Cleopatra has been portrayed by some of the greatest actresses of stage and screen.

Claudette Colbert, Vivienne Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few, are among the actresses whose performances as the ancient Egyptian ruler inspired playwright Charles Busch to create his own “Cleopatra.”

But a woman isn’t always needed to play the queen of the Nile.

Columbus Immersive Theatre will present Busch’s gender-bending comedy, which premiered in 2016 in New York. The area premiere will open Friday at the Garden Theater’s Green Room as a benefit for Short North Stage.

“It’s hilarious,” said director Edward Carignan, producer of Columbus Immersive Theatre and artistic director of Short North Stage.

Following in the footsteps of Busch, who starred in the off-Broadway run, the 100-minute two-act requires a male actor for its title role, while other actors play both male and female parts.

“Busch’s sense of humor comes from a wink at the audience with over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek drag humor,” Carignan said.

“In college, when he wasn’t getting cast, Busch started writing roles for himself — grand-dame roles based on Hollywood divas.”

This is Columbus Immersive Theatre’s third production of a Busch comedy after performing “Psycho Beach Party” in 2015 and 2016.

Short North Stage, meanwhile, has staged other Busch comedies: “The Divine Sister” (2014) and “Die, Mommie, Die!” (2016).

“They’re outrageous comedies,” Carignan said.

“The plays are a huge draw for fans of broad farce … and people who love old studio films.”

“Cleopatra” charts the rise and fall of the queen, from her youth through her relationships with Romans Julius Caesar and Marc Antony to her suicide in 30 B.C.

“But it’s treated like a backstage story, with the focus on what’s happening behind the scenes while these major events are happening in Egypt and Rome,” Carignan said.

Busch loosely based his parodic play on director Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 Paramount film of “Cleopatra,” starring Colbert, and the epic 1963 film starring Taylor that almost bankrupted 20th Century-Fox.

“There are definitely moments of Colbert, but Busch captures Taylor’s specific air about her in this role, with lots of mugging and seductive looks,” Carignan said.

In Columbus, Nick Hardin will play Cleopatra.

“She takes pleasure in being manipulative and enjoys seeing her master plan unfold,” Hardin said.

“Very in control, she creates chaos and manages it, but also mismanages it.”

Hardin embraced the chance to tackle Cleopatra after having fun as Chicklet (a parody of Gidget) in “Psycho Beach Party.”

“Busch writes serious characters in outrageous situations,” Hardin said.

“Rather than making it a joke, you have to play these roles dead serious for the audience to find them funny.”

Cleopatra makes her entrance inside a rug carried by a muscular manservant.

“It’s the best entrance I’ve had the opportunity to play,” Hardin said.

Left in the desert to die by her brother, Ptolemy, Cleopatra sneaks back with her vanity intact.

“As soon as Cleopatra unrolls, she runs over and grabs a mirror to check her appearance, ignoring the indignity of her arrival,” Hardin said.

“Then, as if accompanied by a thousand soldiers, she says: ‘Greetings, Caesar, from Egypt!' … I just hope my wig stays on.”

Doug Joseph, who also appeared in “Die, Mommie, Die!” and “Psycho Beach Party,” plays Caesar.

“Caesar is the omnipotent all-knowing king of kings. ... When he’s murdered, he comes back twice (as a ghost) to give advice to Cleopatra,” Joseph said.

“He’s more a straight man but sets up some of the funny bits.”

Joseph also plays Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife.

“Because it’s Busch, there are underlying currents of drag and comedy,” he said.

“But Busch can be subtle when needed. He has a rather dry wit.”

mgrossberg1@gmail.com

@mgrossberg1