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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Huzzah! The season has begun—and the only season that matters, of course, is the theater season—and it began with Rancho Mirage’s Desert Rose Playhouse, as usual.

Desert Rose’s season kickoff included a special event this year: the christening of the Phil Murphy and Robert McCracken Stage. You know these names; they’re the star supporters of DRP, and Phil has designed the lighting for the theater’s shows from the beginning in 2010. (They also own the cutest and most obedient theater puppy, a little darling who willingly attends every performance.) The theater’s founders, Paul Taylor and Jim Strait, held a special pre-show ceremony, praising Murphy and McCracken’s “matchless talents, generosity and friendship.” This kind of act gives a whole new meaning to “support for the arts,” because over the summer, the two donors financed, designed and built an entirely new lighting system for the theater. Inspirational. Congratulations, all!

So begins Desert Rose’s season as our area’s LGBT theater, this year to include five offerings. The first, Loot, by playwright Joe Orton, will run for five weekends. Director Jim Strait informed his packed house of first-nighters that the play had originally opened in England in 1966, where even the Brits were too shocked by it to let it live—despite the new freewheeling spirit in music, film and fashion. (Bell bottoms! Mini skirts! Carnaby Street!) Loot was revived several years later, when it became a huge hit.

Here’s the thing about British comedies: They’re like Beaujolais—they don’t always travel. For the life of me, I can’t understand why. I’m reminded of the experience of seeing a movie—also in 1966, in fact—in London, where I laughed so long and hard that tears poured down my face. Several months later, back in North America, the same film arrived in a theater, and I dragged a bunch of friends to see it, cautioning them not to hurt themselves from roaring with laughter. Everyone sat there pretty much stone-faced. WHY?? Who knows?

So for producer Paul Taylor to bring a play like Loot to American audiences is brave, indeed. Many aspects of the play need to be considered, not the least of which is what to do about the British accents. For Americans to understand the many dialects of England is not always easy, and we all know some people who would be lost without the subtitles while watching, for example, the addictive Downton Abbey on TV. Director Strait has chosen a safe and comprehensible “mid-Atlantic” accent, neither British nor American, for his actors. It means you can always perfectly understand them—but some of the comedy might be sacrificed without the hilarity or lilt of English speech.

It’s all about the choices, isn’t it? The posture. The timing. The comedic attitude. The costumes, by Mark Demry. The stage managing of Steve Fisher. The set design of Thomas L. Valach. And we’ve already mentioned Phil Murphy’s lighting, of course.

But the actors’ choices are most important of all. Wendy Cohen plays Faye, the only female in the cast, a chameleon-like character who constantly switches her relationships and her villainess/heroine attitude. (Confidentially, we wouldn’t weep if her first costume was replaced—it’s too large for her, and the color is just wrong.) Garnett Smith, the most physically comedic member of the cast, romps through his role as the bereaved husband, father and resident victim. Harold/Hal, his son, is played by Jason Hull, a terrific choice, since his body type is so like Garnett Smith’s that it makes their father-son relationship totally believable. Hal’s dangerous friend Dennis is played by Tim McGivney, and speaking of body types, he resembles Hal enough to make them seem like natural friends—great casting! Tom Warrick has the role of Truscott, a mysterious and bombastic creature who insists he’s from the Water Board, which hardly anyone believes, as we all watch him become progressively weirder. Meadows, played by Allen Jensen in his desert acting debut, is an offstage cop, about whom many references are made until, just when we think we’ll never see him, he appears at last!

Orton’s script is a talky one, full of the British Comedy Absolute Requirements of panic, lack of logic, misunderstandings, surprises, murky motivations, incessant entrances and exits with banging doors, contradictions, preposterous situations, plans going awry, shrieking, tears, cover-ups, absurdities, shifting alliances, reversals of fortune and general total outrageousness. The hardworking cast members have their hands full, because there’s a lot to master in this show, and that comedic timing is essential to making it work. They get more laughs in the second act (perhaps aided by an intermission during which we are bombarded with great ’60s music).

