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“Don’t sit in the front row!” director Jim Strait warned me before the show. So, of course, that’s exactly where I sat.

I thought he was maybe trying to protect me from too much, um, in-your-face nudity, which is a key part of Love! Valour! Compassion!, now at the Desert Rose Playhouse in Rancho Mirage. Instead, the issue is that thanks to a cast of seven actors, smart blocking and the ingenious use of the small space’s set design, every square inch of the area is used—including the floor between the audience’s shoes and the first riser. Many times, those of us in the first row needed to quickly tuck our feet under our chairs as actors moved right by us. But it was a pleasure to help out in any small way.

The play is this year’s “Gay Heritage Production”: Desert Rose annually schedules a key play from gay theatrical history, and this, written by the amazing Terrence McNally, won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1995. (It was also made into a film in 1997.) It is set in 1994, at a country house in upstate New York, over three weekends, each of which is featured in its own act: Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day.

Beyond the front-row warning, the nudity warning and perhaps a “language” warning, you should know this: The play lasts more than three hours. Yes! But don’t think you’ll squirm and fuss: The show is fascinating, and you’ll be glued to your seat. You’ll get to watch seven men (eight, actually—more about that later) live their lives and react to each other and grow … or not. Is there anything better?

The tech side, as always at Desert Rose Playhouse, is wonderful, with lighting by the gifted Phil Murphy, stage-managing by the eagle-eyed Steve Fisher, and costumes by Tom Valach—yes, there are costumes; the boys are not running around in their pelts the whole time. A couple of the sound cues could be re-thought, perhaps, and the splash effects could use some tinkering, but otherwise, the work is most excellent.

With seven or eight characters, a mob scene of confusion could result if casting choices were poor. However, producer Paul Taylor cleverly chose actors who have such distinctive and strong individual personalities that once we paste the name onto the face of each role, the characters stand out as clearly and unforgettably as your own friends. How he managed to do that—plus find this number of guys who were willing to take their clothes off in front of a room full of strangers—we can’t imagine.

Gregory is a successful choreographer who has invited friends to his idyllic country home (including a pond or lake perfect for skinny-dipping) for the long weekend. They know each other in different ways, professionally or personally. His partner is Bobby, the sweetest and most spiritual guy ever, who is also blind. Perry and Arthur, a 14-year-married couple—it’s never explained how they pulled that off so long before the beginning of legalization of gay marriage—are a lawyer and an accountant, respectively. To all appearances, they are living comfortably in the straight world. Sharply contrasting this, Buzz is an over-the-top, outrageous and flamboyant character who lives for Broadway musical comedies, of which he has an encyclopedic knowledge. John is a failed playwright, British and bitter—and he brings the snake into this Eden, a dangerously beautiful Puerto Rican dancer named Ramon. We get to sit back and watch the relationships, the feelings, the friendships of them all.

In the second act, we meet a surprise: John has an identical twin brother, James, who joins the group. Voila! There’s the eighth character we told you about. He is brilliantly played by the same actor (Terry Huber), switching back and forth with sometimes lightning-fast costume changes and attitudes. James is uptight John’s polar opposite; his personality is completely different—sunny and funny. He arrives because of the silent unspoken cloud hanging over everyone back in 1995—AIDS … which he has.

Every one of the actors must be lauded for learning these lines, which director Strait has timed magnificently—telescoping some, and using time-stopping pauses with the alacrity of a matador. This is not a project for the faint of heart, or memory. Over the three hours, someone is talking for about two hours and 55 minutes. But it’s the emotions you’ll remember, and the story of each person’s life—their struggles and triumphs and fears and joys.

Gregory is played by John Ferrare, the perfect leader of the group—he has a lovely presence with natural leadership. His frustration with his creative blockage is utterly believable—it’s eating away at him while he suppresses his fears and hopes it will magically go away. His partner, Bobby, is Jason Hull, fragile, warm, sensitive and alarmingly vulnerable—prey in every way. Mark Demry plays Arthur the accountant, and is totally convincing as a blithe but buttoned-down, successful, toeing-the-line gentleman. His partner, Perry, played by J. Stegar Thompson, is the lawyer—experiencing the feelings for both of them, and way more connected to everyone. He carries deep hurts and rails at the world over injustices and bad drivers. Buzz, impressively acted by Kam Sisco, gets a lot of the laughs, with his flighty effervescence and cute attempts to imitate the queens of Broadway like Gwen Verdon, whom he adores—yet his is the greatest arc, as he changes completely in Act 3, when we see his courage beneath the fluff. Richie Sandino is Ramon, the youthful Latino glamour boy who stirs up everything. He manages to achieve something rare and difficult for an actor: Most performers want to be loved and admired, and Ramon inspires neither in us. Impressive.

