Naturally, he's bathed in a white spotlight.

Naturally, he’s bathed in a white spotlight.

Toss in Epperson’s wide doe eyes and toothy smile and he’s personified a cross between Shirley MacLaine, Mitzi Gaynor and Judy Garland, with a touch of Tina Louise.In short, he becomes the ultimate caricature of a smarmy camp lounge act.

“Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-synching” is no mere drag show; it’s a tour de force performance that’s even more astounding considering the low-level production values that Highways Performance Space offers.

Epperson is magnetically watchable on the bare-bones stage. He never utters a word, but contorts his face and body in such a way that you spend less time listening and more observing the way he cocks an eye, quivers his vocal cords or purses his lips — all set to a truly eclectic 70-minute array of phrases, bits of songs, telephone rings, film clips and offbeat sound effects.

Lypsinka has turned the mundane entertainment of lip-synching into an art form that shrewdly emphasizes the small brush strokes of inhabiting a

character. And what better array of characters than every campy female icon of the silver screen?

Among the more arcane references that Epperson borrows are Tippi Hedren’s mad scene from Hitchcock’s “Marnie,” a recording of Tallulah Bankhead giving acting lessons and the “She’s my daughter, she’s my sister” bit from Faye Dunaway in “Chinatown.” But there are also lusciously identifiable soundbites from Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Doris Day, Ethel Merman, Judy Garland and dozens of others.

The overall effect is a rapid-fire sleigh ride through the internal workings of a crazed movie fan’s mind. That might account for the straitjacket, which is quickly doffed to reveal Epperson’s femininely rail-thin figure. But clearly Lypsinka is best left unanalyzed and simply enjoyed. She leaves the aud not only breathless, but panting for more.

Lypsinka!

Production

As I Lay Lip-synching (Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica; 130 seats; $ 18 top) A Highways Performance Space production of a one-act show created and performed by John Epperson. Director, Kevin Malony; costumes, Anthony Wong, Marc Happel.

Crew

Lighting, Dana Peter Porras; sound, Alex Noyes/Studio Pass; wig design, Avram/Vidal Sassoon; scenic design, Hugh Hamrick. Opened Jan. 5, 1995; reviewed Jan. 6; runs through Jan. 29. Running time: 1 hour, 10 min.

With

With: John Epperson. In the latest incarnation of his wildly popular "Lypsinka!" series of lip-synch drag shows, John Epperson unveils himself in a white straitjacket, a spaghetti-strap dress that shimmies with every twitch and a bouncy auburn wig.
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