If anything, I’d like to see this cast give us more—bigger reactions, more expressive faces, wilder gestures and more extreme body work. I really hope they loosen up a bit, relax into their roles and enjoy the sheer fun of this brand of comedy. What would feel like overacting in America is routine style in England!

Like they say: A comedian is someone who says funny things, but a comic is one who says things funny. And this is a show made for comics—on either side of the Atlantic.

Loot is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Oct. 25, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 69620 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $30 to $33. For tickets or more information, call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

You might think a critic’s worst nightmare is seeing a show in which there is absolutely nothing to criticize. You’d be wrong.

Here I am, smiling, while writing to tell you about a musical revue you’ll love, because Vitamin Q at the Desert Rose Playhouse is a total joy.

It’s perfect summer fare, because it’s light and fun and pokes gentle, sly, affectionate humor at the gay community. It’s filled with clever lyrics, interesting melodies, terrific comedy and—yes—even dancing! The theater is deliciously cool and comfortable, unlike some establishments which freeze us out with violent, sniffle-inducing air conditioning, thinking they’re doing us some kind of favor by giving us cold fingers and running noses. In other words, you are in for a total treat at this show. Savvy producer Paul Taylor has scheduled Vitamin Q through the last weekend in July, so you can see it more than once.

Staged and directed by the uber-talented Jim Strait, who modestly doesn’t credit himself as the show’s creator, it’s written by Eric Lane Barnes. Taylor and Strait approached the playwright after the success of last season’s The Stops, and suggested a musical revue of Barnes’ work. Apparently the result was a deluge of Barnes’ material; Strait, along with musical director Steven Smith—another gifted workhorse—pored through it and picked out the numbers that created the resulting work. Although this production is not credited as an original or first-time event, you won’t see it anywhere else on the planet—another reason to see this show.

Costumer Mark Demry has evidently located the longest orange feather boa in the entire world, among other treats. The show also features the always-perfect lighting of Phil Murphy, and the flawless timing of stage manager Steve Fisher. Their work combines to add to the professionalism invariably found at DRP.

For this show, DRP has added the mastery of dancer-choreographer Randy Doney to create the afore-mentioned hoofing. Did you know that he directed Barry Manilow’s shows for 25 years? Plus, he worked for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus (which occupies a special place in my heart, as they once let me spend a whole day with their immortal Coco the Clown). Plus he performed in the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies for 15 seasons. Wow. Though I suspect none of the actors in this show are professional dancers, Doney has guided them through a creditable performance which includes moves from disco, Latin music, country-Western, polka—and even, to our astonishment, an all-cast tap routine!

Of course, in revue theater, casting is crucial. Well, casting is always crucial, but this form of theater demands talented characters with all the necessary skills (they each must be actors, comedians, singers, dancers and sometimes even models, and must LOOK like a group), but above all, they must contrast each other, and stand out as individuals. The same, but different. Not easy. Here, however, the sharp eyes of Jim Strait have selected a cast that achieves exactly that.

We meet them, all together, when the show bursts open with its theme song, “Vitamin Q,” whose meaning you have doubtless figured out already. We are immediately impressed with their amazing five-part harmonies and their heads-high energy. The remaining numbers are shrewdly chosen to provide maximum variety in all areas, to get the most out of every scenario.

There are several defining features of revue: a bare stage which can be anything in scene after scene, blackouts after every “bit,” a high-energy pace, wide musical contrasts between numbers, live music, quick changes and a running gag that occurs throughout. It happens to be my favorite form of theater. Revue steals shamelessly from vaudeville, improv theater and anybody else who isn’t looking. In this show, the running gag is “Tomorrow Never Comes,” in which each actor gets to do a send-up of a diva you’ll have little trouble recognizing.

The show romps through such numbers as “Pansies,” “Drama Queen,” “I Don’t Like Show Tunes,” “It’s All in Your Mind” and “Homomotion,” all of which provoke great hilarity, and then one beautiful ballad that will stick with you, “Save Your Sundays for Me,” which could be done even by straight singers. Contrast.