But Terry Huber is the standout, so smoothly playing the dual roles of John and James. Not only is the physical achievement of playing two parts impressive; it’s amazing to witness the instant psychological changes between them created with minimal costuming, achieved primarily by body language, attitude and voice. What an accomplishment! He has the most lines, with a couple of huge monologues delivered by each twin. Huber’s split-second changes between the uptight, sour, scary John and the adorable, bright, joyous James will leave you awestruck.

The writing, of course, is brilliant—McNally sets out to startle us. But the most shocking moment of the play comes not from the nudity or language at all, but when one character spits in another’s face.

This play runs for five weeks. Don’t miss it.

Love! Valour! Compassion! is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 15, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, located at 69620 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $28 to $30. For tickets or more information, call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

A Chorus Line—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The legendary musical about a group of performers auditioning for a Broadway show takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

CV Rep Luminary Luncheon: Theodore Bikel

Two-time Tony nominee who created the role of Captain von Trapp on Broadway opposite Mary Martin in The Sound of Music is also well-known for portraying Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway and elsewhere more than 2,000 times—more than any other actor. He is interviewed by Don Martin at noon, Wednesday, Jan. 28. $45; includes lunch catered by Lulu California Bistro. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Duck and Cover—From Dezart Performs

This play about 1962 America—and specifically the trials and tribulations of 12-year-old Stevie Whitebottom—makes its West Coast premiere at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 30, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $22 to $25. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

Esperanza: The Musical of Hope—From Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

A concert reading of this brand new musical takes place at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24. $22, with discounts. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; www.detctheatre.org.

Having Our Say—From CV Rep

The Delaney sisters—Sadie, 103 years old, and Bessie, 101—take the audience on a journey through the last 100 years of our nation’s history, from their perspectives as African-American professionals, at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Wednesday, Jan. 21, through Sunday, Feb. 8. There are also 2 p.m., Saturday, matinees on Jan. 31 and Feb. 7. $45 regular; $55 opening night on Friday, Jan. 23; $40 previews on Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 21 and 22. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

An Ideal Husband—From Theatre 29

Blackmail, political corruption, intrigue, romance and razor-sharp wit all abound in equal measure in this piece of satire by Oscar Wilde, performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Jan. 9, through Saturday Feb. 7; there are also matinee shows at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 18 and Feb. 1. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Lost in Yonkers—From Desert Theatreworks

Neil Simon’s tale of two boys stuck at their grandmother’s house in 1942 is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 16, through Sunday, Jan. 25. $25 regular; $23 seniors and students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

Love! Valour! Compassion!—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play about a group of longtime gay friends is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 16, through Sunday, Feb. 15. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

McCallum Theatre

Night Fever: A Musical Tribute to The Bee Gees takes place at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 9; $30 to 55. Palm Springs Legends II gathers performers playing the stars that made Palm Springs the place to be, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10; $25 to $65. The Peking Acrobats perform at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 13; $20 to $35. Broadway legend Tommy Tune performs Taps, Tunes and Tales with the Desert Symphony at 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 15; $55 to $105. Tangos Buenos Aires arrives from Argentina at 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 19; $25 to $75. The Alberta Ballet dances at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27; $25 to $85. Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles takes the stage at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 30; and 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31; $35 to $85. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

Annenberg Theater Events

CK Dance Presents: The Nutcracker takes place at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5; and 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6. $20 to $30. The Dance With Miss Lindsay Holiday Showcase, including dancers from age 3 to adult performing holiday classics, is at 2 and 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. $15 to $20. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Cinderella—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The Rodgers and Hammerstein version of the classic fairytale takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Dec. 5, through Sunday, Dec. 21. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Happy Hour—a Staged Reading From CV Rep

This in-development play by George Eastman stars Michael Shaw and Gavin MacLeod, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. $20; a dessert reception follows both shows. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Holiday on Broadway

The CV Rep cabaret show of holiday stage favorites stars Julie Garnyé and Ashley Fox Linton, with accompanist James May, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14. $25. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

The Madcap Underground—From COD Theatre

The annual sketch-comedy offering from the College of the Desert Dramatic Arts Company returns with holiday bells, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13. $15. At Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; collegeofthedesert.edu.

