Running With Scissors fans expect outrageous fun from the actor/comedian troupe. It's current production of Charles Busch's Die! Mommy! Die! at Le Chat Noir is no disappointment.
As the title of the play suggests, this satire fits comfortably in the genre sometimes known as "Grande Dame Guignol," a strain of horror camp. The play opens in 1967 in the swanky/tacky Hollywood home of Sol Sussman (Bob Edes Jr.), a once-celebrated movie producer who's lost his golden touch at the box office. Sussman's professional nose-dive began when he put out a musical starring his wife Angela (Brian Peterson), who is easing out of her prime.
As the action begins, Sol is off in Spain trying to raise money for a new film. While awaiting his return, the rest of the household struggles through daily traumas and squabbles. In her floor-length black robe, grande dame Angela is like a melodramatic Medea who's stumbled onto a Marx brothers' set. She's gotten involved with Tony Parker (Leon Contavesprie), a TV actor, tennis pro and gigolo. Parker has a knack for calming the volcanic Angela.
Like her husband and her lover, Angela is intent on making a comeback by rekindling her singing career. Comebacks haunt the play as three of the main characters obsess over regaining former heights. But the real drama is more operatic having to do with love and betrayal, murder and bloodshed.
Parker proposes he and Angela share a townhouse in New York. He's found one with a piano so she can practice a new act she's putting together for the Borsht Belt circuit.
Sol's daughter Edie (Dorian Rush), whose canary yellow hemlines barely cover the facts, is mad for her daddy and hates her mom: "L.A.'s best-dressed whore," she snarls. When her dad returns, she kisses him on the lips at every opportunity with a relish that would win a nod of satisfaction from Freud.
The maid, Bootsie (Jack Long), completes the Sussman household. She's a country girl with a born-again love of spouting gospel quotes when not sucking up dust with her Electrolux vacuum.
In comes Sol, home at last, using Yiddish words and phrases: "The airplane food is pure drek." Sol and wife Angela argue about Lance (Dwayne Sepcich), their gay son, whose sexual preferences and general instability Sol blames on Angela because she disobeyed the doctor and continued to take sleeping pills during her pregnancy.
The narrative, which has been slipping giddily toward a precipice, topples over into a void of outlandish exaggeration. Sol borrowed $40 million from the mafia to make his next movie and can't pay a penny back. It's a death sentence. Plus, traveling has left him with severe constipation. He'll need "a nuclear powered suppository." Wife Angela has acquired a vial of poison that she pours into a glass of warm milk on the pretext of helping cure his constipation. When he refuses to drink it, she soaks the giant suppository he bought, and in a hysterical scene that defies description, she inserts the suppository where it can work its good or evil.
But the mayhem is only beginning. Angela is not who she seems and is hilariously revealed when Edie and Dwayne sweeten her evening coffee with a sugar cube laced with L.S.D. Next, knives flash and slash. Scissors are hurled into cheeks. Surprise follows surprise and complications abound.
Running With Scissors has a knack for making preposterous tales so much fun. A low bow goes to the talented cast as well as to Richard Read (video and sound), Kate Jensen (costumes), Brian Peterson (wigs), Su Gonczy (lights) and the rest of the crew.