. Patrick has a very funny lip syncing scene that stops the show with laughter. Their angry teen daughter, Edie, is played to the hilt by Valerie Westgate. She excels in this sex kitten, bitch from hell gal. She handles the mood swings of the character with finesse as does Patrick. The scissor scene is brilliantly performed by Payton and Valerie.
Their very Jewish father, who is also a producer and constantly constipated husband is well played by Bill Oakes. He reminds you of Swifty Lazar with his Jewish accent and huge glasses. The enema scene is hilarious. He has some vulgar one liners that hit pay dirt all night long. Last but not least is the judgmental, religious fanatic maid, played by Peggy Melozzi. She has flasks of booze hidden all over the mansion, is a die hard Republican who wants Richard Nixon elected president in 1968. Her Southern accent is splendid. Ed gives them each their moment to shine in this madcap show with some clever, comic shtick and many twists and turns along the way. As Ed quotes from the show “Make it big, give it class and leave ’em with a message”. So for a laugh riot of a show, be sure to catch “Die, Mommie, Die” at 2nd Story Theatre where you will Laugh, laugh, laugh! The ending will leave you astonished as all the ends of the tale are tied together, wonderfully.