Those who only know John Epperson as his feminine alter-ego Lypsinka should head down to the Baruch Performing Arts Center, where he's playing five characters -- both male and female -- in the Foundry Theater's very modern adaptation of the 17th century play The Roaring Girle. But those who want to experience all facets of Epperson's talent will have to head to Washington D.C. some time between June 4 and 21, when the Studio Theater there will present three weeks of Epperson's work: his recent Off-Broadway hit As I Lay Lipsynching; his new autobiographical solo piece Show Trash; and a reading of his play My Deah, a semi-comic, semi-tragic updating of Medea set in the modern-day South.
No, Epperson won't be playing the lead in the latter. "I want to be taken seriously as a writer," he declares. "I don't want the show to be perceived as a dragfest, because it's not. I think it was really a feather in Charles Busch's cap that he didn't play the lead in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife." In readings of the show, the kiddie killer (as well as the character of the nurse) has been played by Tony Award winners Betty Buckley, Harriet Harris, and Patti LuPone. "All of those ladies brought something wonderful to the table," says Epperson. "Betty is an ex-beauty queen from the South, Patti had that Maria Callas thing going on, and Harriet was especially hilarious as the nurse, who's sort of written as an Agnes Moorehead part. But I guess I would have to say that my ideal casting would be Meryl Streep, since she can do everything." If you're reading this, Meryl, you can contact Epperson through his website, www.lypsinka.com).
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Can the family that plays together stay together? That question will be answered several times in March: Jim Simpson is directing his wife Sigourney Weaver in A.R. Gurney's Mrs. Farnsworth at the Flea and singing sisters Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway are re-teaming for a new show, Relative Harmony, at Feinstein's at the Regency. But perhaps the biggest challenge will be faced by Karla DeVito. No only is the singer/actress co-starring with husband Robby Benson in Open Heart, which begins performances at the Cherry Lane on March 4, but her beloved spouse also wrote the musical, which is based loosely on his life. However, DeVito -- who first hooked up with Benson over two decades ago when they co-starred on Broadway in The Pirates of Penzance -- isn't concerned in the slightest. "There is no downside to us working together," she says. "It's always been easy. In fact, it's been an amazing journey to watch Robby work on this piece, to see him really blossom." Adds Benson: "It's part of our adventure together that we try to include each other in everything we do."
EBONY KEEPS IT CLEAN
Add Ebony Jo-Ann to the list of women willing to work on their night off. The big-voiced singer-actress, whose performance as Jackie is one of the highlights of Regina Taylor's Drowning Crow, will be showing off her prodigious pipes on Monday at SHOW in Black 2: Broadway Divas, an AIDS benefit hosted by Sheryl Lee Ralph and featuring such other powerhouse perfomers as B.J. Crosby, Natalie Douglas, Adriane Lenox and Lillias White. While Ms. Jo-Ann will be happy to autograph your program, she won't be getting her castmates to put their Jane Hancocks on hers: "I have every program from every show I've ever done but none of them are signed," she tells me. "I like everything clean and pristine. I also have lots of memorabilia in my house, even if it doesn't have to do with my own career -- like that photo of Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, and Sidney Poitier on Oscar night. After I die, they'll probably turn my house into a museum."
The worlds of high fashion and theater have long intersected but the connections are lately getting stronger and stranger. Designer Max Azria of BCBG fame is producing a new musical The Ten Commandments, which will premiere the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles in September. DKNY, Donna Karan's secondary line, is providing the wardrobes for both the new cooking/theater piece Chef's Theater, which opens on March 30 at the Supper Club, and Notes From New York, a musical theater series in London that resumes perfomances on March 7. More prominently, Sean John founder Sean Combs will be starring in the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun that's set to begin performances on March 30 at the Royale. (He will not be designing the costumes; that task belongs to Paul Tazewell.) Finally, it should be noted that playwright Paul Weitz, whose controversial Roulette continues to spin at the John Houseman through March 14, is the son of the late, legendary men's wear designer John Weitz.
Brent Barrett at Don't Tell Mama? Even though the Broadway heartthrob doesn't have a current Main Stem gig (and ain't that a shame), he hasn't actually taken to performing at piano bars. But the star of Annie Get Your Gun, Chicago, etc. was spotted inside the 46th Street cabaret earlier this month, taking in San Francisco wunderkind Spencer Day. Barrett isn't totally at leisure: He and the equally big-voiced Judy Kaye will re-open the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, Florida on February 29.
Mary Stuart Masterson, a Tony Award nominee last season for her performance in Nine, will play Maggie in the Kennedy Center's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof this summer opposite the previously announced Patrick Wilson as Brick and George Grizzard as Big Daddy...Victoria Clark, Romain Fruge, Marva Hicks, Capathia Jenkins, Clarke Thorell, and Eric Jordan Young will join Ted Sperling for the 92nd Street Y's Lyrics & Lyricists' salute to E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, March 20-22...Danielle Ferland, Maggie Lacey, and Sloane Shelton will co-star in TFANA's production of W.S. Gilbert's Engaged, beginning April 20 at the Lucille Lortel.