You know the old joke: "If there's ever a nuclear holocaust, the only things left will be cockroaches and Cher." This past summer, someone added: "And Tammy Faye Baker." (Maybe it was Tammy herself!) Well, anyone lucky enough to witness John Epperson's latest extravaganza at the Westbeth Theatre Center will surely agree that Epperson's alter ego, Lypsinka, also deserves a place on the short list of Armageddon survivors.
Having been absent from the legitimate New York stage for some time, Lypsinka now presents us with her seventh show, Lypsinka! The Boxed Set. Once again, she drags us all into her crazed revery of old movies, faded show-biz legends, and Vegas show tunes.
Lypsinka is a force of nature created and brought to life by Epperson, a man of awesome talent; he/she is the grand emperor/empress of lip-synching, and his/her art is something to behold. In the capable hands of director Kevin Malony, Lypsinka! The Boxed Set is a neat 75 minutes of fast-paced material, both old and new. We have the usual obsessions with Sunset Boulevard, Bette Davis, and Valley of the Dolls, plus a brilliant "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy. There's even "The Twelve Days of Christmas" sung by a boozy broad, as well as snippets from the movie Carrie. Lypsinka keeps us guessing at who and what she is lip-synching, and that's one of the many pleasures of the show; suddenly, eveything old feels thrillingly new again.
Enhanced by Mark T. Simpson's lighting and a set festooned with pink lips (by Jim Boutin), Lypsinka's glamour-girl persona radiates. The costumes, by Bradford Louyk, are divine. Lypsinka is so fabulous that (of course!) she is granted a follow spot, which captures her like a demented butterfly.
The lady does have a dark side. When those arched hands rise to frame her bright yet bitter smile, we know we're in for major histrionics laid onto the soundscape of some other manic diva as captured in a cult movie classic or on an obscure vinyl recording. Yet Lypsinka is our universal mother: a whore and a saint wrapped in tulle. She is not so much a litmus test of society but, rather, a pop quiz of American culture for anyone daring enough to listen. So get thee to Lypsinka! The Boxed Set, or get thee to a nunnery.