John Epperson, better known as diva impersonator extraordinaire Lypsinka, isn’t quite sure why critics adore him.
On one hand, the New York-based performance artist attributes the success of his feisty femme creation to his avoidance of tired drag show clichés when he conjures spirits of movie sirens of a bygone era in his high-energy lip-synced stage productions.
Then again, Epperson thinks maybe the kudos surrounding the 25-year run of Lypsinka are due in part to his ability to leave audiences feeling satisfied.
“For some reason the critics love me. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because I have sense of humor and poke fun. Or, maybe it’s because I give audiences a satisfying experience. I haven’t felt satisfied in a long time by a movie, a theater piece, any performance really, so I try and do my best to leave an audience feeling as satisfied as possible,” he says.
Epperson’s latest foray “The Passion of the Crawford,” which returns to San Francisco Tuesday at the Empire Plush Room (the show enjoyed a successful run there last year) is somewhat of a departure from the high camp audiences have come to expect from his alter ego. It doesn’t mean the show is any less of a spectacle, though.
“The Passion of the Crawford,” as the name suggests, is about “Mommie Dearest” herself, Joan Crawford. This time around, rather than relying on the usual backdrop of movie snippets, music or dance, Lypsinka assumes the identity of Crawford via a recorded interview with celebrity press agent John Springer, played by Steve Hasley, at New York’s Town Hall circa 1973.
The re-creation of the interview, which Epperson and Hasley carefully lip-sync in its entirety, is a decidedly subtler Lypsinka performance and one that taps into a persona of Crawford that doesn’t scream, “No wire hangers, ever!”
“She’s always been more than that to me,” Epperson says. “I’m so tired to of seeing that caricature of her.”
Epperson, who grew up in Mississippi and later moved to New York in the late ’70s to find his artistic niche, jokes that anyone can do a Crawford impersonation in San Francisco and have it be a hit.
“If you don’t mind me saying, I think a homeless person on Van Ness could do Joan Crawford and find success.”
And, even though Epperson has found that critics appear to eat up whatever Lypsinka dishes out, don’t expect the fiery dame to serve up just anything in the future.
“Let’s just say you’ll never see me doing the ‘Passion of the Spears,’” Epperson jokes. “For one thing, I don’t think there’s any passion there. Joan Crawford may not have been the brightest or most sophisticated, but she sure was more than little Miss Spears or little Miss Lohan.”
Lypsinka's 'Passion of the Crawford'
Where: Empire Plush Room, York Hotel, 940 Sutter St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. April 3 and Wednesdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; closes April 22
Contact: (866) 468-3399, www.empireplushroom.com