By Holli Harms
The Confession of Lily Dare had its premiere in 2018 at Theatre For The New City to sold-out audiences. How lucky for us Primary Stages has brought uncontrollable, delectable, bawdy, heartfelt gem back. And with the original cast AND down in the West Village.
This wonderfully theatrical parody about a young woman, in turn of the 20th century San Francisco, who goes from orphan to Chanteuse to Madame and more is hilariously funny, wonderfully staged and acted with fervor and love for Mr. Busch’s words and story and their twists and turns by this electrical cast. They are shooting sparks across the stage and over our heads. They are on fire.
We open at a graveyard with Emmy (the marvelous Nancy Anderson) and Mickey (Kendal Sparks) reminiscing about the woman whose gravesite they have come to honor. It is Lily Dare and they knew her since she was a young girl left in the care of her Aunt Rosalie ( the incredible Jennifer Van Dyck). Aunt Rosalie was the madame of a brothel and Emmy one of her best girls and Mickey her pianist. They remember Lily and her life and their part in it and for the next two hours will we travel back in time with them.
But remembrance is a double edge sword as Lily eludes to near the end of her life when she says, “What’s the point of looking back it makes the past seem so much further away.”
What is so wonderful about Mr. Busch’s writing is that yes he gets you with those one-line zingers that most of them I cannot quote for their language and his monologues that have the Busch hilarious pronunciations and their own musicality, but he is also incredibly generous with his co-stars giving them speeches that stop the show for applauds and more applauds.
The heart of the play is motherhood and the sacrifices that come with it. I have to say as a mother by the end of the show I was in tears. And the sniffles around me told me I was not alone. Jennifer Van Dyck’s speech about motherhood I want to be printed out and framed. Her delivery a showstopper. But then everyone was on that level, working with such a giving performer as Mr. Busch they can’t help it. I know the audience was having a blast but I think the actors were having even more fun.
Carl Andress‘s direction allows the actors space where there is none and moves them and set pieces with swift care on the Cherry Lane mainstage. It is a small intimate house and the play, a large boisterous guest with a lot of “personality” and Mr. Andress skillfully joins the two in blessed matrimony. It is the intimacy of the Cherry Lane that makes the play all the more worthwhile. We are all on this ride together. Charles Busch at the helm.
Don’t sit this one out. Get your ticket. Watch a legend of the theatre strut the stuff that made him legend.
Primary Stages presents The Confession of Lily Dare, written and starring Charles Busch playing at The Cherry Lane Theatre.
With: Charles Busch, Nancy Anderson, Christopher Borg, Howard McGillin, Kendall Sparks and Jennifer Van Dyck
Creative Team: Set Design B.T. Whitehill, Costume Design Rachel Townsend, Lighting Design Kirk Bookman, Sound Design Bart Fasbender, Charles Busch’s costumes designed by Jessica Jahn, Wig Design Katherine Carr, Original Song, and Arrangements Tom Judson, Production Stage Manager Carolynn Richer
The Cherry Lane 38 Commerce Street, NYC NY 10014 Through March 5th.
Running Time: 2 hours with intermission