McCallum Theatre

Oh What a Night, a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is performed in concert with the Desert Symphony at 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 11; $45 to $95. Colors of Christmas stars Peabo Bryson, Taylor Dayne, Jennifer Holliday and Ruben Studdard in an evening of pop hits and holiday favorites  backed by a 12-piece band and a choir, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14; $55 to $95. Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jóse Hernández presents Merri-Achi Christmas at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20; $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Scrooge in Rouge—From Desert Rose Playhouse

The play has a cast of 20—but 17 of the actors get food poisoning. Of course, the show must go on, so the three remaining actors do the best they can; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 21. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Shakespeare in Hollywood—From Theatre 29

It’s 1934, and famous Shakespeare fairies Oberon and Puck have suddenly materialized on the Warner Bros. set of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; a hilarious farce ensues, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, Dec. 20, with 2:30 p.m., Sunday, matinees on Nov. 30 and Dec. 14. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

A Starry Christmas Concert

This benefit show for a Layne family star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars features 13 singers performing Christmas music, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. $15. At the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

The very premise is outrageous: At an English music hall, 17 of 20 cast members have been stricken with food poisoning, leaving only three people to perform all the roles in their presentation of A Christmas Carol.

At opening-night of Scrooge in Rouge at the Desert Rose Playhouse, the three actors-as-actors floored the audience with multilayered performances. The show runs through Dec. 21, so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy this rare treat.

There is much to keep the audience’s attention. First off, the play features much hilarity, ranging from sly puns to amusing asides to outright groaners. (British humor, of course.) Next, attendees will be in awe at the indescribable energy of the show (more about this later). Then there’s the dazzling swirl of costumes and wigs and role-playing.

Should we really be surprised? Director Jim Strait’s proven forte is the multilayered interpretation of a script. But this show is extraordinary, because Strait lets us glimpse, in each of his actors, not just the many different roles they play, but the actors beneath that—their vanity, desperation, foolishness, competitiveness and consuming love of their work. We see the results of their British-theater training, in their wide-open-mouthed, flawless diction, and in their show-must-go-on tradition. We see their fleeting doubts about what they are doing, and their split-second of hesitation before plunging into a disaster-remedying (they hope) improvisation. You will never see more layers on anything, except maybe an onion.

The play begins with a tribute to beloved Queen Victoria, whose stern portrait glares out at us from the wall. We have to remember that the naughtiness of British music halls was a reaction to her reign, which was so strict and rule-bound that the legs of tables were covered with sleeves, lest they provoke impure thoughts. (Table legs?!) So immediately, we see the cast’s bawdy side.

The energy will leave you open-mouthed. The cast-members never stop moving, and their rapid changes of wardrobe are astonishing; Strait’s pacing guarantees a whirlwind of action. The laughs come one on top of another.

Timm McBride plays Mr. Charlie Schmaltz, an aging and world-weary entertainer who could never imagine doing anything else, and who will be onstage for the rest of his life. He probably began his career as a child performer and learned his craft from older actors. Now, none of this is told to us, but thanks to McBride’s thoughtful interpretation of this role, we don’t need to be told. It’s all there in his beautifully acted character—we get informative flashes about his life and mindset underneath his work. This is an example of perfect casting.

Ryan Dominguez is Miss Vesta Virile, who, as the juvenile in the cast, is assigned some of the weirdest tasks. We sense that the older actors are slightly threatened by his youth and promise, and they maybe bully him a little—yet he tackles everything with high energy and full attention. He demonstrates that wonderful vocal projection that all English actors must learn, giving his voice a crispness and carrying quality that is wondrous to the ear. Dominguez’s comedic talents are apparently bottomless, and he should never again waste his time on any project that doesn’t show them off. One of my many favorite moments in the show occurs when he is left alone onstage to handle the audience—which doesn’t go well—and he screams to his backstage cohorts, “They’re turning on me!”

