Actor/playwright premieres outrageous comedy at Playhouse


Writer, actor and director Charles Busch has garnered quite the noted career in theater. Well known in the New York Off-Broadway scene, Busch will show off his talents to San Diego when his world premiere of the comedy “The Third Story” opens Sept. 16 at La Jolla Playhouse.

Busch, who graduated from Northwestern University as a theater major, is the playwright of “Psycho Beach Party,” “Shanghai Moon,” “The Lady in Question,” and the musical “Swingtime Canteen,” among many others. Busch has appeared in numerous plays and musicals. His film roles include “It Could Happen To You” as well as “Die Mommie Die” and “A Very Serious Person,” both which he also wrote.

Among critical acclaim for his productions, Busch’s awards include Lucille Lortel and a Drama Desk nomination for “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” which won the Outer Critic’s Circle John Gassner Award and was nominated for a Tony Award. With a run of five years in New York, his play “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” is one of the longest running plays in Off-Broadway history.

“The Third Story,” set in the 1940s, is inspired by Busch’s interest in film history and explores the worlds of a mother and son, old witch, mob queen, lady scientist and a dreadfully shy princess. Busch admitted he often draws upon his own life and personality to pin his characters.

“Even though I knew at a young age that I wanted to be an actor, I was very shy,” Busch said. “I went to many auditions but was never cast. So I figured out that I would have had to create my own career that I could fit into. I started writing plays I could appear in. Like myself, my characters are often complex.”

The play opens with a scene that Busch said sets the mood of the play’s zaniness.

“A screenwriter of Hollywood’s Golden Age talks about being a stowaway on a Chinese junk and escaping a cannibal village,” Busch said. “There are three stories in the play that are undercut like a movie. The underlying theme is about mothers who need to release their children and how writers create their work and how it affects those around them.”

Busch is known for his outrageous comedy and “The Third Story” contains one laugh after another. Humor was a constant companion in his life, he said.

“Humor was so important to my father,” he said. “I have two sisters, Margaret and Betsy, who were so witty and always doing impressions and slapstick. All three of us were desperate to keep my father entertained.”

“The Third Story” is directed by Carl Andress. The play stars Busch, Mary Beth Peil, Jonathan Walker, Scott Parkinson, Jennifer Van Dyck and Rebecca Levy. All of the actors play dual roles. Busch has worked with Andress on 10 plays.

“We’ve worked together so often, we’re in sync,” Busch said. “I am also excited to be working with a new group of actors who will help me tell an imaginative and uplifting story.”

‘The Third Story’

  • Sept. 16 – Oct. 19
  • Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse
  • 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla
  • (858) 550-1010,