Peggy Sue Dunigan

The Lady in Question

By - Jul 23rd, 2007 02:52 pm
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Gender-bending roles are a trademark in the scripts written by Charles Busch – accomplished playwright, actor and drag artist. Awarded a Drama Desk Award for Career Achievement in 2003, Busch usually plays the leading ladies in his parodies of 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s film. Two of his best-known works are Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommy Die. And one of his recent plays, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, received a Tony nomination.

This Milwaukee production of The Lady in Question is a spoof of 1940s film noir with a patriotic bent. The premise is that international piano virtuoso Gertrude Garnet is on tour through Germany as Hitler tightens his reign. A chance meeting with Nazi sympathizer Baron Von Elsner and the mysterious American hero, Professor Erik Maxwell, creates a crazed love triangle. In the end, an aging actress, Raina Aldric, must be saved and multiple questions and answers unfold as foreign intrigue unites unlikely comrades. A staged escape through the Alps in shreds of paper snow completes these comical scenarios in just over two hours.

As one lady in question, Mark Hagen puts Garnet in great light and her attire is, indeed, glamorous. Dale Gutzman as Von Elsner, who also directs, is a fine foil to Garnet while their perversions to the German language present sharp edged lines and laughs. Jeremy C. Welter, who plays the part of Professor Maxwell, is a lightweight hero for Hagen, but the two combine for a little chemistry on stage. But Karl Miller as Lotte, the Baron’s oversexed 12-year-old niece, provides another opportunity for drag. Draped in frothy lavender tulle or traditional Lederhosen, Lotte is front and center. Miller, along with an amply talented supporting cast, supplies the remaining comedic timing to this performance. Although the sets may be a bit underdone, the costuming more than makes up for the scenery. And the aisle is used to good advantage as an underground tunnel – just beware of gunshots! VS

Off The Wall Productions presents The Lady in Question at 127 East Wells Street until July 29. For tickets or more information, call 414-327-3552 or visit www.offthewalltheatre.com.

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