Share story

In her (alleged) final farewell American tour, the irresistible, irrepressible Dame Edna Everage gives her recipe for a dream retirement: Eat. Pray (she learned how to recently, at an Indian ashram). And laugh.

From her impeccable mauve hair to her flouncy, sparkling dress (a hand-me-down from Charo?) to her silvery pumps, this former Melbourne, Australia, housewife is all about making her devoted flock laugh themselves silly.

She is doing just that The Moore Theatre through Sunday. And at 80, with a little help from a teleprompter onstage, Dame Edna (created and performed by Barry Humphries) is still wallowing in her shameless gloriousness.

If you are among the uninitiated, try to visualize a unique gigastar (that’s a notch above megastar), wildly overdressed and sporting rhinestone-studded, wingtip glasses, while gleefully lording it over her besotted audience and — well, the entire planet.

Though her show is plumped up with some hilarious “biographical” and testimonial video (Hugh Jackman says some naughty things about her), and a few Noël Coward-esque ditties performed with a pianist and a few chorus boys and gals, the heart of La Dame’s act is stand-up comedy laced with improvisation and smiling venom.

Be warned: She picks out audience members to coo over and mock. She matchmakes a superbly unlikely couple and marries them onstage. She rats on her disappointing adult children. (“The secret of a good life is, family comes last!”)

But while you may feel a twinge of guilt guffawing over her put-downs of “senior citizens” in the crowd, and those dressed “affordably” but not up to her high-kitsch standards, do remember this:

Everything about dear Edna, and everything that has vaulted her during the past 30 years from a variety skit to a favorite of the Royal Family and legions of fawning “possum” fans, is fabulously phony. She’s a sharply satirical, irony-drenched cartoon of a celebrity famous for being famous — and an imperious arbiter whose heavily lipsticked mouth grimaces with horror, or queasiness, when she’s displeased.

Humphries is simply a genius at lampooning the kind of done-up, imperious auntie who behind your back (or to your face), sweetly critiques your outfit, choice of mate, your decorum, aging process, income bracket and sexuality.

When she gazes up at the Moore balcony and refers to those in the “cheap seats” as “les miserables,” she’s both affectionate and dismissive, wildly un-P.C. and brutally frank.

In her defense, Dame Edna insists she has “mild Asperger’s syndrome” and “says the things other people wished they could say” but keep a lid on. And she does it with the kind of Aussie cheek and randiness (loads of double entendres) that thoroughly demolish any pretensions to good taste.

Like all great improvisers, Humphries does his local homework. So in Seattle (the first major stop on the “Glorious Goodbye” tour, and, she says, “a part of America little bit off the beaten track”) Edna is also taking mild swipes at Bellevue, Mayor Murray and Big Bertha, along with digs at Bill Cosby (“he offered to freshen up my drink”) and ashram-slumming.

Some of the new material had not quite jelled, and a telephone bit ran into difficulties. Some nipping and tucking, pardon the expression, will likely occur during the run.

But Edna emerged from her ashram retreat with even more blazing ego than before. “I adore myself!” she crowed, before her usual finale of flinging gladioli to the masses.

The feeling is mutual, dear lady. And Humphries, who takes a well-earned bow in male garb, is a big tease. He hints we may not have seen the last of you yet.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com