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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

It’s almost August, and that means that the Coachella Valley cultural scene is entering its deadest time of the year.

Nonetheless, there are still a lot of things going on: Movies and music can be found in surprising abundance throughout the month.

But when it comes to theater—forget it. The local companies pretty much ignore the month of August. Perhaps they’re prepping for the 2013-2014 season; perhaps they’re taking a much-needed break. Whatever the reason, August is, by far, the slowest theater month in the Coachella Valley.

Still, a few local companies are at least throwing us Coachella Valley theater-lovers a bone or two this month. Here are some shows worth your attention.

Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3

The brand-new Desert Theatreworks has big plans for 2013-2014: The company has four full shows slated for the season, ranging from an Agatha Christie whodunit to a musical set in a trailer park.

But the fine folks at Desert Theatreworks are offering the valley a nice appetizer before the main course: This summer, they’ve mounted a couple of one-weekend shows. This coming weekend, they’re following up July’s Up (The Man in the Flying Chair) with A.R. Gurney’s comedy Sylvia, a play about a man, a woman and the dog (played by a human running around on all fours!) that comes between them.

Catch Sylvia at 7 p.m., Friday; and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, at the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way in Palm Desert. Tickets are $23 to $25. Call 760-980-1455, or visit www.dtworks.org.

Saturday, Aug. 10

We admit we’re biased on this one: VJ Hume—you may know her as Valerie Jean, and those of us at Independent World Headquarters know and love her as our theater reviewer—wrote, directs and stars in LUSH!, her play about Marty Mann, the first woman who participated in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Catch a readers’-theater performance of LUSH!, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Palm Springs Womans’ Club, 314 Cahuilla Road in Palm Springs. Tickets are $10, and the proceeds benefit Michael’s House, a Palm Springs recovery center. Call Zigi at (760) 464-2138 for reservations.

Saturday, Aug. 10

OK, we admit a little biased on this one, too: Shann Carr is a dear friend of the Independent. Plus she’s funny as hell—and you can see this for yourself when she performs her standup comedy (the news release calls it “debaucherous comedy and intimate storytelling; that sounds about right) at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 69620 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage, also at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 10. Tickets are $20; call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org for those tickets or more info.

Saturday, Aug. 17

Take two magicians—Mark Kalin and Jinger Leigh (“their skills in levitation are sure to haunt and mystify the kid in all of us,” the press release promises), and add in a comedy/magician, Jeff Hobson (“a combination of Liberace and Don Rickles,” the aforementioned release alarmingly claims). And what do you have?

You have the Carnival of Wonders!

We’re not exactly sure what all of this means, but the show has had successful runs in Reno, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, so it may be a nice of entertainment at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 17, at The Show, at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $30 to $60. Get tickets or more info at www.hotwatercasino.com or 888-999-1995.

Pictured below: Local legend Shann Carr.

Shann Carr

Published in Theater and Dance

Is there anything more exciting than the prospect of an upcoming theater season? The offerings from the valley’s varied companies always provide a huge variety—and the 2013-2014 season is no exception. I can’t wait!

Below, you’ll find comments from the theater companies that had announced their schedules and shared their information with us as of our press deadline; we will add more at CVIndependent.com as other companies report back to us.

Don’t miss my reviews of many of these plays, both online and in the Independent’s monthly edition, launching in October!

Desert Rose Playhouse

HOUSE OF THE RISING SON, by Tom Jacobsen: Sept. 27-Oct. 27

THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD, by Paul Rudnick: Nov. 15-Dec. 22

NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL, by Dennis Deal: Jan. 10-Feb. 16

An untitled new play, by Dan Clancy: March 21-April 20

THE HAUNTED HOST, by Robert Patrick: May 2-June 1

Jim Strait and partner Paul Taylor report that the season for their LGBT playhouse begins with a Southern gothic, Los Angeles-New Orleans show; think “Anne Rice meets Tennessee Williams.” House of the Rising Son features ghosts, graves, special effects, and a post-Katrina/Rita all-male dynasty. Eek!

