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Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-Synching
by Rich See
Self-proclaimed glamour goddess, that she is, Lypsinka is the female alter-ego of performance artist -- as well as, writer, actor, and cabaret singer -- John Epperson. Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-Synching is one of six shows that Epperson has created over the years for Off Broadway theaters featuring the desperate diva. His female persona has also appeared in films, documentaries, fashion shows, advertising campaigns, festivals, and on the London stage. Mr. Epperson is a genius at melding diverse cultural snippets into a thematic presence. You never know where the next turn of his wrist will take you -- whether it's singing to Ethel Merman's hard to find disco version of "There's No Business Like Show Business" or melding Elizabeth Taylor's role from Suddenly Last Summer -- "That young doctor performs surgeries...on the brain! It's called a lobotomy! He bores holes in the brain!" -- into a tribute to love. Epperson dives head first into edgy, camp humor that melds performance art with female illusion to create a comedic extravaganza.
In Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-Synching, Lypsinka first appears on stage in a straight jacket after an announcer has alerted the audience that the celebrity has attempted suicide. As the music begins to play "The Lyp" looks out across the theater, rips off the jacket, and embarks on a song about being ready to have the big moment. With the double meaning reverberating in your brain, you soar off to new heights while descending into hilarious insanity.
From a technical standpoint, Epperson is amazing. Since his character never speaks he has by necessity mastered the use of his eyes, hands, and body to share what is really happening in Lypsinka's "thoughts." From a cultural viewpoint, he is a genius on 1930s to 1950s female mannerisms. Realizing his audience would quickly tire of simple lip-synching, he twists his mouth into odd shapes, which celebrities -- of a certain time period -- actually used when speaking or singing. Watch how his second glances whither mere moments after exclaiming admiration. His hand movements are inspired and although everything is exaggerated, you immediately realize you've seen a well-known someone doing the exact same thing. His choice of material is diverse and inspired while his timing is cued to the exact second.
Director Kevin Malony has Epperson moving at high speed while pausing long enough for the audience to catch on to the jokes. The set, designed by Giorgos Tsappas, is a simple series of screens that move back and forth, while Mark T. Simpson's lighting takes you back to a TV-variety show. Bryant Hoven's costumes are precise era pieces: seemingly complex, but designed for quick changes.
Here in Washington all too briefly, John Epperson is in rep at Studio Theatre with three different shows. The first is Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-Synching which only runs through June 12th. Then from June 13th through the 20th he stages his one-man cabaret John Epperson: Show Trash where he dishes songs and dirt about his entertainment career. And finally he wraps up his Epperson/Lypsinka festival on June 21st with a one-night staged reading of My Deah, his southern retelling of the Greek masterpiece Medea, in which he promises "The children still die."
For total fun go see Lypsinka and share in the illusion, 'cause she loves you...she hates you...she loves you...she hates you...she loves...she hates you...now get outta of here!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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