James Lecesne and Lypsinka
in Legends!
(© Scott Suchman)
James Lecesne and Lypsinka
in Legends!
(© Scott Suchman)
What becalms a legend most? The answer to that question can be found, in its own way, in Studio Theatre's Legends!, John Epperson's singular adaptation of James Kirkwood's truly terrible bitchfest about a pair of aging Hollywood divas who are considering teaming up for a tour onstage to resurrect their careers and bank accounts. The result is a fun, often farcical, if not terribly significant evening of theater.

While Legends was originally created as a vehicle for Mary Martin and Carol Channing, this new 90-minute version has been crafted by Epperson to showcase the considerable charms of his drag alter-ego Lypsinka. She plays Leatrice Monsee, a one-time celluloid "nice" girl, and James Lecesne is Sylvia Glenn, an actress who made a career playing bad girls.

While the two performers each have their moments of high camp, they often display their vulnerability more than venom. Indeed, Leatrice and Sylvia are obviously having too much fun dissing each other to really nurture mutual dislike. There is warmth and even poignancy to be found beneath the pair's industrial-strength pancake make-up and Fabio Toblini's over-the-top costumes.

Moreover, director Kirk Jackson wisely propels his cast into high-energy mode, realizing that the only way to avoid getting bogged down in gooey-gooey sentiment is to fly full-force into farce. The doors on Daniel Conway's glam Gotham apartment slam and slam some more as entrances and exits explode across the smallish stage. Entrances are choreographed with movement, enhanced lighting, and lush (recorded) orchestral swells, as if staged by MGM. (There's even a bit of Lypsinka's trademark lip-syncing, in this case, an overheated version of Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things." )

Dolled up in an almost other-worldly red wig and vaguely 1950s finery, Lypsinka gets many of the script's best zingers, which are delivered with acutely-timed, lip-curling panache. There's also a vibrantly strong performance from Rosalind "Roz" White as savvy maid Aretha; Tom Story is effective as half-baked producer Martin Klemmer; and Leo Christopher Sheridan doesn't say much but detonates a series of outlandish, wildly energetic scenes with a provocative lap dance.

In the end, Legends is a laugh-filled trip to the moon -- albeit on wings than are never more than thinnest gossamer.