Nazis, espionage, shootings, whippings. The Lady in Question, opening at Las Vegas Little Theatre this Friday, has it all.
“Playwright Charles Busch wrote a script that would have been a 1940s movie,” director David McKee says. “This is his homage to World War II pictures that leading ladies like Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford appeared in. What I tell my cast is that you’re not playing these characters; you’re playing 1940s actors playing these characters. There’s a level of artificiality and self-conscious theatricality to it—it’s that larger-than-life element to it that I love.”
Larger than life is one way to put it. The show pulls out the stops to create a WWII thriller. It follows the story of Professor Erik Maxwell, who’s determined to free his mother, Raina Aldric, from the Nazi dungeons of the cruel Baron von Elsner. He, meanwhile, is set on wooing the vain and beautiful concert pianist Gertrude Garnet, inviting her to his schloss to seduce her, without realizing that she only has eyes for his vault of family jewels.
It’s a mark of Busch’s love of 1940s thrillers that even though he approaches this with his usual tart humor, his genuine affection of the tropes and actors of the time shines through. “Busch’s characters are not just vehicles for firing off witticisms. There’s definitely a warmth and roundedness there,” McKee says. And he’s grateful to his cast for bringing it all to life with humor and heart. “These are wonderful actors to work with. I had a good feeling from the first read-through because everyone was laughing up a storm. I’m hoping that same sense of joy is felt by the audiences, too.”
That joy is definitely felt by Tony Hsieh. One of Las Vegas Little Theatre’s most ardent fans, he’s offering LVLT a sizeable matching grant for the third year in a row. Every dollar LVLT raises up to $25,000 will be doubled by Hsieh. “His support and the support from our patrons has meant that we are able to do things like buy new seats and new equipment to enhance our productions and the audience’s experience at LVLT,” says artistic director Walt Niejadlik. “Tony has been so generous with LVLT, and we are very grateful.”
Lady in Question February 13-March 1; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $21-$24. Las Vegas Little Theatre, 702-362-7996.