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Theater and Dance

19 Nov 2016
Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and I was hopeful as I settled into my seat at the Desert Rose Playhouse on opening night of The Santaland Diaries. I wanted to like it—and indeed, I did. However, I wish I’d liked it a little bit more. David Sedaris first presented his essay about working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s on National Public Radio in 1992. The piece was adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello in 1996, and the one-man show debuted at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York in November that year. The play, which runs not quite 90 minutes with no intermission, details Sedaris’ trials and tribulations as he first interviews for—and then lands—a position at Santaland as an assistant to the big man in red. The elf selection process has 30-something out-of-work actor David (played by Chris Clonts) on edge: “If you can’t even…
05 Nov 2016
How far should spousal loyalty go when your mate’s creative expression causes you emotional pain? When does a risqué hobby become deviancy—and who decides what’s deviant, anyway? These are the questions examined in Dezart Performs’ production of Casa Valentina. Harvey Fierstein’s provocative play earned four Tony nominations, including one for Best New Play, in 2014. The time in Casa Valentina is 1962—a more innocent yet much less tolerant era. A group of professional heterosexual men gather at a bungalow in the Catskills to relax and blow off steam. They eat, drink, dance and laugh—all while dressed as women. This haven for transvestites really existed, at a resort called Chevalier d’Eon, named after an 18th-century cross-dresser. The story was revealed when antiques dealer Robert Swopes stumbled across a box of pictures at a Manhattan flea market. Each photo captured these men in all their feminine glory: Bewigged and clad in dresses,…
29 Oct 2016
They call it synchronicity when similar events coincide. I had no idea what the word “Annapurna” meant—and yet I stumbled across its name and discovered its meaning just a couple of weeks before seeing the play of that title at Coachella Valley Repertory. Synchronicity! Turns out Annapurna is the Nepalese name of one of the 14 “over 8,000 meter high” mountains in the world—and it is listed as the deadliest of them all: One out of every three climbers of this rock has been killed. At CV Rep, the play’s director and the company’s founder and artistic director, Ron Celona, chose Sharr White’s Annapurna to start the company’s sixth season—and congratulations on succeeding in a business where so many theaters fail. However, this show is not about mountain-climbing. It’s about relationships—which can certainly be as dangerous, given the mortality rate of marriages these days. Ulysses and his wife Emma split…
25 Oct 2016
Dezart Performs has developed a reputation for presenting bold and avant-garde theatrical productions—so it means something when artistic director Michael Shaw says that the 2016-2017 season is Dezart’s boldest yet. Shaw says he has a fondness socially relevant yet “wacky” plays. Casa Valentina, Dezart’s season-opener, certainly fits that bill. Written by Harvey Fierstein, Casa Valentina received four 2014 Tony Award nominations, including a nomination for Best Play. Set in the Catskills in 1962, the play offers a peek into the lives of heterosexual men who enjoy dressing up and behaving like women. During the week, they pursue respectable careers as ad execs, lawyers and sales reps—but when the weekend rolls around, they cut loose and take on their female personas. Casa Valentina is owned and operated by George—whose alter ego is Valentina—as well as George’s wife, Rita. The play is based on a real-life haven for heterosexual transvestites that was…
01 Oct 2016
It’s autumn, and again, the theater season begins. How auspicious that the beginning of our fourth season of theater reviews coincides with the opening of the fifth season of plays by the fabulously successful Desert Rose Playhouse. With all the doom-sayers proclaiming that live theater is dead, and that newspapers are dead, we have both survived. This year, Desert Rose’s artistic director, Jim Strait, tells us that he and producer Paul Taylor are “addressing the woes of the world by doing comedy.” What a great idea! Their plans for 2016-17 include The Santaland Diaries, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom with Coma, Southern Baptist Sissies and Clark Gable Slept Here. If these crazy titles are any indication, we’re in for a LOT of fun this year at our desert’s LGBT playhouse. The initial offering, POZ, was written by Michael Aman. It’s set in 2003 in The City (as New Yorkers proudly call…
21 Jul 2016
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The Coachella Valley and High Desert are blessed with a variety of unique and ambitious local theater companies. But you would not necessarily know that’s the case in August: Not one of the Coachella Valley companies had a single regular show scheduled during the month. However, perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned over at Desert Rose Playhouse: The company just extended its run of Party by three weeks thanks to brisk ticket sales, so instead of ending on July 31, the comedy will now run through Aug. 21. In other words … there is indeed a theater audience around during the summer. Well, at least there is if a show involves nudity. Anyway, here’s what local theater-lovers can look forward to from the valley’s most prominent theater companies during the upcoming season. Coachella Valley Repertory Company cvrep.org CV Rep made headlines in July when it was announced that the…

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