Before he established himself with the Tony-nominated play "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," Charles Busch was the undisputed king of camp, best known for cheesy B-movie parodies starring himself as leading ladies on missions of salacious self-satisfaction and murder.
That's certainly the tenor of Busch's "Die, Mommie, Die!" — the final offering of Center Theatre Group's second annual Block Party, in which three shows from smaller houses are chosen to be remounted as full productions at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
All those who missed the 2017 "Mommie" at the Celebration Theatre will get another bite of the apple, complete with the hidden razors of Busch's wit. Backed by CTG's resources, the Douglas production is lavishly produced in every particular.
The original design team from the Celebration — scenic designer Pete Hickok, lighting designer Matthew Brian Denman and sound designer Rebecca Kessin — deliver superb results onstage, all reveling in upgraded budgets. Allison Dillard's sumptuously tacky costumes, so garish they will have you reaching for your sunglasses in a darkened theater, are particular standouts.
Director Ryan Bergmann is another holdover from the original production, as is his blissfully accomplished cast, spearheaded by Drew Droege in a flouncing, uproarious drag turn that brings down the house.
The action is set in 1967 Beverly Hills in the mansion of failed musical actress Angela Arden (Droege). Angela is unhappily married to film producer Sol (Pat Towne), whose cloying relationship with their daughter, Edith (Julanne Chidi Hill), is anything but wholesome.
Meanwhile, Angela is carrying on with protuberant tennis pro Tony Parker (Andrew Carter), who becomes the object of lust to both Edith and Angela's gay son, Lance (Tom DeTrinis). Angela's husband Sol is adored from afar by Bootsie (Gina Torrecilla), the family's long-time, long-simmering housekeeper. When Angela decides to poison Sol, a cascade of dark family secrets comes to light — improbably, histrionically and hilariously.
In Bergmann's comically shrewd staging, never let it be said that any of these actors is guilty of a subtle gesture. Masters of the double take and double entendre, they take us on a plunge into the playfully down-and-dirty.
Take a deep breath before immersion. And enjoy.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
‘Die, Mommie, Die!’
Where: Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday; ends Sunday
Information: (213) 628-2772 or centertheatregroup.org
Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
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