CVIndependent

Fri11222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Anyone who’s worked as an office receptionist knows it can be a thankless job, but it’s not normally all that dangerous.

Well, danger certainly lurks in Dezart Performs’ current production, The Receptionist, a dark comedy by Adam Bock.

In the first part of the play, the title character, Beverly (Deborah Harmon), goes about her daily duties with great efficiency. It’s a seemingly normal day at the North East Office, as Beverly cheerfully handles the phones, relegating unwanted callers to the voicemails of co-workers. She sorts mail, tidies her desk and dishes out romantic advice to officemate Lorraine (Theresa Jewett). Beverly’s maternal warmth is clear as she calms her upset daughter over the phone—as is her irritation when her husband announces he has spent the money allocated for the family phone bill on yet another collectible teacup. It’s the boss’ birthday, so Beverly takes on the job of ordering a cake, and proudly shows Lorraine the card she’s purchased, which features a pony smoking a pipe.

Everything seems to be running smoothly until Martin Dart from the Central Office arrives to see the boss. Dart (Lou Galvan) appears to be a likable guy. He chats amiably with Beverly and responds to Lorraine’s blatant flirting with gusto. When the boss, Mr. Raymond (Hal O’Connell), finally shows up, the two men disappear into his office. After several minutes of shouting behind a closed door, the grim-faced pair emerges—and Dart escorts Mr. Raymond out of the building.

Apparently Mr. Raymond did not follow proper procedure when torturing and interrogating a client. He’s now facing the consequences.

As Act I ends, the audience is left wondering whether Beverly and Lorraine might also be marched down to the Central Office for questioning. And just what does this company do? It certainly seems ominous. Given the threat of worldwide terrorism (especially with opening night coming on the same day as the horrific attacks in Paris), this play seems quite timely.

Under the masterful direction of Dezart’s artistic director, Michael Shaw, the cast is uniformly excellent. Like an evenly matched tennis foursome, they volley the dramatic ball back and forth with great skill. As Beverly, Deborah Harmon is perfect. There is not one false note in her performance. Early on, she’s funny, witty and totally in control of the kingdom that is her reception desk. Later, as the reality of what her fate might be sets in, we see her composure melt away into a puddle of fear.

Theresa Jewett is fabulous as Lorraine. Vampy and flirty, yet insecure, she reminds us of that one woman we’ve all worked with who just can’t get it together in the romance department.

Lou Galvan is spot-on as the mysterious Martin Dart. After initially coming across as a friendly guy, he sends a chill up our spines when his menacing side emerges. Equally as good is Hal O’Connell as the beleaguered Mr. Raymond. He also strikes us as a nice guy who got caught up in his company’s dark business, and is ultimately resigned to his fate.

Thomas L. Valach’s set is superb, while Phil Murphy’s lighting and Clark Dugger’s sound are just right.

The Receptionist is a relatively short play—just 75 minutes—but it will keep you pondering its themes for days.

The Receptionist, a production of Dezart Performs, will be performed at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $28, or $24 for matinees. The show runs just less than 90 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-0179, or visit www.dezartperforms.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

It all started because Michael Shaw and Dezart Performs co-founder Daniela Ryan wanted to bring more new live theater to the Coachella Valley.

In those first days of what would become the Play Reading Festival, performances were held in a small art gallery. Shaw and Ryan would solicit new scripts from friends and colleagues, and once a month, they would choose one play, cast it, find a director, and present a staged reading—charging just $5 a head. So attendees remained invested in the whole process, each audience member was given ballots to grade each play. After seven months, Dezart tallied up the grades, and the play receiving the highest score was produced as the company’s first show the following season.

Fast-forward to today, and the procedure for the Seventh Annual Play Reading Festival, which takes place April 3-11, is much more formalized: Every fall, Dezart puts out a national call for submissions, and receives between 110 and 125 scripts; last year, Dezart even received entries from Australia and Canada. The scripts get divvied up among a team of 15 readers; they go through several rounds of scoring, and the number of scripts is narrowed down to about 25, which Shaw himself reads. Shaw then passes them on to a colleague, and the two of them choose the five to seven finalists.

With both the Play Reading Festival and Dezart Performs’ other productions, Shaw is not willing to settle when it comes to quality, he said. He admitted that he occasionally ruffles feathers—like, for example, when he refuses to cast friends in parts for which they are not right.

“Here in the valley, just like with theater in Los Angeles, there’s some really good stuff, and there’s some really bad stuff,” Shaw said. “But the passion’s always there. You can walk into any theater in the valley and see the passion. That’s fabulous, but passion can only take you so far.”

Other important factors in Dezart’s success include selecting only special material, and knowing the Dezart Performs audience. Some audience members have been shocked or offended by some of Dezart’s more controversial offerings, he said, including the recent 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche. Shaw doesn’t mind that, as long as each play gets people thinking and talking.

Shaw believes the five plays in this year’s Play Reading Festival will do just that:

Miss Prindle’s Summer Session (Friday, April 3) is a 10-minute comedy by John Lordan. In it, a mother sends her middle-age son back to summer school to study with his retired grammar-school teacher. It’s one of three plays in the festival that Shaw is directing.

The Golden Boots (Friday, April 3) is a one-act comedy by James Rosenfield, based on a true story. A few hours before a reception for Joseph II of Austria, Catherine the Great learns that her lover, the adjutant general, has seduced her best friend. The empress demands that a new adjutant general be chosen in time for the reception.

Suicide Dogs (Saturday, April 4), by Jess Honovich, is a comedy-drama. Also directed by Shaw, the play’s story revolves around Amelia, who flies her family to Florida to prepare for her brother’s funeral after his suicide. What she’s not expecting is that she will now be responsible for her late brother’s famous and sick dog.