Alexander Todd is the hilarious Miss Lottie Obligatto, and he astonishingly voices almost the entire show in a soprano range. Only an opera-trained performer could manage such a challenging role. My vocal cords ached in sympathy, but Todd breezed through with alacrity. Todd brings to the role an ability to imply Lottie’s, uh, colorful past, her career struggles, her professional training … and a fabulous pair of legs! This talented performer manages to convey Lottie’s brief doubts about the new roles into which she is thrust, making her even funnier as she leaps gamely into them. If his fellow actors weren’t so great, Todd would steal the show.

Producer Paul Taylor cleverly collected the valley’s best theater talent to help make the show a success: Phil Murphy to design the lighting, Tom Valach to create the scenery, Steve Fisher to stage-manage. The excellent wigs are by Toni Molano, and the costume design is by Jennifer Brawn Gittings, with costume coordinator Mark Demry. Taylor’s choices pay off magnificently.

I haven’t even fully mentioned yet that the show is a musical! Steven Smith, on the stage as the accompanist Alfred da Capo, masterminded the music direction—and it’s just right. Michael Mizerany choreographed the show, with book and lyrics by Ricky Graham. A lot of brainpower and talent has gone into the production of this play, and it all shows.

You don’t need to have been to a British music hall to appreciate Scrooge in Rouge. The cast will teach you, and you’ll love it—every wild moment, every outrageous setup, every laugh. And you’ll love the multiple layering of the hardworking actors. No matter how you feel about the holidays, Scrooge in Rouge will make the season just a little bit better.

Scrooge in Rouge is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 21, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 69620 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $30 for Friday and Saturday shows, and $28 for Sunday matinees. For tickets or more information, call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins—From Desert Rose Playhouse

This comedy is set in 1977 and focuses on 15-year-old Horace Poore’s sexual awakening, hastened by images of Olympic champion Mark Spitz and anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Oct. 19. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Broadway D-Lights—From Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

Three of the valley’s top vocalists—Keisha D, Charles Herrera and Jerome Elliott—perform at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 17. A portion of the proceeds go to Desert Ensemble’s high school scholarship fund. $30. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; www.brownpapertickets.com/event/848586.

The Chosen—From CV Rep

The award-winning play tells the story of two boys, two fathers and two different Jewish communities in 1940s Brooklyn, N.Y., at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Wednesday, Oct. 29, through Sunday, Nov. 16. $45; $40 previews on Oct. 29 and 30; $55 opening night on Oct. 31. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

CV Rep Luminary Luncheon: Millicent Martin

The well-known star of both stage and screen—you may know her as Daphne’s mother on Frasier—is interviewed by Don Martin at noon, Wednesday, Oct. 22. $45; includes lunch catered by Lulu/Acqua Pazza. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Desert Theatre League Star Awards

Celebrate the best of the most recent theater season, starting at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5. $50. At Sun City Shadow Hills, 80875 Avenue 40, Indio. 760-772-9617; deserttheatreleague.org.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Theatre 29

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Oct. 3, though Saturday, Nov. 1, with additional matinees at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 12 and 26. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Oct. 24, through Sunday, Nov. 2. $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Noises Off!—From Desert Theatreworks

Desert Theatreworks re-imagines what’s been called the funniest farce ever written for their intimate Arthur Newman Theatre space, at 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Oct. 24, through Sunday, Nov. 9. No shows on Oct. 26 and Oct. 31. $25 regular; $23 seniors and students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

The Rocky Horror Show—From COD Theatre

The campy rock musical that made “The Time Warp” famous is performed at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 24; 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25; 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26; 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 30; 7 p.m. and midnight, Friday, Oct. 31; 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. Most shows $30 general, with discounts for students, COD staff and seniors; call to confirm times. At Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; collegeofthedesert.edu.

Sundays in Summer Series

Jan Abrams sings songs from World War II at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5. Sheldon Craig performs Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 12. Julie Esposito sings songs in a range of musical styles from the 1960s to today at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 19. Diane Pancel pays tribute to Day, Garland and Monroe in Ladies of Hollywood at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26. Each show is $11; cash only at the box office. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-325-2731; www.lesmichaels.com/joslyn.

The Who’s Tommy—From Palm Canyon Theatre

In this famous rock musical, Tommy is traumatized into catatonia after he witness his father commit murder. As an adolescent, he discovers a natal knack for pinball, and becomes an international pinball superstar; at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Oct. 12. $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

There is one reason, really, to go see Desert Rose Playhouse’s production of Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins: The absolutely stunning performance by Garrett Hoy as Horace Poore, a young man dealing with the realization that he’s gay in 1970s rural America.

