Lip Shtick

The story behind “Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-synching.”

John Epperson as Lypsinka in “Lypsinka As I Lay Lip-synching”

John Epperson as Lypsinka in “Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-synching.”

Photo By Austin Young

NEW YORK — At one o’clock in the afternoon some years ago, John Epperson woke up, having slept 13 hours, and decided he had to do something about his depression. Of course, one of the women in the Fifties films Epperson exploits as his drag stage persona, Lypsinka, would have dusted off a pretty dress and swanned her way outside to a glamorous life on the edge — the cutting edge of fashion, or the razor’s edge. But Epperson simply wrote a show.

“Depression is a luxury that none of us can afford,” he says cheekily from a corner table in a quiet Chelsea lunch spot. But for $35, a few of us can afford the bleakly hilarious “Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-synching,” which runs through Sept. 7 at the nightclub Show on 41st Street.

More than Lypsinka’s other evenings, “As I Lay Lip-synching” takes a cold, hard look at fashion and objectification, and should thus be considered required viewing up and down Seventh Avenue.

“It will appeal to your love-hate relationship with clothes” is how Epperson puts it.

For 20 years, the Mississippi-born Epperson, who served as rehearsal pianist for the American Ballet Theatre from 1978 to 1991, has been building sonic collages out of snippets from old films and TV, cabaret, musicals and anything else that suits the ambivalent world of Lypsinka. The result is Postmodernism at its funniest: a show about shows, a drag queen impersonating drag queens who impersonate legendary fashion plates.

“I’m just hair and legs — no face, no feeling. All they want is my body,” wails Lypsinka midway through “As I Lay Lip-synching.” (It’s a line from “Funny Face.”) This pretty much sets the tone, and the show moves on to address such stylish topics as hair and makeup, gloves, dressing for a glamorous night out or for a funeral, and how to pose attractively for the camera.

“Fashion offers the promise of happiness,” Epperson says. “And that’s a promise that’s constantly being broken. I’m sure there are women who feel, when they buy a new dress, how I used to feel when I did drugs. Ultimately, neither is very good for you.”
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