×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Die! Mommy! Die!

Die! Mommy! Die!" is Charles Busch's funniest, most accomplished and, without question, raunchiest work. And this from the playwright who gave us such seminal works of late 20th century camp as "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom," "Psycho Beach Party" and "Red Scare on Sunset." To reveal that the key murder weapon is a suppository does not so much give away the story as reveal whether "Die! Mommy! Die!" will repel or delight your sensibilities.

With:
Edith Sussman - Dorie Barton Bootsie/Verna - Wendy Worthington Tony Parker - Mark Capri Angela Andrews Sussman - Charles Busch Sol Sussman - Greg Mullavey Lance Sussman - Carl Andress

Die! Mommy! Die!” is Charles Busch’s funniest, most accomplished and, without question, raunchiest work. And this from the playwright who gave us such seminal works of late 20th century camp as “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” “Psycho Beach Party” and “Red Scare on Sunset.” To reveal that the key murder weapon is a suppository does not so much give away the story as reveal whether “Die! Mommy! Die!” will repel or delight your sensibilities. Still with us? The suppository, which is actually laced with insecticide, is inserted rather graphically on stage.

Let it be said, however, that Busch has written a real doozy here. And that doesn’t even begin to do justice to his parade of wigs and pumps which, as always, he wears with considerable grace and understatement.

Imagine if Sophocles hadn’t messed around and had begun his “Electra” not outside but inside the house of Atreus: A mature Hollywood star, Angela Andrews Sussman (Busch), is having problems not only with her increasingly wobbly singing voice but with her increasingly horny daughter, Edith Sussman (Dorie Barton), whose favorite spot in the living room is the lap of her father, film producer Sol Sussman (Greg Mullavey). Some time ago, he put wife Angela in a turkey called “The Song of Marie Antoinette,” from which neither of them have quite recovered.

Eventually (maybe 10 minutes into the play), Edith tries to get her brother, Lance Sussman (Carl Andress), to kill their mother, but because Lance is gay and not very good with firearms and has these ornery headaches that may or may not have something to do with Mom’s substance abuse during her pregnancy, Angela actually has plenty of time to enlist her out-of-work TV-star lover, Tony Parker (Mark Capri), in the murder of Sol. All the while, a maid, Bootsie Carp (Wendy Worthington), plays Greek chorus — that is, until she’s mysteriously knifed to death and returns in act two as her inquisitive twin sister, Verna.

“Die! Mommy! Die” doesn’t ask much of its audience, but the play does answer a question no one has asked in at least 50 years: What would have happened to Norma Shearer if she hadn’t retired from the movies shortly after the death of her husband, Irving Thalberg? Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had the misfortune to end up in movies like “Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte” and “Strait-Jacket.” Unfortunately, Shearer, the queen of movie nobility, had too much pride to go that long day’s journey into bad taste. She would have made a good Angela Andrews. Busch makes an even more effective one.

Not only does he sport better legs, he possesses a much greater dramatic range, drawing upon Davis’ walk, Susan Hayward’s delivery and, among a dozen other diva traits, Eve Arden’s hair. These other women keep popping out of his Shearer, and watching them perform together is like being at some wonderful reunion of long-lost split personalities.

Under Kenneth Elliott’s completely over-the-top direction, the cast does perfect justice to this material. Special mention must go to Capri and the character Busch has created for him. Whoever thought to parody Jeff Chandler/Sterling Hayden/Steve Forrest and bring off that rock-stolid sexuality with such panache?

Even the credits abound with inside jokes: Costume design is by Dione H. Lebhar, but in true diva style, Busch rates his own designers, Michael Bottari and Ronald Case. Whatever, the clothes are museum pieces. They dominate the physical production until act two, when B.T. Whitehill’s 1960s Beverly Hills living room explodes into a psychedelic acid trip, which somehow explains everything.

Actually, at the conclusion of “Die! Mommy! Die!” when Busch ties up every plot thread — and there are enough to fashion a whole new Angela Andrews wardrobe — the audience very much stops laughing to listen carefully. Busch, who used to construct his plays as a series of black-out snippets, now sustains the drama in long acts that build magnificently. In a weirdly magical way, the idiocy of it all makes sense — until the exhaust out on Santa Monica Boulevard brings us back to reality.

Die! Mommy! Die!

Coast Playhouse, West Hollywood; 99 seats; $25 top

Production: D.W. Fairbanks presents the world premiere of a two-act play by Charles Busch. Directed by Kenneth Elliott.

Creative: Set, B.T. Whitehill; costumes, Dionie H. Lebhar, Michael Bottari and Ronald Case; lighting, Vivien Leone; sound and original music, Jeremy Grody; stage management, Kevin Carroll. Opened, reviewed July 16, 1999. Runs through Aug. 8. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Edith Sussman - Dorie Barton Bootsie/Verna - Wendy Worthington Tony Parker - Mark Capri Angela Andrews Sussman - Charles Busch Sol Sussman - Greg Mullavey Lance Sussman - Carl Andress

More Legit

  • ZZ Top, Caesars Entertainment Team on

    ZZ Top, Caesars Team for Jukebox Musical 'Sharp Dressed Man' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ZZ Top and Caesars Entertainment are developing “Sharp Dressed Man,” a jukebox musical set to open next year in Las Vegas featuring the band’s greatest hits. Members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are all serving as executive producers. “Sharp Dressed Man” is described as an “outrageous, [...]

  • Williamstown Theater Festival 2016 season

    Marisa Tomei Starring in Broadway Revival of 'The Rose Tattoo'

    Marisa Tomei will star in the Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo.” The Oscar-winning actress will play Serafina, a part previously performed by the likes of Maureen Stapleton and Anna Magnani. It’s also a role that Tomei is familiar with, having starred in a Williamstown Theatre Festival production in 2016. “The Rose Tattoo” [...]

  • White Pearl review

    London Theater Review: 'White Pearl'

    Playwright Anchuli Felicia King dismantles the Asian market in this misfiring satire at London’s Royal Court Theatre. “White Pearl” makes a case that those seeking to make inroads into the Far East, perceiving a new El Dorado, are no better that colonial conquistadors of an earlier age — and entirely unequipped to understand the specifics [...]

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

  • SOCRATES The Public Theater

    Tim Blake Nelson Waxes Philosophical on Writing a Play About Socrates

    Despite Tim Blake Nelson’s knack for playing folksy characters in films such as “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” in his soul lurks the heart of a classicist. Nelson, who stars in HBO’s “Watchmen” series this fall, has also penned the play “Socrates,” now running at New York’s Public Theater through June 2. Doug Hughes directs, [...]

  • TodayTix - Brian Fenty

    TodayTix Banks $73 Million to Boost Theater and Arts Ticketing App

    TodayTix, a Broadway-born mobile ticketing start-up, is looking to expand into a bigger global media and transaction enterprise with a capital infusion of $73 million led by private-equity firm Great Hill Partners. The investment brings TodayTix’s total capital raised to over $100 million, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Fenty. Part of the new funding [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content