Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole and Broadway’s Friendliest Feud

Criticism of an out-of-town tryout in Chicago last summer focused on relentless ping-ponging between its two subjects, who supposedly never met in real life. About a third of the show has been revised, the creators said, both to fortify the solo appearances and to find novel ways of bringing the characters together onstage.

“There was some tightening,” Mr. Frankel said, slipping into face-cream patois. “Because it’s the two of them, there’s a little bit of inherent back-and-forthness that’s intrinsic in the proposition of the evening, but I think we tried to find ways to mix that up in more unexpected ways.”

He and his colleagues were adamant that “War Paint” is not purely ladies’ entertainment, though the Broadway audience is disproportionately female, a demographic that has helped make shows like “Waitress into hits.

“There are metaphors inherent in the idea of makeup that I think transcend gender,” Mr. Wright said. “It offers a potential mask where you can pretend to be someone you aren’t; it offers a disguise if you don’t wish to be recognized; it offers an avenue toward a certain kind of perceived self-improvement; it is a kind of lure to attract someone else.”

But with its 10-odd costume changes designed by Catherine Zuber, including flying-saucer hats and piles of glittering jewelry, and makeup by Angelina Avallone, “War Paint” has been an occasion for the two stars to reflect on how cosmetics and other trappings have been integral to their long careers.

“Once I put on the wig it’s like ‘O.K., badda bing, badda boom,’” Ms. LuPone said. “I’m not the type of actress that goes into a corner and meditates for 20 minutes on the bones of Helena Rubinstein. Do you know what I mean?”


Ms. LuPone in “Gypsy” at the St. James Theater in 2008.


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