Everyman’s Treasure: Show Trash

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NY Theater Reivew JK Clarke

 

6a00d83451b26169e20120a8c4d3d5970bShow Trash, now playing in repertory at The Connelly Theater along with Lypsinka’s The Passion of the Crawford and The Boxed Set, is a very unique performance in the context of this trilogy. What makes it so singular is that it is a one-man show and personal essay by John Epperson, creator/alter ego of show biz drag icon Lypsinka, who is simply not known to perform as himself; so it is a unique opportunity to get inside the head of this remarkably creative and private individual who has entertained so many over the years “en masque.”

Epperson guides us, with the aid of video, slides and song, through his life from his beginnings in small town MIssissippi—where even as a youngster he took refuge in drag—to the present, finding himself lip synching for Isabella Rossellini, in her home, at her birthday party. Though Epperson’s journey is mirrored by so many who have travelled from middle America to the wilds of New York City, his is more successful and emblematic of the dream than most. Despite struggle, heartbreak and necessary patience for success, Epperson does eventually flourish. He frames his experiences in the esprit of the gold rush era striver Lola Montez, immortalized by Adler and Ross: “Whatever Lola Wants . . .” His march to success and celebrity has been long, but he has arrived in his own way (and perhaps without the richesse that comes with it, for such is life in the theater).

Show Trash is an ideal one-man show. It’s a tale of origin, ambition and triumph, but intercut with Epperson’s show-tune styled original songs and poignant adaptations (like the bitterly funny “Chelsea Morning” parody in which locals ride ShityBikes and it “seems every gay is a daddy today.” But what’s most poignant about Epperson’s story is truth that’s rarely understood about New York life: underneath nearly every major pillar of celebrity is another artist striving for his own fame. In Epperson’s case, he eventually became the rehearsal pianist at the American Ballet Theatre, playing for Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov and being the sole, silent witness to their legendary explosive and abusive fights. Yet, who in the room, or at the company, would have guessed that the quiet, obedient piano player in the corner would eventually create such a legendary figure in show business? This is the epitome of the New York paradox – the city is paved with such stories.

Naturally, Epperson’s piano playing is flawless and beautiful and “yes” is the answer to his own question at the top of the show: Can he sing? But his candor, humor and stylized performances are what really tie the show together. He bookends the evening with imitations of Katherine Hepburn singing disco songs, and the mimic is perfect and hilarious. But one of the most compelling aspects of the production is that Epperson appears on stage in street clothes, a flannel shirt and sneakers. And as we delve in, we see that behind the glamour of his character he is a sweet, talented man, who lives in his head and whose story hints at a loneliness in the big city that we have all experienced. His is a true New York story, the one where we can never take the small town child out of the person, but also can never extract him from the city. He is a significant piece of the fabric of the arts and entertainment industry that makes the city great. Despite what he may assert, Epperson’s not Show Trash, he’s Show Treasure.

Show Trash. Selected dates through January 3, 2015 at The Connelly Theater (220 East 4th Street, between Avenues A & B). www.lypsinka.com

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