Certain gay kids in the ‘50s and ‘60s survived the rigors of growing up "different" by taking refuge in movie magazines, Broadway show albums, and discreet sessions with Mommy’s wardrobe. One of those kids is John Epperson, who created the character of Lypsinka and the hermetically sealed world in which she lives. For 21 years, Epperson has been dolling up his slender frame in stylish frocks, hair and makeup to perform shows whose scripts consist entirely of sound collages -- snippets from old movies, comedy routines, and albums of nightclub and show music -- which he mouths with expert precision.
The slim conceit of As I Lay Lip-Synching is that, underneath her energetic devotion to fashionable clothes and cosmetics, Lypsinka is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Way more sophisticated than the standard Judy/Barbra drag-queen repertoire, Lypsinka pays tribute to more obscure divas such as Mimi Hines, Karen Morrow, Agnes Moorhead, and especially Dolores Gray. The closest she gets to sampling mainstream culture is a passage intercutting Faye Dunaway in
Mommie Dearest with Dunaway’s famous "sister/daughter" lines from
Some ardent devotees see everything Lypsinka does as clever and hilarious, even a scathing commentary on societal restriction of women. The night I went,
fans in the audience included Patti LuPone, choreographer Jerry Mitchell, and *Hairspray*‘s songwriting team, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Those outside the cult -- I’m in that tribe -- may find themselves scratching their heads and wondering what’s the big deal about a gay Marcel Marceau who strikes poses, makes faces, and over-identifies with a very narrow stripe of female emotional existence for 75 minutes.
December 23, 2003