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Best Tearjerker

Dezart Performs’ Production of The Outgoing Tide

I went to see the final performance of The Outgoing Tide—Dezart Performs’ 2015-2016 season-closing play—back in May with my friend Robert. Both Robert and I are … well, curmudgeonly, to put it kindly. While we had high expectations due to the production’s rave reviews—about an older couple and their adult son coming to terms with the father’s advancing Alzheimer’s disease—we most certainly did not expect to be blubbering our eyes out at the end … and there we were, along with much of the rest of the audience at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, sniffling and weeping. Judith Chapman, Scott Smith and most especially Michael Fairman (who played Gunner, the father) knocked it out of the figurative park, thanks in no small part due to the amazing direction by Michael Shaw. If you ever hear of this play being performed elsewhere, I highly recommend going to see it—but I’d be shocked if that show is as good as the one put onstage last spring by Dezart Performs. Jeez, I am tearing up just thinking about it.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Tailor

Pero Dzekov at Pero’s Tailor Shop

For more than 45 years, Pero Dzekov has worked in a trade that does not forgive a mistake: He’s a tailor, a master craftsman whose clients include celebrities of a highest caliber, including Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow. Both singers have penned accolades to him on their photographs that hang in his Smoke Tree Village shop. Dzekov, an immigrant from Macedonia, is fond of saying that his favorite clients were publisher Walter Annenberg and Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Richard Milanovich. On any given day, you’ll see familiar faces in his shop—former Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden, perhaps, or Palm Springs City Manager David Ready—but Dzekov is most proud of the fact that many of his clients have been repeatedly coming back since the 1970s.

—Brane Jevric


Best Local Album

Bridger, Forces Against Us

Many great bands in the Coachella Valley released fantastic albums over the last year, including Dali’s Llama and The Hellions. However, to my ear, there is one new album that stands out: Bridger’s Forces Against Us. Numerous local musicians took to social media to express their love for the album; however, making a great album wasn’t enough for the band: Bridger even made a hilarious music video for the Forces Against Us song “Death to Snowbirds,” There’s no doubt that Bridger is an awesome live band—and Forces Among Us proved that Bridger can turn in fantastic music in the studio, too.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Ukulele Master

John Robbins

John Robbins is a well-known local musician—who plays a not-so-well-known instrument: He plays a mean ukulele. Robbins has opened many shows for local bands, and he recently took part in an acoustic showcase. Robbins, who is visually impaired, also has many other talents, including being visual artist; in fact, he recently signed with an independent Web-based comic publisher. When you mention John’s name to local musicians or music fans, the first thing they say often say is, “The guy who plays an awesome ukulele?” He deserves all the recognition he can get.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Guilty Pleasure Food

The Atomic Tots at The Hood Bar and Pizza

When I need comfort food and don’t give a rat’s behind about diet or calories … chances are you’ll find me devouring the atomic tots at The Hood Bar and Pizza. They’re definitely not good for you (I hope my primary care physician isn’t reading this), but that gooey cheese and the bits of bacon melted all over those little potato barrels create a piece of fat-intensive heaven. I’m not the only one with these feelings for the atomic tots; many locals frequent The Hood Bar and Pizza just for these tasty treats.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Place to Pig Out on Sugar-Free Desserts

The Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

Gym workouts have minimal effects on me, and no diet seems to last … but at least I get some small bit of dietary help at the Fresh Grill Buffet at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino: It features an ample selection of delicious sugar-free desserts every day at lunch and dinner. At the giant dessert table (two levels tall, with a chocolate fountain and soft-serve ice cream to boot), an entire section is devoted to lower-calorie goodies. Gorgeous layer cakes, crumbly cookies, pies and even cheesecake are available—and since it’s a buffet, have as much as you like! However, consider yourself warned: The white sauce beside the cheesecake is loaded with sugar, and sometimes cobblers that are not sugar-free will elbow their way into this space. Whenever I meet the chefs, I thank them on behalf of my endangered waistline. For those born with a sweet tooth, here is our salvation. Just don’t look at the sugary competition on the rest of the table.

—Valerie-Jean (V.J.) Hume


Best Happy Hour Meal

The Capricciosa Pizza at Piero’s PizzaVino

There are many, many dining options in Palm Desert on or near El Paseo—but when I find myself hungry while running around the area, more often than not, I wind up in the bar area of Piero’s PizzaVino. Why? Well, every day from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Piero’s offers one of the area’s most amazing happy hour menus—including the unbelievably delicious capricciosa pizza. This amazing pie comes with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and olives—and it’s always cooked to perfection in Piero’s brick oven. Not only does this personal-size pizza taste amazing and fill you up; it only costs $8.90. Add in a tasty glass of the house chianti for $5, and you can still get out of there with tax and a nice tip for less than $20. What a deal.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

A number of plays have moved me while I’ve been doing theater reviews in the Coachella Valley—but none have pierced my heart and shaken me to the core the way Dezart Performs’ The Outgoing Tide did.

