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  •  REVIEW: SHANGHAI MOON

      Shanghai Moon
    Shang-high camp

    "Psycho Beach Party" creator Charles Busch returns with "Shanghai Moon," a sendup of noir-era glamour that has hardcore fans hooting but might make a milder impression on the uninitiated.

    By DIANE SNYDER
    Offoffoff.com


    If you're already a disciple of the Charles Busch Church of Perpetual Campiness, then you don't need anyone else's thoughts on "Shanghai Moon," his latest wacky and twisted theatrical spoof of classic cheesy movies. The sermon you'll hear will be comfortably familiar. But if your faith isn't so unwavering, this probably won't be the play that converts you, and you may feel a bit out of place among so many devout worshipers.

    SHANGHAI MOON
    Company: Drama Dept..
    Directed by: Carl Andress.
    Cast: Becky Ann Baker, Sekiya Billman, Charles Busch, Daniel Gerroll, Marcy McGuigan, B.D. Wong.

    Related links: Official site
     SCHEDULE
    Greenwich House Theater
    Previews start: Jan. 3, 2003
    Jan. 16 - March 9, 2003

      
    Buoyed by a positive Times review, the largely gay male second-night audience was clearly smitten with the drag diva, who has cast himself as the heroine, as he did in past projects like "Psycho Beach Party" and "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom." Indeed, Busch barely had to break a sweat winning their approval, as he sashayed around the stage — changing Michael Bottari and Ronald Case's lavish gowns more times than an Oscar host — while inserting the occasional knowing smirk and tilt of head.

    In this Drama Dept. production, noir films are the object of parody, and the play, given sprightly direction by Carl Andress, soon becomes a madcap comedy of identity. Busch is the sassy Lady Sylvia Allington, American wife of a British diplomat (Daniel Gerroll) sent to Shanghai in 1931 to retrieve a jade statuette for the British Museum. Sylvia gets swept away by the dashing General Gong Fei (B.D. Wong in a rare, chest-bearing comic turn) and his premium opium stash. In the process she earns the ire of his household staff: lovelorn servant Mah Li (Sekiya Billman) and mysterious Dr. Wu (Marcy McGuigan), both of whom, like Sylvia, are trying to keep secret pasts concealed.

    Chock full of innuendo, pregnant pauses and double-entendres — "What I wouldn't give for a simple dish of spotted dick?" Busch quips, referring to a British dessert — "Shanghai Moon's" funniest bits feature Busch just doing his schtick; such as his scantily clad dance of seduction for Gong Fei and a closing witness-stand monologue that pays homage to Bette Davis in "The Letter."

    The supporting cast turns in lively and flamboyant performances that play up the identity-crisis theme. Gerroll does a 180-degree turn from the stiff diplomat to a salacious sailor. Becky Ann Baker goes from a Shanghai brothel proprietress to a British male barrister and, also on the drag front, McGuigan shifts from the frail, elderly Wu to another solicitor. The whimsical, low-budget set by B.T. Whitehill is an environmentalist's dream, with recycled CD discs and aluminum baking trays providing the glitter amid garishly painted pillars and flats.

    As a theatrical meal, however, "Shanghai Moon" is about as sustenant as chicken chow mein: It's tasty when it's going down but not enough to keep you satiated a few hours later.

    JANUARY 25, 2003
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Shanghai Moon:

  • Loved it!   from Mitali Chaudhuri, Mar 9, 2003

  • Post a comment on "Shanghai Moon"