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Die, Mommie, Die!
a Comedy
by Charles Busch

COMPANY : The Process Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta on Ponce [WEBSITE]
ID# 4726

SHOWING : May 01, 2015 - May 23, 2015



Part Greek tragedy, part Hollywood kitsch - this is Charles Busch at his best! The time is the 1960’s and ex-pop singer Angela Arden is trapped in a corrosive marriage with her film producer husband. In her attempt to find happiness with her young lover, Angela murders her husband, leaving their children to avenge his death.

Director Suehyla El-Attar
Sol Rial Ellsworth
Lance Truman Griffin
Edith Ashleigh Hoppe
Tony Weston Manders
Bootsie DeWayne Morgan
Angela Topher Payne
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Live, Mommie, Live!
by playgoer
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Charles Busch writes funny plays with over-the-top roles for female impersonators. "Die, Mommie, Die!" is no exception. Here, Topher Payne plays Angela Arden, a Saskatchewan songstress turned Hollywood star, whose career by 1967 has taken a downturn, after the death of her identical twin sister Barbara. DeWayne Morgan gets the less flashy role of Bootsie, the Bible-spouting Christian maid in a Jewish household.

Those two are splendid, and they are supported by a talented cast playing more sex-appropriate roles. (Although, given Charles Busch’s bent, most of the sex is inappropriate.) Ashleigh Hoppe plays the daughter, seamlessly switching between her two modes of expression: sweet and homicidal. Rial Ellsworth plays the husband, an abusive producer, consciously downplaying the comedy of the role. Weston Manders plays gigolo Tony, all pelvis-thrusting poses and sexual innuendo. Finally, Truman Griffin plays the cross-dressing son, a constant disappointment to his father.

The action takes place on a frilly unit set designed by Nadia Morgan. The walls are covered ceiling-to-floor with white patterned sheers, the floor in terra cotta tiles (although the color looks more brick red). Tasteful neutral furniture takes up center stage, with a bar and console stereo stage right. Photos from Angela Arden’s career and awards from her husband Sol’s career decorate the set, along with a couple of potted plants. A window upstage acts as a projection screen for the opening slide/voice-over sequence (although I couldn’t understand why pull-down shades were used at the start, when the windows underneath still seemed to be covered).

The set truly gives the feel that this is the living room of Angela Arden, star. Elisabeth Cooper’s lighting design has lots of neat effects for drug-fueled sequences, and Dan Bauman’s sound design works beautifully, using period-appropriate music for scene changes/intros. Betty Mitchell’s props, Nancye Quarles Hilley’s costumes, and George Deavours’ wigs all add to the eye-popping visual appeal of the production.

The whole thing is brilliantly directed by Suehla El-Attar, who paints terrific stage pictures and milks the comedy out of each line, action, and reaction. She is helped by Topher Payne’s coterie of fans, who will laugh at everything he does in drag, oftentimes before he actually has a chance to do it, but the director consistently delivers the comedy. Fight choreographer Kevin Stillwell adds a great deal to a couple of sequences, hitting the perfect balance between comedy and adherence to the actions required by the script.

This is definitely a laugh-out-loud sort of show, often crude in its humor, but with a storyline that keeps interest throughout, spilling hints and revealing surprises in a nicely timed sequence of scenes. One thing that didn’t really work for me was a scene in which Bootsie brings in floral arrangements from each of three directions, when she didn’t exit in all those directions. I think the scene would have worked better with constant doorbell rings, an arrangement shoved into Bootsie’s hands each time she opened the front door. I also question the decision to give Tony a hickish Southern accent, when the script makes fun of Bootsie for a similar accent and states that Tony’s father was Irish. I would see him more as a Cary Grant type.

But those are relatively minor quibbles. "Die, Mommie, Die!" is painted in broad strokes, and the entire production emphasizes the comic elements. Rarely is murder so entertaining. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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