Onstage, we get to see new sides of some actors we’ve watched before. Timm McBride, with his lovely silvery hair and charming gravitas, gets to play everything from a doo-wap ’50s backup singer to a saloon singer on a stool. Terry Huber, with sleepy eyes, sophistication and a snake-slim figure, surprisingly appears as a snotty cowboy in “Garbage,” and frolics through several dance routines. Raul Valenzuela unleashes his rich powerful voice and considerable dance skills and then gets laughs just by appearing in a babushka or wearing inexplicable lime-green socks. Andrew Knifer demonstrates his exquisite diction and expressive face, and then pops our eyes with a wild falsetto in some songs. Jeffrey Norman stands out by wearing a goatee and glasses on stage and adds his solid baritone skills to complicated harmony vocals such as those in “Mr. Satan” (done in dazzling outrageous red choir gowns). Great group. They are accompanied by Steven Smith on piano.

They have all mined the maximum out of this marvelous material, and created an evening of fun, variety and delight. This is what revue should be, but its breeziness masks the huge amount of planning, skill-stretching challenges and just-plain-hard labor of creating such a show. It’s too easy for an audience to be swept away by the laughter, and forget how much effort goes into the second-by-second timing that a revue demands. But what a pleasure to see it done so right!

Kudos to everyone at Desert Rose Playhouse for Vitamin Q. You’ll leave feeling oxygenated from laughing—and as energized as if you had just taken your vitamins.

Vitamin Q is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, July 26, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 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

CV Rep Writers’ Drop-In Group

Andy Harmon facilitates this group for all writers who are interested in becoming better storytellers, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, June 13 and 27. $15 at the class. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Doris and Me!—From CV Rep’s Cabaret Series

Back by popular demand, this tribute to Doris Day features Scott Dreier singing from the Doris Day songbook, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20; and 2 p.m., Sunday, June 21. $25. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

A Funny Little Thing Called Love—From Desert Theatreworks

This Jones Hope Wooten comedy, featuring four tales, is all about that four letter word: L-O-V-E; at 7 p.m., Friday; and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, from Friday, June 19, through Saturday, June 27. $26 regular; $24 seniors; $16 students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

McCallum Theatre Institute’s 2015 Summer Session Festival

During the SHUFFLE Concert, a genre-bending chamber-music celebration, the audience chooses what pieces will be performed, at 3 p.m., Monday, June 15. $10 to $15. Argentine twin brothers Martin and Facundo Lombard are joined by five tango musicians for a concert experience based on Astor Piazzolla’s spirited Nuevo Tango in Lombard Plays Piazzolla, at 3 p.m., Wednesday, June 17. $10 to $15. David Gonzalez conjures up jazz-infused narratives in Mytholo-Jazz, at 3 p.m., Friday, June 19. $10 to $15. Three-performance pass $20 to $35. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood—From Theatre 29

This musical ends differently every night, depending on what the audience decides. A rowdy ensemble of actors mounts a staging of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel, and everyone is a suspect in the murder of young Edwin Drood; at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, June 27; there are also 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, June 7 and 21. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Nicky as Carol—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Carol Channing impersonator Nicky Ciampoli performs a tribute show at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 6; and 2 p.m., Sunday, June 7. $25. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Sundays in Summer Series

Tish Oney performs in Divas and Masters of Jazz at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 7. Keisha D sings Keep Calm, It’s Just Love at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 14. We’re Still Here is a cabaret revue featuring Noni Lambertson, Marge Harris, Pat McCann, Patti Gallagher and Jean Sorf, at 2 p.m., June 21. Jeanne Page reworks the Great American Songbook in Reboot Live at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 28. 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.

