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The Siegel Column

Charles Busch (Photo Carol Rosegg)

 

By Barbara & Scott Siegel

 

The Confession of Lily Dare – Another Charles Busch Comic Masterpiece!

 

Charles Busch puts the amp in camp; his shows spark with comic electricity, lighting up stages with bright creative surprise. And his latest laugh-fest is the sensationally funny The Confession of Lily Dare that Primary Stages had the good sense to grab and produce; the show is now playing to thunderous laughter at The Cherry Lane Theatre.

A clever sendup of any number of famous female-driven movies, most notably Stella Dallas, The Confession of Lily Dare is ultimately its own unique creation complete with attitude and amplitude, the latter meaning that no gesture, no line reading, no double-take can be too big. Somehow, in the alchemy of Charles Busch’s skillful writing and story structure, Carl Andress’s inventive direction, and the extraordinary performances of a perfectly chosen cast of supporting players, this sly comic masterpiece flourishes.

One of the hallmarks of his plays has been the generosity of his writing. Busch might have always been writing plays in which he could star, but he always wrote great roles for his cast-mates. One can hardly think of Charles Busch without also remembering Julie Halston who starred alongside him in so many of his shows. Other performers have also blossomed in his plays, perfect examples being Allison Fraser and Jennifer Van Dyck. Lily Dare is no exception. Jennifer Van Dyck is back in a variety of comic roles. And kudos to Nancy Anderson, Christopher Borg, Kendal Sparks, and Howard McGillin — all of whom are given ample opportunity to shine —and they absolutely glow.

While Charles Busch has regularly been recognized for his work — with a long string of nominations and awards for individual achievements – on and Off Broadway – he has only been awarded the Drama Desk Award for Career Achievement [full disclosure; Barbara Siegel was chairperson of the Drama Desk Nominating Committee that bestowed that Award], it is finally time that this writer/performer receives recognition throughout the theater community for his dizzying career of tight-rope walking genius.

During his career, camp has gone from counter-culture rebellion to mainstream acceptance — and in the hands of others, finally to stale and oftentimes tiresome redundancy. But not Charles Busch. He, alone, has kept the legacy of theatrical camp at the highest level.

Comedy never gets the recognition it deserves, yet making people laugh in a career that touches four decades is no small achievement. Awards that honor his body of work are due across the board; he has earned them with a prodigious output of quality work that few contemporary playwrights and/or actors can match. He has written and starred in more than two dozen plays, among them such hits as Red Scare on Sunset and the wildly popular Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. We could list another dozen or more of his memorable hits, including, of course, his Tony Nominated Broadway show, The Tale of The Allergist’s Wife. The Confession of Lily Dare is yet another triumph in a long and glorious career of inspired comedy. It should be the lightning rod, this year, to honor him for all that he has given us.

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