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A Hilarious Production of Charles Busch's Die, Mommie, Die!
New Conservatory Theatre Center

Also see Richard's reviews of The Bloody Debutante and The Whale and Patrick's reviews of Guys and Dolls and


Marie O'Donnell and J. Conrad Frank
New Conservatory Theatre Center is currently presenting the comic and campy melodrama Die, Mommie, Die! by Charles Busch. When I saw this production I could not help thinking of the late career films of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and a host of little known actresses who used to pop up in B films.

The plot is part Greek tragedy and part Hollywood kitsch. The time is the 1960s and fallen pop singer Angela Arden (J. Conrad Frank) is now living in a luxurious Hollywood home with her husband, down on his luck film mogul Sol Sussman (Joe Wicht), and their two children, crazy homosexual son Lance (Devin S. O'Brien) and obnoxious 16-year-old daughter Edith (Ali Haas). Angela was forced to retire after the death of her twin sister, when critics and audiences alike concluded she seemed to have lost all her talent. She is now stuck in a ghastly marriage, so she has taken a young lover, Tony Parker, (Justin Liszanckie) who is an unemployed actor and also sleeping with her daughter and her son.

Desperate to find happiness with her new lover, Angela murders her husband, leaving their two children to avenge his death. I won't divulge how she hilariously poisons her husband. A lot happens in this fast-paced two-hour production, including Angela going on an LSD trip, maid Bootsie (Marie O'Donnell) accidentally poisoning herself, scissors being thrown at the daughter, and an FBI agent showing up. This is one wild ride, but oh so much fun.

J. Conrad Frank is brilliant in the role of Angela. He gives an outstanding over the top performance. He prances beautifully about the stage when unfolding past glories and steals every scene that he is in. It's tour de force of great hammy acting.

Devin S. O'Brien is spectacular as Lance, the son who has been thrown out of college for being a bad influence on the faculty—he allegedly had been discovered with the eight male professors of the Math Department being spun around nude on a Lazy Susan. Devin is a very talented actor with great potential, and he gives the role of Lance his all.

Marie O'Donnell gives a terrific performance as Bootsie the maid, whose accidental death is worth the price of admission. She reminded me of the late Thelma Ritter in this role. Ali Haas is well suited as Edith, an insufferable, self-adsorbed daddy's girl. Joe Wicht gives a first-rate performance as the constipated husband Sol, and Justin Liszanckie is perfect as the egocentric out of work actor Tony.

Kuo-Hao-Lo has designed a beautiful detailed living room set that is straight out of a Hollywood glamor magazine. Jorge R. Hernandez has costumed Angela in stunning outfits that befit a Hollywood star. Under the direction of F. Allen Sawyer, there is enough campy humor, over-blown acting styles, and screaming dialogue to satisfy any aficionado of the 1960s B-movie genre.

Die, Mommie, Die! runs through November 2nd, 2014, at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. For tickets call 415-861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org. Coming up next is Shakespeare's R & J opening on November 7th and running through December 14th.


Photo: Lois Tema


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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