Published in Theater and Dance

La Cage Aux Folles—From Palm Canyon Theatre

Georges manages the Saint-Tropez nightclub, featuring drag entertainment. When Georges’ son brings home his fiancée’s ultra-conservative parents, things get crazy; at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, May 15, through Sunday, May 24. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

CV Rep Writers’ Drop-In Group

Andy Harmon facilitates this group for all writers who are interested in becoming better storytellers, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, May 9 and 23. $15 at the class. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Fiddler on the Roof

College of the Desert presents Fiddler on the Roof at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 30; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 3; $20 to $45. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Hold These Truths—From CV Rep

During World War II, university student Gordon Hirabayashi fights the U.S. government’s orders to relocate people of Japanese ancestry to internment camps. Gordon begins a 50-year journey toward a greater understanding of America’s triumph—and a confrontation with its failures; at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, May 3. $45. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

The Little Dog Laughed—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Mitchell Green is a movie star on the verge of hitting it big. One problem: His agent can’t seem to keep him in the closet; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, May 17. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

The Magic Show

Dean Apple performs magic and illusions with FlowBox, Chazz and Minnie at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 22 and 23; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and 24. $20 to $25. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-775-5200; www.indioperformingartscenter.org.

The Miracle Worker—From Desert Theatreworks

The classic play about the life of Helen Keller is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday, from Friday, May 8, through Saturday, May 16. $26 regular; $24 seniors; $16 students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood—From Theatre 29

This musical ends differently every night, depending on what the audience decides. A rowdy ensemble of actors mounts a staging of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel, and everyone is a suspect in the murder of young Edwin Drood; at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, May 29, through Saturday, June 27; there are also 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, June 7 and 21. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

The Sleeping Beauty—From CK Dance

CK Dance presents the storybook ballet at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 22; and 3 p.m., Saturday, May 23. $20 to $30. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Wait Until Dark—From Theatre 29

An apartment in 1960s Greenwich Village becomes the site of theater’s most terrifying game of cat and mouse, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, May 9; there is also a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday, May 3. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Like the little dog, you’re going to laugh—and you’ll love it.

The Desert Rose Playhouse’s new comedy, The Little Dog Laughed, was written by Douglas Carter Beane. He’s not a household name, but perhaps he should be: He’s the genius who crafted the amazing screenplay for To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, in which the late Patrick Swayze rose to new heights of acting skill, playing virtually his entire role in drag and turning in one of the most amazing and finely tuned performances ever.

So you already know you’re in for a comedic experience that combines wit with situational comedy and a cast of unusual characters. This four-person play, perfectly cast and deftly directed by Jim Strait, deals with Hollywood’s legendary but real craziness—though it’s mostly set in New York. The lights come up on a surprisingly bare stage: a rainbow-hued curtain, one chair, two doors and a lone rubber-tree plant.

Enter Joey. Oh, Joey! Miss English, dressed in her signature red wardrobe and with her red hair and enormous centipede eyelashes, catapults us into the play with a sensational monologue. She plays Diane, a lesbian Hollywood agent, and a classic, she is—she’s a product of Rodeo Drive and beauty salons and the horrors of trying to earn a living on the fringes of showbiz. Any actress who complains about no great roles for ladies older than 40 has never met Joey English, because she consistently finds terrific characters, and she’s always busy. In Joey’s Diane, we see an extraordinary combination of brassiness covering vulnerability, bravado hiding terror, and sarcasm shielding damage. Even at her snarkiest and sharkiest, we sense Diane’s bandaged wounds. With her huge comedic gifts and an edgy voice, Joey brings the script’s terrific lines to life, and snaps out some of the funniest lines in the play. Tottering about on her uber-heels, with sequins flashing wildly in Phil Murphy’s lighting, she is perfectly cast in this role as The Powerful Mistress of Hype. She is totally convincing, as her embittered verbal ax falls on such innocent victims as Cobb salads. The first-night audience rewarded nearly every one of her scenes with applause.

And then, surprise! The stage transforms in an instant. A bed rolls out; the lighting shifts; and, pow, we’re in a New York hotel room. We meet the show’s two males—the amazingly consistent John Ferrare (has he ever flubbed a line?) as Mitchell Green, a sleek, California-tanned, rising movie star obsessed with his “image.” He contrasts in every way with Timothy Douglas, playing Alex (or Bryan), an attractive youngster sent over by an escort service. And we’re off to a confusing start, with the movie star being drunk, and the greedy rent boy unsure about what to do with him. As actors, both appear effortless in their easy, seemingly natural relating to each other … and both are impressively fearless about stripping off their clothes. (The banner on the play’s poster warns about nudity and adult situations, so don’t say we didn’t tell you. Maybe now would be a good time to toss in a language warning, too.) Mr. Movie Star is emotionally conflicted about whether or not he is gay … and, it turns out, the male prostitute is as well: Despite multiple sexual experiences daily, he doesn’t “feel” gay. OK …

