Performing Arts

Musical Theater Heritage’s ‘Die Mommie Die’ delivers laughs

De De DeVille (center) stars in “Die Mommie Die” with a supporting cast that includes (from left) Jeff Smith, Alisa Lynn, Stasha Case, J. Will Fritz and Reed Uthe.
De De DeVille (center) stars in “Die Mommie Die” with a supporting cast that includes (from left) Jeff Smith, Alisa Lynn, Stasha Case, J. Will Fritz and Reed Uthe.

The talented cast of “Die Mommie Die” walks a fine line as it endeavors to tap into playwright Charles Busch’s arch sense of humor. Play it too broadly and it all seems labored. But too much subtlety may render the material inert.

The production now underway at Musical Theater Heritage at Crown Center, produced by and starring the remarkable De De DeVille, was still finding its way on opening night. In some sections, the performers’ timing was incrementally off and failed to grab the viewers. On the other hand, there were more than a few moments that made me laugh out loud.

Busch’s play, an homage to a vintage style of big-screen soap opera usually built around an aging star, depicts the professional ups and downs of a singer/actress with secrets to hide. Set entirely in the stylish living room shared by fading star Angela Sussman (De Ville) and her crass husband, producer Sol P. Sussman (Reed Uthe), the story revolves around Angela’s love affair with her tennis instructor Tony Parker (Jeff Smith) as well as haunting memories of her deceased twin sister, with whom she performed as a duo.

Angela’s tween daughter Edith (Alisa Lynn) exhibits an incestuous affection for Sol, and her college-age son Lance (J. Will Fritz) has fantasies of being a drag performer.

Also in the picture is Bootsie Carp (Stasha Case), a housekeeper from somewhere down South, who is driven by unrequited love for Sol. And then there’s Parker, who in addition to being Angela’s lover indulges an equal-opportunity erotic interest in her two kids.

Director Bill Pelletier made sure each performer enjoyed memorable moments on opening night, but the cast had yet to settle into a consistent style. DeVille, well-known as a drag star, is a skilled actor who inhabits Angela with a persuasive sense of style. DeVille’s timing was error-free Friday night.

DeVille also designed the costumes, sets and properties and is largely responsible for the production’s visual sheen. The show benefits from a set that is economical but precise. J. Patrick Inlow’s lighting is a plus.

The program emphasizes the community-theater credentials of all involved and concludes with this bit of advice: “If you’ve read all of this, you obviously have too much time on your hands. Seriously, go buy a drink at the bar.”

Those who do as instructed are likely to find their enjoyment of this comedy enhanced. It’s that kind of show.

Robert Trussell: 816-234-4765, @roberttrussell

Onstage

“Die Mommie Die” runs through Oct. 17 at Musical Theater Heritage on the third level of Crown Center. Call 816-221-6987 or go to MTHKC.com

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