This is not to say there aren’t other great performances in the play; in fact, the entire cast is excellent. So, too, is the direction by Jim Strait. Brian Christopher Williams’ script is compelling, despite a few flaws, and the production values are just as we’ve come to expect at Desert Rose—excellent.

But it’s the amazing work by Hoy you’ll be talking about as you leave the theater. This two-hour play is, essentially, a monologue by Hoy’s Horace Poore. He is narrating his journey as he moves from being a 7-year-old in 1969 who watches in horror as his big brother, Chaz (Alex Enriquez), flees to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War draft, to being a 15-year-old in 1977 who comes out to his family after realizing he’s gay.

The national concerns of the 1970s—that war, a recession, Watergate, the energy crisis—directly affect the Poore family and their Adirondack Mountains community. Horace’s mother, Etta (a homey, hilarious Lorraine Williamson) loses her job in a shirt-making factory due to the economy—and has a hard time finding another due to her age and a lack of a high school diploma. Horace’s gruff but loving father, Myron (a fantastic J. Stegar Thompson), is forced to deal with the sigma of having a draft-dodging son while working as his union’s president. Brother Chaz loses touch with the family until President Jimmy Carter’s pardon allows him to return from Canada. Meanwhile, the entire Poore family deals with the screams of one of their neighbors, a mentally challenged, doll-clutching middle-aged woman named Agnes (Toni Molano).

Heavy topics, yes. However, this play is surprisingly light-hearted, thanks to the charm and awkward, youthful charisma of Hoy’s Horace. While these aforementioned news events affect him, too, it’s other noteworthy happenings that cause Horace’s mind to race. First comes swimmer Mark Spitz’s domination of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Spitz’s historic accomplishments don’t necessarily enthrall Horace—but “bronze God” Spitz’s smooth, muscled body does.

“I’ve always known I was different. Now I know why,” Horace sighs.

Horace is further thrown into turmoil when he stumbles into the middle school locker room one day and spies, naked in the shower, his own, local version of Mark Spitz (and the lust that he represents): Mr. Spencer, the school’s gym teacher (Domingo Winstead). In the months and years that follow, Mr. Spencer and Horace grow close.

Several years later comes a second news event that particularly roils Horace: The emergence on the national scene of Anita Bryant, the singer, beauty queen and orange-juice spokeswoman who took it upon herself to fight an ordinance in Dade County, Fla., that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As any American who was alive back then knows, her “Save Our Children” campaign turned her into a prominent spokeswoman for the anti-gay movement. Her popularity rattles Horace; he can’t wait to get the newspaper each day to learn more.

Daniel Vaillancourt and Katie Pavao each play a variety of characters, generally 1970s news figures who emerge and offer visuals and narration to complement Horace’s musings. Pavao spends much of her time earning laughs and stealing scenes as Anita Bryant. (Despite the name of the play, Anita Bryant is still alive, by the way, although her career is certainly dead.)

Williamson and Thompson are fantastic as Horace’s parents. They create nuanced characters who are alternately hilarious, loving and troubled. The two also have great chemistry together; one of the show’s best scenes occurs when an angry Etta confronts Myron after he’s fired from his job. By the end of the scene, the tables are turned: Etta is comforting and consoling Myron. Great stuff.

This play’s problems, minor though they may be, largely involve the chronology and how it’s telegraphed. The play starts with a broadcast of the 1977 World Series, and then suddenly shifts back eight years, to 1969. However, there weren’t enough verbal and visual cues to clearly illustrate this shift right way, and I was left for several minutes wondering what had happened. (A major typo in the program—it lists the play’s timing as “October 1977 and eight years proceeding,” rather than preceding—contributed to my confusion.)

Also: Perhaps I missed something, but it seemed like Horace first glimpsed Mr. Spencer in the junior-high locker-room shortly after Horace’s 1972 Mark Spitz infatuation. However, it wasn’t until Bryant’s emergence on the national scene in 1977 that Horace began talking about soon entering high school. That would mean Horace spent five years in junior high. Huh?

