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Clever and lively is on display in the celebrity impersonation now onstage at the Studio Theatre, too, but touching not so much. Then again, it’s Joan Crawford, self-made myth and a sacred monster of another order entirely, occupying the spotlight—so pathos was never really on offer. Lypsinka: The Passion of the Crawford is the inspired title of the latest homage of John Epperson, aka drag royalty Lypsinka, to the divine excesses of Hollywood divadom, and a singularly brilliant sort of homage it is, too: A full-length interview in the cringe-inducing Inside the Actors Studio mode, jam-packed with studio-approved inanities but jazzed up by a positively eloquent string of nonverbals from La Crawford—sidelong looks and half-stifled shudders and outright sneers that leave no doubt at all how much Our Broad of the Shoulders loathes the fawning interviewer whose lip-synced obsequiousness she’s enduring for the sake of her fans. The plasticity of the performance is dazzling; the irony, filtered through decades of tabloid shockers and tell-all disenchantments, is thick as the pancake.
The sheer technique is astonishing, as always; as with the ersatz familiars of Orson’s Shadow, you eventually give in entirely to the illusion, watching less to see if Epperson and co-star Steve Cuiffo will drop a dubbed-in stitch and more in gleeful anticipation of what lèse-majesté Cuiffo’s too-chummy interviewer will commit next—and how expressively Epperson’s jewel-encrusted Crawford will recoil.
But an hour (and more) of even the best-managed drag homage is still perhaps more drag homage than is advisable at one sitting. So although the dramatic reading of the Desiderata surely represents a camp achievement of some note—especially intercut as it is with a staggeringly saccharine text on the heroism of children (!)—you’ll be excused if the spiraling conclusion, with its shrilling telephones and the snarly snippets of dialogue that answer them, leaves you with a bit of a headache.