John, David, Richard, and I saw *The Confession of Lily Dare* on 4/24/18. This is the new play by Charles Busch, the downtown diva who gave us *Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,* *Psycho Beach Party,* *Die, Mommie, Die!*, and other masterpieces of camp.
I'm giving a spoiler alert and a salty language alert. So please stop reading now, if you're bothered by either!
Here's the set. The production style is "high school with a budget:"
The play opens with former hooker Emmy Lou (Nancy Anderson) visiting the grave of Lily Dare, sometime around 1950. She's joined by Mickey (Kendal Sparks) - - right around the turn of the century, in San Francisco, they worked together at a whorehouse run by Rosalie (Jennifer Van Dyck). Lily Dare (Charles Busch) is her long lost niece who comes to live with her. Lily's first entrance was one of the highlights of the show - - Miss Busch's first appearance is always a hotly awaited moment in a Busch show. In this show, he was the teenage Lily at the start of the show, wearing a pseudo dirndl and a long red wig. The shock and hilarity of a 63-year-old man playing a teenage girl, it was too much! Waves of applause. Maybe not as voracious as when he was rolled out of a carpet in *Cleopatra,* but hey, he delivers the goods every time.
Busch is always generous with the other characters - - in this show, he gave the two best lines to other actors. Mickey says something cloying in the whorehouse, and the madam says, "Must EVERYONE have a personality." And the turn-of-the-century San Francisco setting of course led to the earthquake. Mickey said that he and Emmy Lou went through some tough times, "...but you can always get by, with a pianist that plays ragtime and a hooker who does anal." SCREAMS of laughter.
Busch gave himself a couple of songs, which were amusing but maybe not entirely effective. This play was unusual because it had a few moments of true drama, something bordering on depth. That was a surprise. The pacing was a little slack, it could be pruned, especially in the first act, but does director Carl Andress (or anyone) have the nerve to tell Busch that?
All of the performances were stellar - - a cast of six, the four people I mentioned already plus Howard McGillin as a sophisticated yet smarmy rich guy, and Christopher Borg in a handful of roles. The pick of the litter was Jennifer Van Dyck as Aunt Rosalie (the madam), the Baroness (who turns out to be an undercover cop), Mrs. Carlton (who adopts Lily's baby girl), and Louise (Lily's daughter, all grown up, who naturally marries an Italian count and gets worldwide acclaim as an opera singer). Van Dyck has everything you could ask for in a Busch actor: wit, verve, moxie, and so much more. I want to see more of her!