Whatever. Timing confusion is not the point here: The point is that Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins is fantastic because Garrett Hoy is so fantastic. His Horace seems so darned real. We’ve all seen child actors before who, because they are taught to E-NUN-CI-ATE! by their acting teachers, come out onstage and speak like seasoned politicians. Hoy, however, doesn’t always enunciate his words all that well. In fact, at times, he seems to ramble—yet he’s always understandable. In other words, he talks like a 15-year-old. Perfect.

I was also blown away by Hoy’s command of the script. This role would be difficult for a seasoned, veteran performer, as Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins is essentially a two-hour monologue by Horace, with some breaks here and there. Only once during the entire show did I sense that Hoy was having difficulty (and that moment lasted maybe two seconds, total). Brilliant work.

After the show, which concluded with a standing ovation for Hoy, director Jim Strait told me this is the first nonmusical role for Hoy ever. The folks at Desert Rose, the valley’s LGBT and LGBT-friendly theater company, knew Hoy thanks to his role in the company’s performance of Falsettos in Concert two years ago. They were left so impressed, Strait said, that they checked to make sure Hoy was available to play Horace before the company added the play to the schedule as the 2014-2015 season-opener.

“Not bad for a 15-year-old,” I told Strait, grossly understating things

“Actually, Garrett’s still 14,” Strait said.

Wow. Go see Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins, and enjoy one of the best performances you’re likely to see on a Coachella Valley stage this season.

Desert Rose Playhouse’s Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Oct. 19, at 69260 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $28 to $30. For tickets or more information, call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Set in New York City in 1987, 2 Boys explores the sexual etiquette of one-night stands and is peppered with poignant, humorous and sly observations. The play contains nudity and sexual situations; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Sept 7. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

The 39 Steps—From Theatre 29

Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, then add a dash of Monty Python, and you have The 39 Steps, a fast-paced whodunit. At 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, Sept. 13, with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Sept. 7. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins—From Desert Rose Playhouse

This comedy is set in 1977 and focuses on 15-year-old Horace Poore’s sexual awakening, hastened by images of Olympic champion Mark Spitz and anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant. Horace fixates first on Spitz, then his ambiguous gym teacher, and finally the orange juice pitchwoman/“Save Our Children” zealot; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Sept. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 19. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

CV Rep’s Children’s Outreach Production: Touchy Subjects

Touchy Subjects addresses the important subject of sexual harassment in the school system, one of the most common forms of bullying in schools today. The play uses a creative approach by sharing different situations that children encounter. The play is performed by children’s peers. Two public performances take place at 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 27. $10 adults; free to children younger than 17. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Seminar—From Desert Theatreworks

Set in present-day New York City, this comedy follows four young writers: Kate, Martin, Douglas and Izzy; and their professor, Leonard. Each student has paid Leonard $5,000 for a 10-week-long writing seminar to be held in Kate’s Upper West Side apartment. As tensions arise and romance falls between students, they clash over their writing, their relations and their futures; at 7 p.m., Friday; and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, from Friday, Sept. 5, through Saturday, Sept. 13. $25 regular; $23 seniors; $15 students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

Shattered Ceilings—From Theatre 29

Theatre 29 hosts this touring play that spotlights an array of remarkable women who made significant contributions to our nation through courage, imagination and conviction, despite obstacles of inequality. The project combines performance art with public school curriculum development designed to change the fact that only 2 percent of persons named in high school history books are women. At 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26 and 27. $15. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Sundays in Summer Series

Jack Betts takes a musical journey through his acting career in On My Way Here, at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 3. Jaci Davis, accompanied by the Derrik Lewis Trio, sings songs from Minnelli, Fitzgerald and Streisand at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 10. Ron Cohn celebrates his birthday with Live and Let Live at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 17. Juliana Hansen sings hits from Broadway, Disney and more at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 24. Husband and wife Broadway performers, Rachel Tyler and Matthew Tyler will bring their cabaret concert For Better, Or Worse, at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 31. Each show is $11; cash only at the box office. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-325-2731.

The Who’s Tommy—From Palm Canyon Theatre

In this famous rock musical, Tommy is traumatized into catatonia after he witness his father commit murder. As an adolescent, he discovers a natal knack for pinball, and becomes an international pinball superstar; at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Sept. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 12. $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

True West—From Palm Canyon Theatre

Austin, is a college-educated Hollywood screenwriter working on a screenplay while house-sitting for his mother. Enter his older brother, Lee, a drifter and a thief who has been living in the desert; at 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19, and Saturday, Sept. 20; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 21. $27 to 35. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

The season at the Desert Rose Playhouse doesn’t officially begin until September, so two-man-play 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night is what artistic director Jim Strait calls a “lagniappe,” a delightful Cajun word you rarely hear outside of the South—meaning a “little bit extra.”

