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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Theater and Dance

07 May 2016
When the opening of a play is postponed a week, apparently because the cast is not quite ready, it tends to make reviewers a bit nervous. What if the cast is still not ready? What if the show’s just a bomb? Thankfully, my worries about the world premiere of Junk at the Desert Rose Playhouse were unfounded: Other than a few opening night jitters, it was quite an enjoyable production. The musical is based on the real-life experience of writer/composer Michael Penny. While helping clean out a dead man’s home, two friends find the place chock-full of porn and other indications of the late resident’s loneliness and quirks. So begins the plot of Junk. Two gay men—60ish Miss Lily (Jim Strait) and his “student,” 35-year-old Chris (Robbie Wayne)—arrive to dispose of the contents of a recently deceased man’s North Carolina cottage. The dearly departed has left behind a huge collection…
24 Apr 2016
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As a lovely female voice sings in the background, a professionally dressed woman walks to the front of the stage and begins a monologue. She likes to believe that every story has a happy ending, she tells us. She wants to believe in “alternate reals.” As a child, she saw Greta Garbo’s film Camille several times, and always dreamed that, hidden in a vault somewhere in Hollywood, there’s a film reel with an ending in which Garbo doesn’t die of consumption. As Dr. Martha Livingstone (Marsha Waterbury) talks, a woman in a nun’s habit, who we later learn is the Mother Superior (Laura Julian), approaches and interrupts. The two begin a discussion—and we soon find out what’s going on. The details are horrific: Several months before, a young nun, Agnes (Britt Adams), was found unconscious in her room. She’d just given birth—and her child was found dead in a trash…
23 Apr 2016
Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre’s 87 seats were filled, per usual, with eager supporters who had braved a windstorm and the craziness of a full moon to be present for the opening night of 4000 Miles. Since this is the final presentation of CV Rep’s 2015-16 season—which had the theme of “identity: lost and found” and has certainly been the company’s best ever—we were all filled with anticipation. The play by Amy Herzog debuted in 2011, and CV Rep’s founding artistic director, Ron Celona, informed us that it won an Obie Award in 2012 and was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It deals with the attempts that of all of us make to try to bridge the generational gap—and considering some of today’s music, perhaps a larger generational gap has never existed. Speaking of music, classic Dave Brubeck sounds separate the scenes of this play. What a…
23 Apr 2016
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…
09 Apr 2016
Squabbles over family heirlooms following the death of the patriarch are not new—but they are taken to a whole new level in the Desert Ensemble Theatre Company’s latest production, Bad Jews. Written by Joshua Harmon, the play received an Outer Critic’s Circle nomination for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play in 2012-2013. It’s set in a New York City apartment the evening after the funeral of Poppy, the aforementioned patriarch. His three grandchildren—Diana (she prefers her Hebrew name, Daphna), her cousin Jonah, and his brother Liam (who does NOT like his Hebrew moniker, Schlomo)—are spending the night, as is Liam’s girlfriend, Melody. The word “dysfunctional” does not even begin to describe the dynamics of this group. Things start out tense and deteriorate steadily from there. Diana is angry at Liam because he and Melody (a shiksa!) missed the funeral after Liam dropped his iPhone from an Aspen ski lift. But the bad…
26 Mar 2016
Coyote StageWorks, now back home at the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, earned a richly deserved standing ovation from the opening-night audience at ART. This one-act comedy runs about 1 1/2 hours, and earns the highest marks in every aspect of the production: set, lighting, costumes, direction, sound and acting. It’s so great in every department that it leaves your mind free to explore its unusual and beautiful theme: friendship. Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? Before the play even begins, we can ponder the eternal question of life vs. art, because we know the three characters in the play, all best friends, are also friends off the stage. Chuck Yates, the founding artistic director of Coyote StageWorks, is joined by fellow actors Larry Raben and David Engel, both founding members and original board members of CSW. This gives their onstage friendship just a…