In the mid to late 1970s, one of the seminal figures in gay
  theater was Charles Ludlam, who wrote and starred in a number
  of well-received productions in which he starred in the leading
  female roles in drag. Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theater was
  headquartered in New York City’s West Village, not far from the
  famed Stonewall Bar.

          About a decade later, on the other side of town in the lower
  East Side, there emerged another individual – coincidentally also
  with the first name Charles – who became a well-known and
  respected playwright and drag artiste. Charles Busch had grown
  up in Westchester County and later lived with a maiden aunt in
  Manhattan before attending Northwestern to study theater. Told
  he wouldn’t really fit in as a performer, Busch eventually toured
  the United States in various one-man shows, playing numerous
  roles (including both male and female) before finally finding his
  niche at the Limbo Lounge in Alphabet City.

          Busch and a group of friends agreed to put on a play he
  wrote called
“Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” and after a couple of
  weekends, the group realized that the audience consisted of more
  than friends. The show became something of a cult hit and the
  group – adopting the name Theater in Limbo – took up permanent
  residence. After several shows, the troupe eventually raised enough
  money for a commercial off-Broadway transfer and fueled by a
  rave review in
The New York Times, “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom”
  began a five-year run at the Provincetown Playhouse. There were
  other hits that followed before the group eventually disbanded.

          All of this and more is documented in the terrific nonfiction film
 THE LADY IN QUESTION IS CHARLES BUSCH, co-directed
  by John Catania and Charles Ignacio. The movie also traces the
  roots of Busch’s obsession with vintage movie stars (like Susan
  Hayward and Norma Shearer), his love of the operatic, and the ways
  in which his work meld the two. The characters he creates and
  performs evoke the lost glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. One
  only need to watch any of the abundant clips of the Theater in Limbo
  productions that are judiciously included in the film (thanks to
  Busch’s vast videotape archive).  Additionally, the filmmakers follow
  the actor-author as he gradually moves to the mainstream with the
  success of his Tony-nominated play
“The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,”
  and how he navigated a health scare that coincided with that success.

          THE LADY IN QUESTION IS CHARLES BUSCH is a
  must-see for anyone even vaguely interested in theater. It’s both a
  wonderful portrait of the emergence of a very unique artist, and a
  superlative historical document of a particular time in theatrical history.


                                       Rating:                 B+                

       Viewed at NewFest at the Loews 34th Street Theater
Copyright 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
The Lady in Question Is Charles Busch
www.newfest.org