by: Brian Scott Lipton
What would you do to hold on to an extremely valuable piece of New York real estate? That very timely question forms the basis for “The Tribute Artist,” an uproarious new comedy by the popular playwright Charles Busch, which will be presented by Primary Stags at 59E59 Theaters from January 21 to March 16, with an official opening on February 9. “I think audiences will be laughing from start to finish,” says director Carl Andress.
It will not surprise Busch’s longtime fans that this work, which was commissioned by the award-winning theater company, will once again find the playwright and star in women’s clothes, Here, he is playing a female impersonator who uses his skills off the stage to take on the identity of the owner of a Greenwich Village townhouse. However, Busch stresses the role – and the show — is very different from much of his previous work, since the play is not a send-up of a particular movie genre or set in a period like the 1930s and 1940s. “It’s a very contemporary piece,” says Busch.
What “The Tribute Artist” does have in common with his prior oeuvre, though, is the presence of some of his favorite collaborators, including Andress, leading man Jonathan Walker, and, above all, Busch’s longtime co-star and best friend Julie Halston, who plays an inept lesbian real estate agent. As both Busch and Halston relate, much of the actress’ dialogue in the play comes directly from actual conversations the two have had on the phone or over dinner. “It’s practically verbatim,” says Busch.
The cast also includes three actresses with whom Busch and Andress have not worked before, Cynthia Harris, Mary Bacon, and Keira Keeley, and both men are already mightily impressed with their acting skills and how well they’ve fit in with the company. “Maybe I never believed it before,” says Busch. “But you really are only as good as the people you work with.”
*Photos/Video: Sandi Durell
Interviews: Brian Scott Lipton