Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Conservatory Theater's Die Mommie Die! a Scream Queen Delight

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 10:33 AM

click to enlarge LOIS TEMA
  • Lois Tema

Charles Busch's Die Mommie Die! is a delightful send-up of low those budget psycho-thrillers that Golden Age superstars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford found themselves doing during the 1960s waning days of their careers. Film historians have argued that the movie divas damaged their legacies by doing films like Hush! Hush! Sweet Charlotte (1965), Berserk (1967), or the bizarre, macabre Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962), in which they co-starred. Films such as these are in fact among the most beloved in the Davis/Crawford canon and continue to give drag queens plenty of material to draw from.

J. Conrad Frank, an actor best known as drag queen Katya Smirnoff-Skyy, is more than up to the challenge of channeling Miss Davis in New Conservatory Theater's hilariously dark production of Die Mommie Die! This campy-as-hell Hollywood horror show stars Frank as washed up pop singer Angela Arden, trapped in a loveless marriage to Hollywood producer Sol Sussman (Joe Wicht). They can barely stand each other. He needs her to be his ornament, but she wants to kill him.

click to enlarge dmd_for_web.jpg
Angela's daughter Edith (Ali Haas) hates mom but loves dad — maybe she loves him a little too much. Angela does get a little love from her adorably cute, if mentally unstable, gay son Lance (Devin. S. O'Brien), who likes to lip sync mom's old records while dressed in her gowns. The cast is rounded out by right wing Republican, Bible-thumping housekeeper Bootsie (Marie O'Donnell), who may have a thing of her own for Mr. Sussman. Sexy Justin Liszanckie is also on hand as a hot and horny tennis instructor/failed TV actor who sleeps with half the household — of both sexes. He may or may not be what he presents himself to be.

The comically murderous proceedings unfold in what appears to be a 1920s Hollywood mansion, though our story is set during the 1960s. The cast performs with just the right amount of over-the-top hysterics that a story like this requires. Wicht and O'Brien are grand scene stealers, newcomer O'Brien leaves the audience in stitches with his spot-on portrayal of Lance's giddy insanity. O'Donnell has her own moment in the spotlight with a grotesquely melodramatic death scene which left the opening night audience laughing and practically cheering.

Ultimately, Die Mommie Die! is Frank's show. He chews the scenery with his intense Bette Davis eyes, sometimes mimicking the screen diva's voice and mannerisms. Frank's entrances are flawless, while his exits are even grander. In one of the show's most "theatrical"  moments, he throws on Angela's cape — which just so happens to perfectly match her dress — as though he were a bird about to take off in flight. Davis herself couldn't have done it better.

Fasten your seat belts, Die Mommie Die! runs at New Conservatory Theater through November 2.
Ticket info: 

  • Pin It

Tags: , ,


Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"