The Most Fabulous Story is a re-writing of the Old Testament. “It starts in Eden. Adam looks over the fence, and it all goes to hell in a handcart! They invent civilization, wind up in Noah’s Ark (where the bartender is a rhinoceros, and there is an amorous pig), get enslaved by a fabulous pharaoh, and wind up at the Nativity. The second act is in contemporary New York.”

Nite Club Confidential is “a film-noir musical, a cross between Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve. Stars on the rise and a diva on the rocks! Very stylistic, with American songbook music plus new original music. … It takes place in the Eisenhower years.”

The Haunted Host was one of the very first gay plays in New York, and is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Strait acted in a performance in San Diego in 1983, and it was reportedly the first show that Harvey Fierstein ever did.

In addition, Desert Rose will feature a special attraction in March: Dorothy Kirk, a 65-year-old monologist. Strait muses, “I love a storyteller. We don’t get a lot of lesbian participation, so this will change that. It is charming!”

Tickets go on sale in August; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Coachella Valley Repertory

MASTER CLASS, by Terrence McNally: Oct. 23-Nov. 10

THE STORY OF MY LIFE, by Brian Hill and Neil Bartram: Dec. 4-22

A PERFECT GANESH, by Terrence McNally: Jan. 22-Feb. 9

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE, by Terrence McNally: March 19-April 6

Louise Ross, the theater’s PR lady, is “really excited” about this season’s theme.

“McNally is one of America’s greatest playwrights, and we’re doing a collection of his work,” she says.

The 84-seat theater, raked for visibility, is the home of Ron Celona’s brainchild. The first Wednesday and Thursday of each show are considered preview nights (with tickets $30 instead of the usual $40); that first Thursday is also a “talkback,” featuring an audience Q&A.

“McNally has a way of being thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time. He brings controversial subjects into life situations, and makes you want to talk about what you’ve seen afterward,” says Ross.

I saw Master Class, about a celeb teaching opera, years ago in L.A., and it was stunning, with everything depending on the role of Maria Callas. Frankie became a movie, marvelous with Pacino and Pfeiffer. Ross told me about a stage version with Stanley Tucci and Frances Sternhagen—and why this show has an audience advisory due to language and brief nudity, a first for CV Rep.

Ganesh is a search for The Exotic by two white ladies in India. “It starts with an ordinary situation and becomes this whole other world,” says Ross, “about your bucket list.”

More info at www.cvrep.org.

Dezart Performs

EXQUISITE POTENTIAL, by Stephen Kaplan: Nov. 22-Dec. 1

INVASION OF PRIVACY, by Larry Parr: Jan. 31-Feb. 9

SIXTH ANNUAL PLAYREADING SERIES, April 11-19

Artistic director Michael Shaw co-founded this 5-year-old group, known for its play-reading series on which the audience votes, with the winner produced the following year. Last season brought a tie—so both plays are being produced this coming season.

Exquisite playwright Stephen Kaplan came to the reading (and was very pleased), and intends to be here again for the production. “It’s brilliant, clever, one of the most interesting story lines ever,” enthuses Shaw. The comedy-drama deals with a man who believes his 3-year-old son is the Messiah—to the surprise of his rabbi and his pregnant wife.

The second play resonates with Shaw, who once lived in Central Florida, where it is set. Invasion is about a relationship that becomes a libel suit—one that really went to the Supreme Court in the 1940s. Shaw knows the life depicted in the play well. “I had alligator stew often, and my dad used to catch wild turkeys and snapping turtles for dinner. I want to hang moss for this show!”

Considering everything happening news, these topics are as timely as ever, Shaw says.

“Tickets will be on sale in July!” promises Shaw, who keeps the ticket prices to a sensible $18-$22; www.dezartperforms.com.

Desert Theatreworks

THE MOUSETRAP, by Agatha Christie: Nov. 1-10

MARRIED ALIVE, by Sean Grennan and Leah Okimoto: Dec. 6-15

BLAZING GUNS AT ROARING GULCH: Jan. 24-Feb. 2

THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL: March 14-23

The Joslyn Center’s Arthur Newman Theatre in Palm Desert is now home to the Desert Theatreworks, with Lance Phillips-Martinez at the helm. He tells me that Mousetrap is the longest-running play in the world—and it already had that distinction when I saw it back in London in 1966! It’s a whodunit murder-mystery, of course.