That’s due, in large part, to its subject matter: Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a hideous, devastating illness—one which took my mother’s life nearly five years ago. She spent her final years in an assisted-living facility on the East Coast, so I was spared the daily trauma of seeing my mother wither into a mere shadow of who she once was. That pain fell to my dear, devoted father, who drove to the facility and fed her lunch every day for years. When I did visit, it was deeply painful to observe this once-vibrant, articulate woman rendered nearly speechless following two strokes and the dementia. Nothing scared her more … the thought of ending life in an institution, incapacitated and in a wheelchair, feeling helpless and alone.

It’s something we all fear. Many of us studiously avoid talking about the possibility that it could happen to us. But talk about it, we must.

Written by Bruce Graham, The Outgoing Tide tackles this tough subject matter head-on. The play centers around Gunner (Michael Fairman), who is battling the scourge of Alzheimer’s; his wife of 50 years, Peg (Judith Chapman); and their son, Jack (Scott Smith). Gunner is aware that his disease is rapidly progressing, which makes him grumpy and fearful. The situation is often humiliating, as when, after a tirade over a broken television, Peg points out that Gunner is trying to watch Cops on the microwave.

Things are really going downhill: Peg has begun securing the gates at night so her husband can’t wander, and he almost burned up his newspapers after placing them on the stove. Peg is considering an assisted-living facility where both she and Gunner can take up residence; they can be together, and she can still care for him as long as possible.

Both Peg and Jack (visiting at his father’s request) think it’s a good idea—but Gunner won’t hear of it. After touring the place and noting the condition of some of the current residents, Gunner quips, “It’s like a roach motel. You check in, but you don’t check out.” Gunner adamantly refuses to consider selling his house and moving to such a place, even though he admits to Jack that his condition is worsening: “I feel like it’s starting to show.”

Instead, Gunner has an alternative plan—one that would end his suffering and set up his family financially. It’s radical and controversial, and Peg is totally against it. Jack (currently going through a divorce) is often stuck in between his two strong-willed parents, and doesn’t know what to do. When Jack asks Peg if she really wants to spend the rest of her life taking care of her husband, she responds: “What else am I good at?”

Though the play’s theme is gut-wrenching, there’s plenty of humor as well. Peg dismisses the possibility of a suicide pact with Gunner: “He’d probably shoot me and then forget to shoot himself!”

The acting is absolutely superb across the board. As Gunner, Michael Fairman is flawless. We feel every bit of the fear, anger and frustration his deteriorating mental condition triggers. Though he’s made some mistakes as a father, he’s funny, charismatic and lovable, yet ultimately tragic. His Gunner makes us wonder about our fathers, grandfathers or uncles…what would they do in this situation? Could we support their choice, even if it meant we’d lose them?

The amazing Judith Chapman does not disappoint. As the long-suffering Peg, she is the glue that keeps the family together. She’s strong and level-headed, and seems to be able to keep it all together despite the gradual loss of her husband. But Chapman lets us see the heartbreak just beneath the surface. Does she love her husband enough to let him do what’s right for him … or will her fear of being alone stand in the way? There is not one false note in her performance.

Scott Smith is terrific as the returning son who loves his parents, but feels he’s in a no-win situation. Beyond the drama of Gunner’s advancing Alzheimer’s disease, Jack’s visit home reveals some long-held family secrets.

Once again, artistic director Michael Shaw proves his mettle as a director. He moves his cast members around ably on Thomas L. Valach’s outstanding set, and draws out award-worthy performances from each of them. Clark Duggar’s sound was spot-on, as was Phil Murphy’s lighting (after a couple of brief glitches early in the play).

I have seen a number of very good plays from Dezart Performs, but The Outgoing Tide is in a league of its own. The opening-night audience gave the show a well-deserved standing ovation. The play forces us to think about end-of-life issues and personal choice. Most of us, at one point or another, will be touched by the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease. A parent, a spouse, a friend or even we ourselves will experience the mind slowly slipping away. What would you do?

The Outgoing Tide is the most profound theater experience I have had in quite a long time.

The Outgoing Tide, a production of Dezart Performs, is performed at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, May 8, at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $24 to $28, and the show is just more than two hours, with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets or more information, 760-322-1079, or visit www.dezartperforms.org.

Published in Theater and Dance