Blame the economy for all your troubles or blame Charles Busch for writing this somewhat amusing, escapist and totally too long nonsensical farce THE TRIBUTE ARTIST – an excuse for him to don mascara, heels, gowns and wigs once again and use his immense talent for mimicry of aged actresses with his company of cohorts to cavort across the 59E59 Theater stage in a production that defies all reason and one that has more twists and turns than the Olympic Giant Slalom run – only not as exciting.
Mr. Busch is Jimmy – a drag queen that has been given the new moniker of “tribute artist”. But as the saying goes, “a rose is a rose is a rose.” Jimmy has been fired from a Las Vegas revue as the younger generation knows not of Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn et al. He finds himself back in New York – in a room he rents from his dear friend Adriana (a delicious and soon to die Cynthia Harris) a retired fashion designer who married up – plopping her in the lap of luxury – a Greenwich Village town house that is now worth millions.
Enter Rita (Julie Halston) mugging her way into our hearts as Jimmy’s side kick. Once they had an act together. Now as a not-so-terrific real estate broker they are about to come up with a new act and it’s a doozy.
Adriana hasn’t been feeling well and has decided to sell the manse (beautifully designed by Anna Louizos) a study in Hunter Green. Conveniently after a few glasses of wine they all fall asleep. Adriana for good. And that’s when desperation gives Rita and Jimmy the guts to come up with the implausible plot that becomes more and more implausible.
Jimmy will take over the role of Adriana – after supplying the deceased with a false ID from Rita’s handbag. Rita will sell the building and they will split the profits. Foolproof! Ha!
If you are wondering why the police of NYC accept this ID for a dead woman in a townhouse you would not be alone. No need to explain such details. It appears that Mr. Busch writes himself into corners and then adlibs his way out of them with his trademark comedy routines.
Enter the niece Christina (Mary Bacon) – a whiner from Wisconsin who believes herself a victim of everything and her bullied son Oliver (Keira Keeley) who used to be Rachael. It seems said niece read on the internet about the desire to sell “her” house – it was left to her in Adriana’s husband’s will. Adriana could live there until she died. And so they keep her alive in spirit and caftans until they can sell it.
Enter the ex-younger beau of Adriana – Rodney (Jonathan Walker) also found on the internet by Oliver. Jimmy falls for him – although he deals in body parts – and not from automobiles.
There you have the ingredients for the stew that Mr. Busch brews well beyond the time to take it off the stove. Act II goes off on the back stories of the characters that we don’t care for in the first place.
There are some big laughs as Jimmy slips into dialogue from old movies and Rita explains what movie it is from and who is speaking for all those too young to know what he is doing. It’s vintage Busch in his prime. THE TRIBUTE ARTIST unfortunately is subprime.
Directed by Carl Andress. Extended through March 30th.
Photos: James Leynse
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