BOY CULTURE RATING: **** OUT OF **** STARS
A 28-year-old friend of mine who is the perfect man and would get a proposal of marriage from me if it weren't for the fact that I'd have to pay him to get naked for me said to me recently, when I invited him to see Lypsinka, “Am I a bad gay if I don't wanna see a drag show?”
Well, yes, yes, he is.
But not because he isn't into drag—so much of it is stale. He's a bad gay for thinking Lypsinka is a drag show. John Epperson's Lypsinka is more in the performance-art vein. And besides that, she's not a drag show...currently, she's three.
Lypsinka: The Trilogy is now playing on NYC's Lower East Side at The Connelly Theater. On alternating nights, the Queen of Drag Queens is performing Lypsinka! The Boxed Set, The Passion of the Crawford and John Epperson: Show Trash, three very different shows with very little overlap but lots of overlip.
JUST A FEW OF THE NAMES WHOSE VOICES APPEAR IN LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET:
Judith Anderson Polly Bergen Arthur Blake Joan Crawford Bette Davis Olivia de Havilland Sandra Dee Phyllis Diller Ruth Draper Frances Faye Penny Fuller Judy Garland Dolores Gray T.C. Jones Gisele MacKenzie Fay McKay Ethel Merman Agnes Moorehead Kay Stevens Dorothy Squires Kim Stanley Gloria Swanson Natalie Wood
The first, and best, is Lypsinka! The Boxed Set, approximately 90 minutes' worth of Lypsinka in her robotically glamorous prime (she's even better as a man of a certain age playing a woman of a certain age than he was when he did it as a youngster), gliding across the stage and expertly mouthing a complicated soundtrack made up of obscure songs from musical theater and instantly recognizable soundbites from film, TV and the theater. His lip-synching style is so leisurely it becomes hypnotic. He never overemotes; rather, he simply parts his lips and lets the sounds seem to emerge from within. His best weapons are his eyes (the gams are still in working order, too—see inset), which light up the stage with shock, existential angst and/or malevolence, as each sonic snippet demands.
Also compelling is The Passion of the Crawford, the lioness's share of which consists of Epperson and Steve Cuiffo or Scott Wittman recreating Crawford's legendary 1973 Town Hall interview, in which she tweaks Bette Dvis, verbally spanks Marlon Brando, talks parenting and almost has a rolling orgasm while commenting on Greta Garbo. Lypsinka's visual adlibs, affecting expressions Crawford didn't but should have made, are delicious. She then segues into a somewhat dreary sequence of Crawford camp-earnestly reciting a religious text, but it comes to an end with a fantasmagoric remix of some of Crawford's famous lines as well as elements of the Town Hall Q&A that has to be seen to be believed. (If you're into latter-day Crawford, don't miss this video!)
Completing your set is John Epperon: Show Trash, in which Lypsinka fades to black so that Epperson himself can shine—and shine he does, as an outstanding pianist and inimitable singer. He offers original compositions that illustrate the trajectory of his life from Southern sissy to big-city sensation, as well as a few lip-synching interludes as a nod to his alter ego. (In an odd tribute to Katharine Hepburn, Epperson impersonats her singing Rapper's Delight—and it just so happened to be the very same day Sugarhill Gang's Big Bank Hank died.)
For Epperson to take on the responsibility of doing three shows simultaneously is some kind of cry for help. Don't ignore it—see all three so you don't have to wait another 20 years to drink in his loopy, intelligent, darkly funny, queerly nostalgic tribute to popular and unpopular culture.
And if you don't wanna see a drag show, then you are your rabbit-faced wife can go to hell.