Posted in Charles Busch, comedy, female impersonators, inheritance, real estate

Location, location… It’s a drag!

The vagaries of real estate seems such a New Yorker’s obsession.

Keira Keeley, Charles Busch, Julie Halston, Mary Bacon and Jonathan Walker in the Primary Stages production
of “The Tribute Artist” © 2014 James Leynse.

In Charles Busch’s latest ouevre, “The Tribute Artist,” in a Primary Stages production at 59E59 Theaters through March 16th, the real estate is a Greenwich Village townhouse.

The expansive and elegant set, by Anna Louizos, is a grand and dignified persona. The other characters do not fare as well. The live action is marred by improbability, admittedly often very funny, and a slow pace.

Cynthia Harris in the Primary Stages production of “The Tribute Artist” © 2014 James Leynse.
Treading the fine lines between drag queen/female impersonator/and down-and out “celebrity tribute” artist, Jimmy (Charles Busch) seizes a foolproof opportunity. Jimmy’s unwarranted optimism lends both fizz and fizzle to playwright Busch’s comedy. His friend, Rita (Julie Halston) joins him in a scheme to impersonate Adriana (Cynthia Harris); Adriana was Jimmy’s landlady in the beautiful old house, who died in her sleep during a night of carrousing with Rita and Jimmy. 
Julie Haston in the Primary Stages production
of “The Tribute Artist” © 2014 James Leynse.

Halston, a long-time Busch actor and collaborator, and Busch have a natural chemistry and ease. What could go wrong, Jimmy asks? The plot’s twists make for many a merry surprise.

Enter Adriana’s niece by marriage, Christina (Mary Bacon) and her transgender daughter, Oliver (formerly Rachel) (Keira Keeley), wth a claim on the property. Oliver, ever the romantic, hunts up an old flame of Adriana’s on Facebook and hence, enter Rodney (Jonathan Walker.)  Highlights of the producton include an exit scene Busch has written for Rodney, and the fact that young Oliver-Rachel can curse like a stevedore on steroids.

The unrelenting zany in “The Tribute Artist” has some wonderful moments, and some predictible. Don’t fault the cast or director Carl Andress for any lulls in the party; sometimes the zany just falls flat.

It’s always a pleasure seeing both sides of Busch– ingenuous actor, inventive playwright. Unfortunately in “The Tribute Artist,” Busch the playwright does not do Charles Busch, the actor, justice.
(See also Tamara’s Tumblr for additional commentary.)

To learn more about “The Tribute Artist,” please visit http://www.primarystages.org/