As the world's most ardent fan of the golden age of Hollywood B-movie camp, playwright/actor Charles Busch has made a busy career out of writing and starring in plays and movies that parody the perils of over-the-top leading ladies of yesteryear. He's usually the lady -- his drag is impeccable -- hence the title of this documentary, The Lady in Question Is Charles Busch, itself a title lifted from the 1940 Rita Hayworth potboiler The Lady in Question.
A classic misunderstood sissy and closet theater queen, Busch luckily made his way to the darkest corners of New York's East Village just in time to catch a wave of creative energy that pulsated downtown in the early '80s. With an enthusiastic group of hangers-on in tow, he was able to put his "let's-put-on-a-show" attitude to work, cranking out a long string of camptastic plays for the downtown demimonde including Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Psycho Beach Party, and the memorably titled Theodora: She-Bitch of Byzantium. His Theater In Limbo troupe became the toast of the town, or at least a certain part of town.
This loving tribute to Busch's talent and ambition, which includes plenty of low-quality video clips of his earliest performances, is a delightful demonstration of unstoppable artistic drive. Busch just had to be on stage and he had to be in drag, and God love him, he made it happen. After 15 years or so, he was able to make a living at it, with some of his productions landing in legit houses and even heading for Hollywood, where Psycho Beach Party and Die, Mommie, Die have both become cult hits (and are highly recommended rentals). Along the way, a dangerous heart condition has threatened to cut him down, but he endures. The show must go on, right?
Busch himself is interviewed extensively for the film, and he's as entertaining out of drag as in it. A true film historian and a man of great charm, you get the feeling that a more perfect dinner party guest would be hard to find. Stars such as Rosie O'Donnell, Kathleen Turner, B.D. Wong, and Boy George stop by to sing his praises.
At the end, we're treated to scenes from the very moving evening when Busch attends the premiere of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, the first play he's penned that's made it to the Broadway stage. The weirdo from Avenue D has finally arrived.