Final Reward 

Invisible Theatre Closes A Strong Season With A Light Touch.

FORTUNE AND MISFORTUNE are skillfully skewed in Charles Busch's outrageous 1994 comedy, You Should Be So Lucky. Set primarily in the gaudy Greenwich Village apartment of young, gay Christopher, this Cinderella story starts with a random bump on the head and ends with the antics of a repentant poltergeist, absorbing along the way a cast of characters so colorful they render the preponderance of leopard print décor tame by comparison. It's a fun finale for another strong Invisible Theatre season, bringing some of IT's finest behind-scenes talent center stage.

Versatile Stuart Moulton stars as Christopher, a self-effacing home electrologist by trade, and good Samaritan by nature. He finds one Mr. Rosenberg, a corpulent widower played with an endearing blur of arrogance and innocence by Manny Ferris, passed out on the sidewalk below his window. Rosenberg has received an unexplained blow to the head, and Christopher, naturally, takes him in with a nervous explosion of concern and care.

Rosenberg is a man of the world, moneyed and widowed, and age and idleness have made him philosophical. He sees the world in terms of new and old, and for him Christopher is a young man, "a character." His gayness is at first lost on the lonely old man, later accepted with equanimity, and over the course of several weeks of hair removal, the older takes on the younger as "protégé."

For Christopher, who has spent the last dozen years quietly revering his dead parents, caring for an unseen elderly neighbor, and building a portfolio of hair-removal triumphs, the arrival of Rosenberg--followed closely by that of his ostentatious and suddenly homeless sister Polly--is almost more than he can keep up with.

But the opulent widower is determined to bring Christopher out of his shell by the end of Act 1. "You remind me of my father," Rosenberg tells him with a laugh. "A dreameräbut he had such dignityäLet me make a dream come true for you," the old man says. And he does, with a few pulled strings, an Armani tux, a rented Rolls Royce, and the proverbial ball (a celebrity fundraiser for the homeless). For his part, gentle Christopher quickly reveals, with little prodding from his benefactor, that a good heart doesn't displace one's desire for the good life.

Once removed from the confines of faux fur and feathered yam friends, Christopher shines in the limelight, overwhelming even the effervescent Polly, and sets the stage for the rest of the play when, after his magical night, he wins a suitor, loses his client, and inherits $10 million and a ghost that only he can see.

You Should Be So Lucky is one of those plays that suffers in the retelling. Its silliness has to be seen to be believed, and it has to be pulled off with near perfection by a cast that is both comedic and empathetic.

Moulton delivers not only a multi-faceted lead as the alternately shy, sardonic and self-possessed Christopher, but also channels the spirits of several of Rosenberg's deceased relatives with admirable ease and entertaining results. The beautiful Betsy Kruse dons just the right balance of humor, affectation and immodesty as Christopher's scene-stealing sibling Polly; and Susan Claassen is hilariously hysterical as Rosenberg's estranged and spitting mad daughter Lenore, who shows up to dispute her late father's mysteriously amended will.

Ferris, as both the flesh and spirit of Rosenberg, delivers Busch's more deadpan lines with the confidence of a patriarch, leaving plenty of room for the high-strung trio of Moulton, Kruse and Claassen to command the stage. Their chemistry never flags, and makes up for the less interesting plot twists of an anti-climactic Act 2, wherein Christopher and the litigious Lenore take their differences to the court of public opinion on the off-Oprah Wanda Wilson Show (hosted by actress Ann Fortune Gamble).

Busch, a New York playwright and co-founder of NYC's Theatre-in-Limbo, has a substantial stable of satirical comedies. IT's playbill notes that his most recent play, The Allergist's Wife, is enjoying favorable reviews in an off-Broadway run starring Linda Lavin and Tony Roberts; and this summer he's slated to appear in a screen version of his Psycho Beach Party. Other provocative works include Lesbians of Sodom and Red Scare on Sunset.

You Should Be So Lucky sports the tagline "an outrageous fairy tale comedy," visual emphasis on the word "fairy." Its characters are contemporary in the best ways--recognizable, but still fresh. Their lines and sitcom settings are rife with pop-culture references that, while they veer closer to cliché some five years after the fact, still retain enough power to charm even seasoned audiences.

The IT team only adds to the fun by clearly relishing these uninhibited roles. Case in point: Moulton, locally famous for his Carol Channing impersonations, makes the most of a one-liner about a drag queen resembling that particular beauty. It's wonderful to see Moulton and Claassen in the foreground, two stellar actors who've toiled behind scenes throughout the season (respectively designing costumes and props, and providing production and artistic management).

You Should Be So Lucky isn't the most important play IT has presented this season, but it certainly ends the season on a high note, with plenty of laughs and a synergy that attests the local talent pool is surviving the dry heat just fine. Congratulations, IT. We look forward to your return in the fall.

You Should Be So Lucky continues through June 11 at the Invisible Theater, 1400 N. First Ave. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $16 and $18, with advance purchase strongly recommended. Call 882-9721 for reservations and information.

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