Lady in Question [1999]

Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller
Playwright and drag grand dame Charles Busch had a classic showbiz life: After early tragedy (his mother died when he was seven) and a bit of floundering, a play begun as a lark--Vampire Lesbians of Sodom--becomes a camp sensation, moving from a hole-in-the-wall club in New York's East Village to an off-Broadway run, launching a vital gay theater with a close-knit family of performers who produce wild comedies with names like Theodora, She-Bitch of Byzantium and Pardon My Inquisition, or, Kiss the Blood Off My Castanets. This adoring documentary mixes video of Busch's stage successes with interviews with Busch and his cohorts, tracing the rise and decline of Busch's troupe (including the deaths of core actors from AIDS), and reveling in Busch's mainstream success with the non-camp play The Allergist's Wife and movie versions of his stage hits Psycho Beach Party and Die, Mommie, Die!. Busch delivers performances that simultaneously mock and celebrate the raging egos and stylized emotions of old Hollywood glamour queens like Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck. Though theater translates poorly to video, The Lady in Question is Charles Busch communicates a whiff of the madcap inspiration of Busch's stage work and provides a detailed, affectionate portrait of this ingenious writer/performer. --Bret Fetzer

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