In fact, Alex has a girlfriend. Say what? Meet Allison Feist as Ellen. She is perfect as a potty-mouthed, hormone-ridden, completely self-absorbed Young Person of Today. Weak Ellen’s best gift seems to be her ability to take remorseless advantage of other people, rather than find her own purpose in life. Her youthful appearance, in every way, provides a stunning contrast to Diane’s artificial glam. Ellen is adrift on life’s surface, and we both sympathize with her and find her amusing at the same time. She is crucial to the plot, so don’t write her off … despite her managing to use every single annoying bit of verbal teen-slang in existence (starring “like” and “you know.” Like … you know).

The dialogue weaves through secrets, lies, truths and retractions, combining trash talk with yearning sincerity, and punching out the caught-you-off-guard humor. (“It’s like a relationship, only it’s enjoyable.”) The script mixes irony with real fears like the terror of being alone or having to fight for your own freedom. We are frequently told that “Diane solves problems,” and as the conflicts and confusion accrue, the characters turn to the agent for solutions. I won’t give away the wonderful twist at the end of the play, though I’ll promise that the writing is utterly masterful, and the resolution is a never-saw-that-coming surprise.

Kudos to the Desert Rose support team who made such a success of this play. We’ve already mentioned the mega-talented director, Jim Strait, whose flawless sense of timing, crystal-clear insights into the characters and lovely sense of stage balance all combine to make this play a delight. Turns out Strait is in charge of the scenery and the sound, too. His husband, Paul Taylor, is the play’s producer, and a steady hand on the wheel, he always is. Phil Murphy’s lighting is, of course, gorgeous; is there anything more fun than a disco ball? Mark Demry’s costumes are most excellent. (Well, there was a briefly hilarious entanglement with a tie belt on a robe.) And Steve Fisher’s stage managing is smooth and sweet, as usual.

It’s the contrasts that make this play brilliant—the playwright’s insights, the director’s right-on choices and the actors’ thoughtful explorations of their roles. New York versus California. Youth versus older. Shrewd versus naïve. Successful versus struggling. Focused versus confused. The multi-faceted result is hugely satisfying, and you will leave the theater smiling.

You’ll laugh … and you’ll love it.

The Little Dog Laughed is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, May 17, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 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

August: Osage County—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The Weston family members are all intelligent, sensitive creatures who have the uncanny ability to make each other miserable. When the patriarch mysteriously vanishes, the Weston clan gathers to simultaneously support and attack one another; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 3 and 4; and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 5. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Buyer and Cellar—From Coyote Stageworks

Emerson Collins (Sordid Lives) stars in the comedy Buyer and Cellar, which focuses on the price of fame, at 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, April 5. $45 to $60. At the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage. 760-318-0024; www.coyotestageworks.org.

Diva Dish! The Second Helping—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Luke Yankee stars in this one-man show featuring anecdotes about various celebrities, at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 4; and 2 p.m., Sunday, April 5. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Hold These Truths—From CV Rep

During World War II in Seattle, university student Gordon Hirabayashi fights the U.S. government’s orders to relocate people of Japanese ancestry to internment camps. Gordon begins a 50-year journey toward a greater understanding of America’s triumph—and a confrontation with its failures; at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Wednesday, April 15, through Sunday, May 3. $45; $40 previews on April 15 and 16; $55 April 17 opening night; no matinee on April 18. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

The Little Dog Laughed—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Mitchell Green is a movie star who is on the verge of hitting it big. One problem: His agent can’t seem to keep him in the closet; the show takes place at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, April 17, through Sunday, May 17. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Man of La Mancha—From Palm Canyon Theatre

While awaiting a hearing with the Inquisition, Cervantes presents a play as his defense in a mock trial for the prisoners; at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, April 17, through Sunday, April 26. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

McCallum Theatre

Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye takes place at 8 p.m., Monday, March 30, through Saturday, April 4, with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 4; $35 to $95. College of the Desert presents Fiddler on the Roof at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 30; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 3; $20 to $45. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Miss Gulch Returns—From Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

Jerome Elliott stars in this Palm Springs premiere of “a musical comedy valentine to the romantically disenfranchised,” at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, April 17, through Sunday, April 26. $22, with discounts. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; www.detctheatre.org.

