Queen Amarantha



A Singular Talent

With is reputation as an icon of drag, it’s very easy to forget two facts: First, Charles Busch is an extraordinary writer with a keen sense of truth and a delightfully skewed take on the human condition.  Second, Charles Busch is a versatile actor who can light up a stage, even without camping.  (Though you gotta admit, his trademark camping stuff is top notch, too.)

Busch’s new play, “Queen Amarantha,” now at the WPA, is a treat from beginning to end.  It’s a self-described history play, set in a time long past, somewhere in Europe: it sort of smashes together Shakespeare, Marlowe, Webster, Sir Walter Scott, and whoever wrote those campy movies we all watched on rainy Saturdays in one glorious mush of plot twists, mistaken identities, power struggles, and sword fights.  Serious issues such as gender identity and its impact on political structures are there, too, but they’re handled so deftly as to only complement the story line and offer up this banquet on wry.

Briefly, Amarantha, daughter of a tyrant king, becomes monarch upon his death.   Yet she has been denied the one totem which, to her, indicates true succession, the crown worn by countless generations of monarchs.  How Amarantha discovers herself as a woman and a ruler is the sum of the plot.  Such Shakespearean themes as the pure natural world versus the pompous world of the Court are there too, and you’re sure to notice a tip of the farthingale to your favorite classics.

Though serious about gender and sexuality, Busch offers up this play, for the most part, in good fun.  He is ably abetted by a superlative cast which includes Ruth Williamson, Marcus Lovett, Karen Phillips and Carl Andress.  The terrific set and wonderful period non-specific costumes are by Eduardo Sicangco.

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