DIE, MOMMIE, DIE – Reviewed by Stephen Radosh

The new season at the Desert Rose Playhouse is off to a flying start with its rollicking production of Charles Busch’s DIE MOMMIE DIE.  It’s an over the top homage to the melodramas of the 1960’s starring actresses of a certain age like Lana Turner and Bette Davis. 

Angela Arden (Loren Freeman), a singer and actress, now past her prime is hoping for a comeback.  She is trapped, however, in a loveless marriage to film producer Sol Sussman while totally enamored of her ne’er do well boy toy Tony Parker (Rob Rota).  Her two children are still living at home.  There’s her son, Lance (Matt E. Allen), a real mama’s boy with a penchant to wearing mama’s clothes.  Her daughter Edith (Melanie Blue), on the other hand, is completely and probably far too devoted to her father, if you get my drift.  Completing this crazy household is their ultra-Republican and bible spouting housekeeper Bootsie Carp (Lorraine Williamson) who has been with them for decades and is secretly in love with Sol. So Angela decides the only way to break free, be with the man she truly loves and return to being the diva she once was is to bump off Sol.  From here the plot takes more twists and turns than San Francisco’s Lombard Street before ending with Angela seeing the light and the error of her ways and making an exit that would be the envy of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard!

Director Robbie Wayne has assembled a strong cast and milks….oops, I mean makes the most of all the dramatic clichés that those 60’s melodramas were drenched in.  Wait til you see the scissor scene!

Rob Rota is wonderfully slimy as the gigolo who is willing to sleep with anyone if it is to his benefit.  Matt Allen’s Lance is a total mess of neuroses and long suppressed anger and an overly healthy sex drive.  Melanie Blue gets laugh after laugh as the ultimate Daddy’s girl as she tries to maneuver her brother to help her avenge her father’s death.  As Bootsie, Lorraine Williamson comes into her own in the 

second act as she delivers her big secret which turns out to be only one of many in this crazy brood.  Sol Sussman, as played by David Brendel is the very essence of the sexist and power wielding producer from Hollywood’s “Golden Age.”  But its Loren Freeman’s brilliant turn as Angela that pushes the show up and over the top.  He possesses a gift of perfect comedic timing and lands every laugh.  It is a total pleasure watching this talented Female Impersonator (note that I did not say Drag Queen) in the mold of Charles Pierce and Charles Busch, go to town with the role of Angela Arden.  I bet if you look closely, there are teeth marks all over the set and I for one am grateful for each and every one of them.

And speaking of the set, special kudos must go to Bruce Weber for his excellent set and fabulous costumes.  The set gets the most out of the space available and has a style, polish and a solidity that any self-respecting star would expect of her Beverly Hills manse.  Angela’s wardrobe is a wow and her accessories supported her recognition that when a woman of her age looks in a mirror she sees hair, make-up and some very important Jewelry.

If you’re not familiar with the works of Charles Busch, this is an excellent chance to sample his work as a gifted playwright (he was the Tony nominated author of “THE TALE OF THE ALLERGIST’S WIFE”).  You can also feel the passion and adoration that he has for the movies and the stars of a now long-gone Hollywood, even as he is making us laugh at the extremes those films often embraced.

DIE MOMMIE DIE is now playing at the Desert Rose Playhouse through October 27.  For tickets or further information go to www.desertroseplayhouse.org or call the box office at 760-202-3000.

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