Psycho Beach Party—From Desert Theatreworks

It’s 1962, and Chicklet just wants to be a surfer—but her multiple personalities keep getting in the way; at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Friday, April 10, through Sunday, April 19. $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.

Seventh Annual Play Reading Festival—From Dezart Performs

After screening submissions from around the country and world, Dezart Performs offers staged readings of selected plays—and the audience helps choose which one will receive a full production next season; at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, April 3, through Saturday, April 11. $10; $34 for a festival pass. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

That Cancer Show!—From Script2Stage2Screen

Joni Hilton’s comedy-musical about cancer is directed by Gina Bikales; at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 3; and 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 4. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Wait Until Dark—From Theatre 29

An apartment in 1960s Greenwich Village becomes the site of theater’s most terrifying game of cat and mouse, at 7 pm., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, April 10, through Saturday, May 9; there are also 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday, April 19 and May 3. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

If you’re one of those poor souls carrying resentment about mistreatment by nuns in Catholic school—or if you just need a few good belly laughs—get to the Desert Rose Playhouse, pronto.

The Divine Sister, produced by Paul Taylor, may just be your salvation.

The play was originally conceived by actor, writer and longtime female impersonator Charles Busch as a star vehicle for himself. Known for his off-Broadway play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and the Broadway hit The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Busch once said, “Drag is being more, more than you can be.”

The Divine Sister is a demented tribute to films featuring nuns, from The Sound of Music to Agnes of God. The story unfolds at St. Veronica’s Convent and grade school in Pittsburgh. Mother Superior (Jim Strait) has many issues to deal with, including the fact that the school building is falling down. She’s dealing with a young postulate named Agnes (of course), who believes she has magical healing powers and that the Virgin Mary speaks directly to her; Timothy, a young boy in desperate need of baseball coaching who doesn’t yet realize he’s gay; and a newly arrived German nun who may not be all that she seems.

Throw in devout atheist Mrs. Levinson, who could fund a new school if she were so inclined, and a man from Mother Superior’s crime-reporting past who is still pining for her, and you can understand the need for a few extra prayers.

Strait, who also serves as Desert Rose’s artistic director, is tremendous here. Though The Divine Sister is an ensemble piece, Strait is the captain of the ship, and he skillfully leads his cast through this irreverent romp. He’s strong actor and a charismatic presence who seems very comfortable in drag—but his physical size and voice remind us that there’s some testosterone in the mix as well. Sporting a long, curly wig and heels, Strait’s first appearance as girl reporter Susan Appleyard gets a huge laugh. Strait seems to be having as much fun as the audience is, which really enhances the theater-going experience.

Allison Feist is perfectly cast as innocent Agnes, who truly believes she’s been specially chosen by God. She exudes both the religious fervor of Meg Tilly in Agnes of God and the girlish mischievousness of Julie Andrews in The Sounds of Music. The physical gyrations she goes through while “healing” others are laugh-out-loud funny. Keep an eye on Feist; she has a bright future ahead of her.

As Sister Acacius, Lorraine Williamson knocks the role out of the park. Big, bold and brassy, she shows off animated facial expressions and perfect comic timing that remind me of a combination of Jo Anne Worley and Lucille Ball. Sister Acacius has a lusty past, and her vow of celibacy sometimes seems to waiver. When handsome movie consultant Jeremy (the fabulous Timm McBride) begins describing his impressive manhood in great detail, Williamson’s efforts not to drool are precious.

