NY Theater Review JK Clarke
The revival of Lypsinka! The Boxed Set, now playing in repertory (with Show Trash and The Passion of the Crawford) at The Connelly Theater, is a cause for celebration. In an era of limitless stand-up, improv and sketch performance available on any night of the week, it is refreshing to see such an original, clever and beautifully performed 90 minutes of creative comedy genius. Using a soundtrack cobbled from films, musicals, and concert recordings, Lypsinka picks out the nuances of what makes these bits (mostly from the 1940s, 50s and 60s) both special and hilarious as she poses and mugs through the selections—all the while so perfectly lip-synching them that it’s hard, sometimes, to believe the utterances are not her own.
The alter-ego of actor, writer, composer and pianist John Epperson, Lypsinka has been performing since the late 1980s, generally in the guise of a 1950s-60s “woman of a certain age,” parodying and celebrating camp, noir and cabaret. In Boxed Set, which hasn’t been performed in the last 10 years, Lypsinka appears in a bronze, flared dress, bouffant auburn hair, bright red lipstick and thick makeup: think of a mashup of Lucille Ball and Joan Rivers in the early 1960s. She’s exquisite, with nary a hair out of place, perfect nails and total command of the stage.
Whether the mimed soundbites are Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) in Chinatown: “She’s my sister! . . . my daughter! . . . She’s my sister AND my daughter!” or singer Fay McKay hilariously warbling a drunken Twelve Days of Christmas, Lypsinka is in total command of the material, sometimes crossing her eyes (in presumed commentary on the campiness of the material) or doing her best Joan Crawford, with fingers thrown to her face, feigning abject horror.
Traditionally, drag performances are tongue-in-cheek: a celebration and mockery of camp, and there’s plenty of that here. This is all for fun, of course. But what sets Lypsinka apart is both her absolute command of the material and the fluidity and elegance with which she glides through it. Along with director Barry Kleinbort, sound designer Matt Berman and light designers Mark Simpson and Jeremy Owens, the material feels seamlessly knitted together, as if it was one continuous piece to begin with.
The absolute highlight of the performance (if there must be one) is a segment in which Lypsinka moves from spotlight to spotlight as a telephone rings, picking it up and doing a line from a film or tv show. It’s not just that the bits are hilarious, but she moves through it like in a perfectly choreographed dance, hitting each minute cue on the nose. This is comic timing at its most precise. There is no room for error and she makes none. The gag is riotous.
It’s refreshing to see non-traditional comedy that defies current trends. Comedy is timeless, or should be, and to have a chance to revisit another era and style while witnessing such a creative and elegantly performed piece is a gift. One that you should offer to yourself and a friend. Don’t miss this show, lest she not bring it back for yet another ten years.
Lypsinka: The Boxed Set. Selected dates through January 3, 2015 at The Connelly Theater (220 East 4th Street, between Avenues A & B). www.lypsinka.com