While this extra play has its charms, in the end, it just doesn’t capture us.

Producer Paul Taylor’s choice of this one-act add-on has helped make Desert Rose a year-round theater. Many of us remember when the desert seemingly shut down completely in the summer; for anyone to open a play in August was unthinkable. But it’s 2014, and a full house of fans turned out to take in this lagniappe, which will run for three weeks. Good for Desert Rose!

Don’t think that DRP has scrimped on the energy and time always lavished on its productions because it’s the summer. This play is a tricky one … well, maybe it was a tad easier for costume designer Mark Demry, since the cast is nude most of the time. Maybe lighting director Phil Murphy got a break, too, as the whole play is in real time, about an hour and a half in the night, and indoors, in a New York apartment—he doesn’t need to supply sunrises, storms or other fancy effects. But imagine the challenges for stage manager Steve Fisher, not to mention the director, Strait himself. The set is, well, a bed. It’s in a corner of a tiny New York apartment, with not much opportunity for blocking—a director’s nightmare. (Some of those New York apartments were/are REALLY tiny!)

It’s important for the audience to understand the time factor: This play is set in 1987. It’s the post-disco era, and to be gloriously single was to own the world. Except … we were already under the shadow of the wings of that disease. People were starting to sneak off to be tested. Rumors abounded. Nothing was clear, except that it seemed to be mostly in the gay community. Mostly. This is not the topic of 2 Boys in a Bed, though, of course, it is addressed eventually.

We find Peter and Daryl in the aftermath of a casual encounter. And this is where it happens: Is this The Start of Something Big, or another meaningless and forgettable experience? Both gay and straight audiences will see something in this play, as it reminds oneself how everyone feels at the beginning of a relationship, when the clock starts ticking, and we don’t know when it will (ever?) stop.

Peter and Daryl are finding out each other’s thoughts about all the important stuff: How do you feel about your past? Your future? (OUR future?) How do you feel about your personal pain? What makes you shy? What are your goals? How important is sex in a relationship? Are you telling the truth or lying? Peter and Daryl wobble through all these topics and more, as we all did/do. Not many people are good at reading others instantly, so they have to trailblaze through the forest of each other to find out the answers. And that’s the show, folks.

The hard-working actors—Ryan Dominguez as Daryl, and Chris Horychata as Peter—bring a couple of valuable assets to the play. First, thanks to their flawless skin and nice bodies, they’re easy on the eyes—and they are not self-consciousness about waltzing around in their nakedness. Second, they have their lines down pat. 2 Boys in a Bed is a hugely talky play—words words words, nonstop. (How much action can you weave through the dialogue in a one-act play set in a bed?) This is where an actor really earns his salt, because timing, the interpretation of emotion and body language become paramount.

That said, here’s where it gets sticky: Does the audience believe? Do we disappear into the play and forget ourselves?

Peter is supposed to be a construction worker, and I didn’t believe that for a second. We’ve all gone past enough construction sites to know what those guys generally look like—and this guy is strictly indoors.  Daryl is supposed to be an artist, yet Dominguez never exhibited anything that would make us believe he’s an artistic type for even an instant. There are a few other credibility-killers, but you can discover them yourself.

Alas, we don’t believe. We do not disappear into the play and lose ourselves. We just don’t see the push-pull of a new relationship being born (or not).

It’s difficult to discern whether this is the fault of the players or the script—but there is a lack of chemistry here that leaves us cold. As cold, say, as a winter’s night.