Adina Lawson delivers an award-worthy performance as smug, privileged Mrs. Levinson. Early in the show, two nuns visit her in an effort to secure funds to build a new school. Mrs. Levinson explains her devout atheism while describing agnostics as “wishy-washy fools afraid to take an intelligent stand. Give me religious zealots. At least you can depend on their stupidity.” Later, while sharing memories of her late husband Morris (including sea creatures during a visit to Crete, and his fatal heart attack), Levinson peppers her stories with hilarious Vogue magazine-esque descriptions of what she was wearing. Her turn as 12-year-old Timothy is equally impressive. Lawson is a pro—she totally embodies each character and is clearly having a blast on stage.

The always-interesting Alden West is quite good as the mysterious German nun, Sister Maria Walburga. Like pretty much everyone else in the play, her character has secrets—including a randy side. Walburga’s not-so-subtle invitation to Sister Acacius to have a sexual threesome with another nun is a hoot. West manages to maintain distinctly different (and believable) accents as both Berlin native Sister Walburga and, later, as a Scottish housekeeper. Any actor will tell you that to accomplish such a thing within the same play is not an easy feat.

As both Jeremy (the well-endowed film consultant hunting for a good story) and sinister monk Brother Venerius, Timm McBride is excellent. Having each actor play two roles in a production doesn’t always work, but it does here—beautifully. There is not a single weak performance here.

Director J. Stegar Thompson gets the best out of his strong cast. He keeps the pace going, which keeps the laughs flowing. I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. Thomas L. Valach’s set and Phil Murphy’s lighting provide just the right mood, as does Thompson’s sound. In a show with so much cross-dressing and actors playing dual roles, costumes (Kathryn Ferguson) and wigs (Toni Molano and Timm McBride) are crucial. All are spot on. Stage manager Steve Fisher deserves a nod as well.

This terrific show did suffer through a couple of glitches on opening night. There was a stumble right out of the gate with sound cues. After a delightful recorded welcome to the show from playwright Charles Busch, opening music began … then abruptly stopped. Then we heard a repeat of Busch’s welcome … which also abruptly stopped. Then there was the music again … which stopped. Finally, the music began in earnest, and the play got underway. The performances were so good that the audience soon forgot about the sound snafu, but it was an unfortunate way to start the night. Another big goof: Toward the end of the show, there was a premature entrance by an actor during a very dramatic moment in the script.

No matter what your religious affiliation, you will enjoy Desert Rose Playhouse’s production of The Divine Sister. It’s funny; it’s raucous; and it’s one hell of an entertaining evening.

The Divine Sister is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, March 29, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 69620 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $28-$30. For tickets or more information, call, 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Buyer and Cellar—From Coyote Stageworks

Emerson Collins (Sordid Lives) stars in the comedy Buyer and Cellar, which focuses on the price of fame, at 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Friday, March 27, through Sunday, April 5. $45 to $60. At the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage. 760-318-0024; www.coyotestageworks.org.

The Divine Sister—From Desert Rose Playhouse

The Charles Busch-written show, an outrageous comic homage to nearly every Hollywood film involving nuns, takes place at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, March 6, through Sunday, March 29. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The famous play about slave Pseudolus’ attempts to help his young master earn the love of a courtesan named Philia is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, March 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

La Gringa—From CV Rep

In this comedy by Carmen Rivera, Maria goes to visit her family in Puerto Rico—where she realizes that everyone in Puerto Rico considers her an American, a gringa. However, through the wise and colorful words and music of her uncle, Maria learns life lessons; at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Wednesday, March 4, through Sunday, March 22. $45; $40 previews on March 4 and 5; $55 March 6 opening night. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

A Handful of Nickels and Dimes

Yve Evans performs this comedy and music show that’s a tribute to vaudeville at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, March 22. No shows March 6-8. $26 with discounts. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-775-5200; www.indioperformingartscenter.org.

Jack—From College of the Desert Dramatic Arts

This humorous twist on the fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27 and 28; and 3 p.m., Sunday, March 1. $15; $10 students. At the Pollock Theatre at College of the Desert, 43400 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; codperformingarts.com.

