Die! Mommie! Die! is a hoot. While most people recognize playwright Charles Busch for his 2001 Tony Award Best Play nominee The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Die! Mommie! Die! is a campy melodrama not to be overlooked, chock full as it is of soap opera-worthy sex, bizarre plot twists and a prima donna faded starlet.
The play revolves around a wealthy family in the 1960s. The father, Sol Sussman (Michael Feruzza), is a movie producer who hasn’t had a hit in years, and is beginning to feel the pressure. His wife, Angela (Brent Marty), is a bitchy former vocal star. Daughter Edith (Erin Cohenour) has no problem sitting on her daddy’s lap while wearing nothing but a negligee, while her brother, Lance (Doug Messinger), would rather raid his mother’s wardrobe. Taking it all in is the housekeeper, Bootsie (Bridget Schlebecker), and Angela’s lover, Tony (Joshua Ramsey).
Marty takes on Angela, which has historically been done in drag since playwright Busch originated the role (he also starred in the 2003 film version). The character pulls upon the influences of such divas as Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Susan Hayward; Marty chews up the scenery to present a hysterical caricature of the diva culture. He can’t help but steal scenes through the combined outrageousness of his character and performance.
Revolving around him are Messinger as the comically gay hippie Lance and Cohenour as Edith, haughty but with a twisted side. Ramsey, bearing his chest in true 1960s player style, is always cool, while Feruzza is believable as the kind of long-married husband who would loudly complain of constipation. The whole cast, under Ed Mobley’s direction, keeps things over the top in a self-aware fashion that holds back the tedium of many cheesy shows. The only time the action drags is during an extended LSD trip that sags from over-indulgence.
Stephen Hollenbeck’s costumes, especially for Angela, are a riot of 1960s style, and the set, with its columned archway and stairwell, is a great backdrop, designed by Mobley and James Trofatter.
Die! Mommie! Die! continues through April 26; tickets are $25, or $20 for seniors, full-time students and military personnel. Call TOTS, 627 Massachusetts Ave., at 317-685-TOTS for reservations, or go to www.tots.org.