2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night is performed at at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Sept 7, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 69260 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $28 to $30. For tickets or more information, call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Set in New York City in 1987, 2 Boys explores the sexual etiquette of one-night stands and is peppered with poignant, humorous and sly observations. The play contains nudity and sexual situations; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Sept 7. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

The 39 Steps—From Theatre 29

Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, then add a dash of Monty Python, and you have The 39 Steps, a fast-paced whodunit. At 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Aug. 15, through Saturday, Sept. 13, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, Aug. 24 and Sept. 7. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Happy Hour: A Staged Reading—From CV Rep

Gavin MacLeod and Michael Shaw star in the staged reading of George Eastman’s play; at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 2; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 3. A dessert reception follows. $20. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

He Loves and She Loves—From CV Rep’s Summer Cabaret Series

Erika and Brent Schindele star in this evening of love songs from “boy meets girl” to “happily ever after”; at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 9; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 10. $25. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Mixed Plate, an Un-Gala Fundraiser for Desert Rose Playhouse

An evening of song and dance by favorite performers, as well as fun, friends and fabulous food from LuLu/Acqua Pazza and iPastries is a money-raiser for the theater company, with a reception at 7 p.m., and a performance at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 16. $40. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

The Stops—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Three women (played by men) embark on a mission after their friend and mentor, an Evangelical Christian composer and organist, is ousted from his music-minister position—because he’s gay; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, extended through Sunday, Aug. 3. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Sundays in Summer Series

Actor, singer, playwright and director Jack Betts performs his one-man mini-musical, On My Way Here, at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 3. Accompanied by the Derrik Lewis Trio, Jaci Davis debuts her new show, Liza and Ella and Babs, Oh My! at 2 p.m., thSunday, Aug. 10. Ron Cohn celebrates his birthday with Live and Let Live, a cabaret show about his favorite composer, Cole Porter, at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 17. Each show is $11; cash only at the box office. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-325-2731.

The Vagina Monologues

The series of monologues by Eve Ensler is presented by the Smiley Face, the Frown Entertainment Co. and Georgie’s Alibi Azul Patio; 7:30 p.m., Saturday; and 3:30 p.m., Sunday, from Saturday, Aug. 2, through Sunday, Aug. 31. $15; special three-course prix-fixe dinner for $45. At Georgie’s Alibi Azul Patio, 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-5533; www.alibiazul.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

Bubblegum’s Anonymous: Chew on This—From CV Rep’s Summer Cabaret Series

This show is a fast-paced, lighthearted twist on 12-step programs for people who love bubblegum music, and stars Gilmore Rizzo; at 7 p.m., Friday, July 18; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, July 19; and 2 p.m., Sunday, July 20. $25. Also, at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 26, CV Rep’s Conservatory Writers’ Group presents Tales From the Twilight Café, a staged reading of new works. $10. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Children’s Theatrical Series at the Annenberg Theater: Dream Carver

The Annenberg Theater of the Palm Springs Art Museum offers a summer series of children’s live theatrical productions. At noon and 3 p.m., Saturday, July 5, Swazzle Inc. presents Dream Carver, a 55-minute bilingual musical based on the book by Diana Cohn. $15 children 16 and younger; $20 for adults. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

A Doll’s House—From Theatre 29

Torvald Helmer loves his wife, Nora, but he considers her a child and a possession. When a secret debt comes back to haunt her, Nora’s seemingly idyllic domestic existence becomes a fraught battleground. Shows at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, July 19, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, July 6 and 13. No show on July 4. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Fiddler on the Roof—From Green Room Theatre Company

This production of the classic musical stars young actors, age 13 to 24, and is preceded by a short showcase of lighthearted scenes featuring 8- to 12-year-olds, at 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 16; and 1 and 6 p.m., Thursday, July 17. $18 general; $10 students and seniors. At the Indian Wells Theatre at CSU San Bernardino Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St., Palm Desert. 760-696-2546; www.greenroomtheatrecompany.org.

Seussical the Musical—From Palm Canyon Theatre

Inspired by Dr. Seuss’ most famous tales, this lively musical is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, July 11, through Sunday, July 20. $25 general; $10 children and students. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

The Stops—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Three women (played by men) embark on a mission after their friend and mentor, an Evangelical Christian composer and organist, is ousted from his music-minister position—because he’s gay; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Saturday, July 19. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Sundays in Summer Series

Let Me Be Frank is an original live show, created by and starring Angelo Divino, honoring Frank Sinatra with his story and songs, spanning five decades; at 2 p.m., Sunday, July 6. Born to Sing stars Keisha D in a musical cabaret show also featuring Charles Herrera, Michael Bolivar, John Bolivar and Charlie Creasy; at 2 p.m., Sunday, July 13. $11; cash only at the box office. Call for information about other Sunday shows. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-325-2731.

Published in Theater and Dance

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