Legally Blonde—From Musical Theatre University

Broadway stars join MTU students in this hit musical at 7:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday, March 12 and 13; 2 p.m., Sunday, March 15; 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, March 21 and 22. $15 to $35. At the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-6482; www.hgpac.org.

McCallum Theatre

Hershey Felder stars in George Gershwin Alone at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 1; $25 to $75. ABBA MANIA takes the stage at 8 p.m., Monday, March 2; $25 to $65. Broadway and Hollywood combine for a romantic and entertaining evening of song and dance with Joan Hess and Kirby Ward in Dancing and Romancing, featuring the Desert Symphony Orchestra, at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 12; $45 to $95. The musical comedy Nice Work If You Can Get It is performed at 8 p.m., Friday, March 13; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 15; $35 to $95. Laurence Luckinbill is Teddy Roosevelt in the one-man show Teddy Tonight! at Thursday, March 19; $15 to $65. The Ten Tenors return with a show of Broadway hits at 8 p.m., Friday, March 20; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 21; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 22; $25 to $75. Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye takes place at 8 p.m., Monday, March 30, through Saturday, April 4, with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 4; $35 to $95. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Nunsense: The Mega Musical—From Desert Theatreworks

To save their convent from financial ruin, the Little Sisters of Hoboken have to raise the money and properly bury their accidentally poisoned sisters. What will they do? Why throw a fundraiser, of course; they do at 7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Thursday, March 5, through Sunday, March 15. $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.

On the Air 2—From Dezart Performs

This annual evening of radio-show classics features an all-star cast including Gavin MacLeod, Joyce Bulifant, Millicent Martin and many others, at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 12. $35 to $75. At the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

The Osanbi Deal—From Script2Stage2Screen

This play is set near a toxic waste area in South Carolina and is a compelling story of treachery and guilt; 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

The Secret Garden—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The orphaned Mary Lennox is sent to England to live with the Cravens. While there, she helps bring life to a secret garden; the show is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, March 20, through Sunday, March 29. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Two By Tony—From Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

Tony Padilla’s one-acts Family Meeting and The Comeback are performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 22. $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.

Urinetown: The Musical—From Theatre 29

This comedic tale of greed, corruption, love and revolution in a Gotham-like city at a time when water is extremely scarce is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, March 28; there are also matinee shows at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 8 and 22. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.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, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

CV Rep Writers’ Drop-In Group

Andy Harmon facilitates this group for all writers who are interested in becoming better storytellers, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14 and 28. $15 payable at the class. 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, 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.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The famous play about slave Pseudolus’ attempts to help his young master earn the love of a courtesan named Philia is performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Feb. 20, through Sunday, March 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Having Our Say—From CV Rep

The Delany 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., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $45. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

I Totally Know What You Did Last Donna Summer—From Palm Canyon Theatre

This musical by Dane Whitlock melds slasher-movie tropes, 1990s films and Donna Summer hits at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

An Ideal Husband—From Theatre 29

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

Jack—From College of the Desert Dramatic Arts

This humorous twist on the fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27 and 28; and 3 p.m., Sunday, March 1. Prices TBA. At the Pollock Theatre at College of the Desert, 43400 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565; codperformingarts.com.

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, through Sunday, Feb. 15. $28 to $30. At 69620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

McCallum Theatre

A sing-along to the film Grease takes place at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 1; $15 to $20. Midtown Men reunites four stars from the original cast of Broadway’s Jersey Boys at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 4; $35 to $55. Supreme Reflections is a tribute to Diana Ross and The Supremes featuring the Desert Symphony, taking place at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 5; $45 to $95. Memphis: The Musical features the songs of underground dance clubs in 1950s Tennessee at 8 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 10 and 11; $45 to $95. The classic musical comedy Guys and Dolls takes the McCallum stage at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 13; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15; $35 to $105. Hershey Felder stars in George Gershwin Alone at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 1; $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Urinetown: The Musical—From Theatre 29

This comedic tale of greed, corruption, love and revolution in a Gotham-like city at a time when water is extremely scarce is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Feb. 27, through Saturday, March 28; there are also matinee shows at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 8 and 22. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

“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

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