Married is a new musical which he describes as “zany,” with newlyweds and “oldyweds” looking at marriage. Blazing is an old-fashioned “mellerdrammer” in the Wild West, with songs, skits and a very hissable villain.

Trailer is a musical that is “the theatrical equivalent of a bag of Doritos,” says Phillips-Martinez, “at Armadillo Acres in Florida—a fun, fun, fun time!”

It’ll be exciting to watch this new company as it enters the desert’s theatrical community; www.dtworks.org.

Palm Canyon Theatre

THE SOUND OF MUSIC: Oct. 4-13

AVENUE Q: Nov. 8-17

SHREK: Dec. 6-22

LES MISERABLES: Jan. 24-Feb. 9

9 TO 5: Feb. 28-March 9

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR: April 4-20

THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE: May 2-11

SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL: July 11-20

This coming season, the downtown Palm Springs mainstay is focusing on big Broadway shows—and they’re throwing in a “classic series” of one-weekend shows as well. We’d tell you more, but nobody from the theater got back to us before our press deadline; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Watch CVIndependent.com frequently for updates, reviews and theater news. Enjoy!

Published in Theater and Dance

The eyebrow-raising title alerts: This is probably not just another cabaret show. And then playwright-actor-singer-lyricist-dancer David Pevsner proves it isn't.

Making its world premiere at the Desert Rose Playhouse, Musical Comedy Whore escorts us into another world. The one-act, one-man show is the season’s closer for Desert Rose. (Artistic director Jim Strait opens the evening with a description of the company’s history and the shows on tap next season, which begins on Sept. 27.)

Pevsner pops onto the stage wearing a plain green T-shirt and old jeans. Gasp—is he not even wearing makeup? Where is the razzmatazz and glitter of “musical comedy” that we’ve come to expect? Good heavens—he hasn’t even touched up his graying hair! What are we in for?

The answer to that question: raw honesty. Pevsner is here to tell us about his life—unvarnished, unretouched, unpardoned. He neither whines nor makes excuses nor assigns blame, as he begins with his childhood and guides us through the tales of his sexual experiences, all while using song and dance. There are no props, no costume changes—nothing but his narrative. Talented pianist Patrick Karst (perhaps you’ve seen him at Spencer’s) kicks in with occasional vocal harmonies, but other than that, this is simply one man’s barefaced story of growing up gay in America. Yes, there are plenty of four-letter words and explicit descriptions, but Pevsner’s focus on the truth makes us realize that the story could be told in no other way.

The excellent lighting by Phil Murphy, the slick stage management of Steve Fisher, and the shrewd direction by Randy Brenner make for a smooth and professional production. The show’s lyrics were penned by Pevsner, with a host of contributors of original music.

We watch Pevsner work without a break, or so much as a sip of water, for a solid 90 minutes—an awesome task from which young cabaret aspirants could learn much about work ethics. He leads us through the tale of his strange, scary and sometimes dangerous sexual adventures.

Already I can hear people thinking: “Yes, but do we need to know this? TMI?” Even Pevsner anticipates this, and with a shrug, he admits that the show is written as much for himself as for us.

Which brings us to: How many of us are capable of standing on a bare stage and recounting our most intimate moments to a live audience? This immediately re-focuses our perspective: Out of the 333 million people in America, how many could perform such a show? This realization makes Musical Comedy Whore a very rare experience. When you see the show, realize—whether or not it makes you squirm—that you are in the presence of unflinching honesty from a brave and fearless writer-performer.

The cozy, year-old LGBT and gay-friendly Desert Rose Playhouse is located in the Commissary, on Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. The natural acoustics are so marvelous that Pevsner performs without amplification; what a relief it is to be spared the ear-splitting volume and annoying feedback so common nowadays.

I only wish that the charming managing director, Paul Taylor, could somehow rake the seating so that visibility everywhere is equal. Getting stuck behind a couple of large heads can compromise one’s appreciation. However, the theater’s energy is beautiful, warm and satisfying, and the chairs are comfortable.

