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New World Stages, New York
Through Feb. 17
Nothing succeeds like Charles Busch and Hollywood kitsch. “Die Mommy Die!” started life as a play in 1999, became a 2003 movie with a cult following, and now is receiving its New York stage premiere, with Busch taking the stage as the glamorous, murderous comeback queen Angela Arden.
“Die Mommie Die!” takes place in 1960s Hollywood as exaggerated by Busch. In a mansion outfitted with a dramatic staircase and neo-Spanish decor, former pop singing star Arden swans about in salmon-colored toreador pants and the highest of heels, swigging whiskey, snatching embraces with her well-endowed tennis pro (Chris Hoch), and planning a return engagement.
Evoking such movies as “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and “Dead Ringer,” Angela may or may not be her long-dead twin sister. For the moment, however, she is plotting to do away with her controlling, constipated, movie-producer husband (the excellent Bob Ari). Indeed, one of the production’s funniest bits — thanks in large part to Busch’s priceless comic takes — involves the murderous Angela, her husband, and a suppository the size of a miniature rocket.
The 90-minute production starts slowly but picks up pace and laughter once it survives exposition and hurtles toward numerous revelations. Director Carl Andress (“A Very Serious Person”) finesses the moments that pall and spikes the rest with sight gags. What’s more, from Ari to Hoch, to Ashley Morris as Angela’s spiteful daughter, and Van Hansis (“As the World Turns”) playing Angela’s hot gay son, Andress has assembled a pitch-perfect cast. Kristine Nielsen, gotten up in a maid’s uniform and a curly blonde wig and affecting a wide southern drawl, nearly steals the show playing a drunk housekeeper with a yen for Angela’s husband.
But the draw here is Busch, who over the years has acquired a following that adores him no matter what the vehicle. Costumed by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case in one fabulous outfit after another (in which, by the way, Busch looks, well, dressed to kill), Busch entertains with fine comic timing, dead-on impersonations of Bette Davis, and the obvious pleasure of starring in a well-crafted piece of entertainment.
DIE MOMMIE DIE!
New World Stages
Producers: Daryl Roth, Bob Boyett
Playwright: Charles Busch
Director: Carl Andress
Music: Lewis Flinn
Charles Busch’s costumes: Michael Bottari, Ronald Case
Set designer: Michael Anania
Lighting designer: Ben Stanton
Costume designer: Jessica Jahn
Bootsie Carp: Kristine Nielsen
Edith Sussman: Ashley Morris
Tony Parker: Chris Hoch
Angela Arden: Charles Busch
Sol Sussman: Bob Ari
Lance Sussman: Van Hansis
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Walt Disney Animation Studios