Thoughts & Musings

See, Reader, See DIE, MOMMIE, DIE at 2nd Story

'Die, Mommie, Die!' is campy, frankly sexual, insightful, absurd and hilarious.

by Larry O'Brien,
  • 22nd July 201522/07/15
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According to Artistic Director Ed Shea, the two most frequently produced playwrights at 2nd Story Theatre are Moliere and Charles Busch: apparently these people like to laugh. The current offering from Busch is the outrageous DIE, MOMMIE, DIE, which is running in rep with I HATE HAMLET thru August 28. Charles Busch is shameless enough to write plays in which he can play the leading lady. He does not hold back-this is campy, frankly sexual, insightful, absurd and hilarious.

OK, the plot: Fading star Angela Arden (female impersonator Payton St. James), trapped in a loveless marriage and desperate to revive her career and her love life with former TV heartthrob Tony Parker (Wayne Kneeland), attempts to set herself free by murdering her husband, Sol Sussman (F. William Oakes). Her children (Valerie Westgate and Patrick Mark Saunders) and maid (Margaret Melozzi) become suspicious and the offspring lace her coffee with LSD in an attempt to discover the truth. Got that? While this is all played for laughs, and there are plenty, Busch has created a satire with overtones of Greek tragedy and Shakespearean comedy. The daughter’s relationship with her father and mother make the Oedipus even more complex, and the identity confusion rivals As You Like it, which is after all set in Arden. Come to think of it, in Shakespeare’s time Charles Busch or Payton St. James could have played Rosalind! Along the way, Busch manages to skewer Hollywood, marriage, sexual bigotry, higher education, the class system, the FBI and the CIA.

Every cast member has his or her (which is it?) moments in this piece, but clearly DIE, MOMMIE, DIE depends upon Angela, a part calls for very broad overacting, and Payton St. James delivers. His Angela is sexy, ghastly, and at once both more and less than she seems. F. William Oakes plays Sol with comic anger and desperation-he has some very funny lines about Hollywood and humanitarianism. Valerie Westgate’s Edith is particularly good in the scene in which she and her brother plot to expose her mother. Margaret Melozzi as Bootsie the Maid and Patrick Mark Saunders manage to overact appropriately, as does Wayne Kneeland as Tony Parker, love interest to most of the family.

Ed Shea has created a very fine theater here with professional production values. If you liked Trevor Elliot’s set for I HATE HAMLET, you should be please with this one as it is virtually the same: Instead of the New York skyline behind the arched windows, we get Hollywood palms and the furniture has been rearranged, but that’s it. Costume designer Ron Cesario seems to have had fun dressing Angela, particularly in her bereavement. I’m trying to think of a time when a costume got as big a laugh.

DIE MOMMIE, DIE will make you laugh, make you a little uncomfortable, and make you think. And then make you laugh again. A bargain at twice the price!

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