You’ll probably leave the show with many mixed feelings … but could you do what you just watched Pevsner do?

Musical Comedy Whore is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, June 16, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, at The Commissary, 69620 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $25, and the show runs 90 minutes without an intermission. For tickets or more info, call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

Being a brand-new startup sometimes has its advantages. Just ask the folks at the Desert Rose Playhouse.

The next play on the boards for the LGBT and gay-friendly company—British playwright Joe Orton’s controversial (during its debut in 1964, at least) Entertaining Mr. Sloane—was originally slated to open this week. But the play wasn’t quite ready, so artistic director Jim Strait and managing director Paul Taylor decided to push the opening back a week. Then came a last-minute casting change, so Strait and Taylor decided to delay the opening yet another week: The show is now scheduled to debut on Friday, March 1.

“We’re determined not to put up a show unless it’s up to a certain standard,” Strait says.

Of course, an established company could never do what the Desert Rose has done—at least not without upsetting season-ticket holders and sponsors.

“We have no subscribers,” Strait says. “So our schedule is our own.”

That flexibility allowed the Desert Rose’s inaugural show, Dirty Little Showtunes—a gay-themed musical revue/comedy that debuted in San Francisco and features … well, dirty little showtunes—to enjoy a nearly unprecedented run.

“It opened on July 21, and we were going to do four shows per week for seven weeks,” Strait explains. “Well, people kept coming to it.”

So Desert Rose kept extending the play. It finally closed as 2012 closed, after an amazing 24-week run.

“It kept going,” Strait says. “It wasn’t always profitable, but it was always fun.”

After a recently concluded four-week run of Stephen Sondheim’s Marry Me a Little will come Entertaining Mr. Sloane.

“It’s a very early gay play,” says Strait. “Joe Orton was of the bad boys of British theater. He only wrote five plays before his lover killed him with a hammer. … Audiences in the West End were just aghast (at the play).”

The play focuses on a middle-aged woman named Kath, who takes in a young man named Mr. Sloane. Kath’s father immediately dislikes Sloane; meanwhile, Kath begins to take a sexual interest in Sloane. And so does her brother, Ed.

Strait compares the piece to “Britcoms” like Are You Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances.

“It’s not Ozzie and Harriet,” he says while emphasizing that the play is not that dirty, and is appropriate for all audiences.

Ryan Dominguez, who performed in Desert Rose’s Dirty Little Showtunes, recently joined the cast as Mr. Sloane. Valorie Armstrong plays Kath, and Hal O’Connell plays Ed. Another Showtunes performer, Terry Huber, plays the father of Ed and Kath.

Strait concedes that the play is not the easiest show to produce. It features a fair amount of unfamiliar British slang. And then there’s the play’s length.

“It’s a three-act play, with two intermissions,” he says. “It’s a serious evening of theater.”

After the abbreviated nine-show run, the Desert Rose will produce The Boys in the Band, before concluding the company’s first season with a yet-to-be-determined show.

It’s been an up-and-down journey for the Desert Rose, which was founded by Strait and Taylor—two theater veterans—in 2010 in an effort to fill the void after another LGBT company, the Thorny Theatre, closed. They started raising money, and planned on taking over a Cathedral City building as the Desert Rose’s home. However, the election and the competition for charity dollars with other local causes led to a slowdown in donations; meanwhile, code changes meant the building they wanted was in need of more bathrooms.

Therefore, Strait and Taylor switched courses and found The Commissary in Rancho Mirage, and rented it out last year. They moved in to the spot in May, and converted it into a showroom. Then came their Desert Rose’s first full show, Dirty Little Showtunes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

While Strait and Taylor are still seeking donations, and keeping their eyes open for a permanent home for Desert Rose, Strait says they’re happy to be focusing on theater.

“This is pretty much a grassroots kind of thing,” he says. “It’s really quite charming.”

The Desert Rose Playhouse will perform Entertaining Mr. Sloane, barring any further schedule changes, at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, March 1, through Sunday, March 17. Tickets are $25, and shows take place at The Commissary, 69620 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. For tickets or more information, call 202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

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