Charles Busch, the impressionist who creates his own "movies" and plays all the parts, has returned to the Source Theater for his third engagement in Washington. Busch's movies are not on film--he is the movie; author, sole performer, cameraman and projectionist, acting out stories that are clearly the product of a mind that has spent a lot of time watching old B-grade flicks.
The program opens with "A Theatrical Party," a rerun for those who caught Busch during his first engagement here. Set in an English country mansion, it revolves around a theater director and the three desperate actresses--a French grande dame, an aging English leading lady and an American ingenue--who want parts in his next season of plays. His second piece, a new one, is a dream, or a nightmare, in which Busch is mistaken for a German singer and chased by a pair of ex-Nazis to Radio City Music Hall, where he is nearly forced to go onstage impersonating Lena Horne.
Busch is a specialist in a fairly arcane area of the theatrical arts. He is like a miniaturist painter, who fills his tiny canvas with telling detail. This kind of work needs a better frame than the one provided by the Source's Warehouse Rep, where noises from 14th Street intrude and the wide open spaces discourage intimacy. Perhaps that is why "A Theatrical Party" seems to lack the precision Busch brought to it two years ago; more likely it is simply not a work that bears viewing twice.
"The Dream" is amusing and allows a full display of both his ability at caricature and his wacky sense of humor.
Charles Busch is at the Warehouse Rep through June 26.