Above Water (Friday, April 10) is a drama by Bob Clyman. It’s the story of two middle-age couples who have vacationed together for years. The play begins as the group is on vacation for the first time since one of the wives has died of cancer. The husband has brought along his much younger girlfriend—to the chagrin of the other wife, who was very close to the cancer victim.

• The final play in the festival is drama Cat and Mouse (Saturday, April 11), by Michael E. Wolfson, and also directed by Michael Shaw. Stan and Larry, who have known each other since elementary school, re-connect at a dinner party. One of them ropes the other into a life gamble; the third character in the play is a woman who’s the object of the competition.

This year’s playwrights hail from New Jersey, Chicago, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

The festival features local actors Yo Younger, Garnett Smith, Daniela Ryan, Adina Lawson, Valerie Armstrong, Blanche Mickelson and Scott Smith. Adina Lawson and Joan McGillis each direct one play. As always, the audience will get a chance to vote on which play gets a full production next season.

Like all Dezart shows, the Play Reading Festival takes place at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club. It has been a great home for Dezart Performs for the past few years, but Shaw said the company is growing out of it. One of Shaw’s dreams is to renovate an old church and transform it into a theater; another is to create a performing arts center in Palm Springs that several groups could utilize.

Whatever happens, the area’s theater community is better off thanks to Dezart Performs and its annual festival.

Dezart Performs’ Seventh Annual Play Reading Festival takes place at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 3 through 11, at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $10, or $34 for all four nights. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-0179, or visit www.dezartperforms.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

October 1962 was a crazy time in the United States. The Cuban Missile Crisis had the world on the verge of nuclear war. Deadly riots after the first black student was admitted to the University of Mississippi had the country on edge.

Cultural change was afoot as well: Rock ’n’ roll was taking the country by storm, and some women, in some places, could gain control over their own bodies thanks to “the pill.” Oh, and kids were starting to wear sneakers to school. Yes, God forbid, sneakers.

This is the world in which the Whitebottom family of Worcester, Mass., finds itself in Duck and Cover, the dramatic comedy currently on the Palm Springs Womans Club stage, compliments of Dezart Performs. The organization’s mission is to present newer works of theater, and this is the West Coast premiere of Michael Kimball’s play. He should be proud of the fun, if flawed, production it is receiving from Dezart Performs and director Judith Chapman.

We first meet the Whitebottom family as the father, Hugh, is quizzing his 12-year-old son, Stevie, on state capitals and proper knot-tying. The mother, Claire, looks on, as the friendly neighborhood milkman, Mr. Rippit, drops by. We soon learn that Hugh served our country during World War II on a submarine, and that Stevie wants to be an electrical engineer when he grows up. The scene is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting—at first.

We soon start to see small cracks in this all-American scene: Hugh chastises Claire for mentioning a financial matter “with strangers,” and makes Stevie feel stupid for dangerously leaving the door unlocked. Yes, Hugh’s a bit domineering—and we sense early on that this is going to become a problem at some point for the Whitebottoms.

The family’s relative peace is thrown into total disarray with the sudden arrival of Bunny, Claire’s brother. He shows up wearing tattered pajamas and holding a trumpet—the one thing he was able to save from the fire that has just destroyed his apartment. Hugh’s not a fan of his musician brother-in-law; he begrudgingly lets Bunny stay, but only until the end of November, and only if he pays $10 per week as rent.

A little later, the family is thrown into further turmoil when Eddie, a—gasp!—black man!—arrives. Turns out he’s a nice guy who is Bunny’s friend and co-worker, but his arrival sends Stevie fearfully scurrying into the bedroom, and leaves Claire wondering whether she’s ever seen a “negro” in person before.

Any play starring Yo Younger and Michael Shaw (Michael, I should disclose, is a good friend of mine) has a lot going for it; after all, they’re two of the best actors working in the valley today. True to form, Younger is amazing; she is, by far, the best thing about this production. She fully inhabits the role of Claire as she transforms from a put-on-a-happy-face housewife into a woman who decides she finally needs to put her foot down to protect her brother, her son and—most importantly—her own self-interests. This is a flawless, fantastic performance; Younger is so good that, at times, you may be tempted to race to the stage to give her a hug as she struggles to reconcile her needs with her reality.

Shaw, on the other hand, falls a bit short in his characterization of Hugh. The lines Hugh is given reminded one of my fellow play-goers of Archie Bunker—Hugh is a domineering bully of a man who declares repeatedly that in HIS house, and with HIS family, HE is the one who makes the rules. While Shaw brings plenty of bluster and frustration to the character, he doesn’t amp up the domination and anger quite enough; it’s hard to believe that Stevie and Claire would be so fully under the thumb of this Hugh. It’s only when Hugh shows off his lovable and noble traits—most notably in a scene near the end of the play when he cries out that all he really wants to do is protect his family from the turmoil of the world that surrounds them—that Shaw truly shines.

Local middle-schooler Stephen Lee is perfectly cast as the awkward, nerdy Stevie, while Scott Smith is good as Bunny; he’s especially good when expressing the adoration he feels for his dear sister, Claire. Hal O’Connell brings a lot of laughs as Mr. Rippit, the milkman who, we learn as the play progresses, is delivering more than dairy products to some of his customers. Robert Ramirez is strong in the first act as Eddie, although he descends a bit too far into stereotypes in the second.

All of the technical aspects of the play, per usual at Dezart Performs, are excellent, with one notable exception: The set. It’s a gorgeous, detailed, technically flawless piece of work, and may well be the best set that could have possibly been designed for the smallish stage at the Womans Club’s Pearl McManus Theater. Problem is, this play feels a bit too big for this stage: A living room, a kitchen and Stevie’s bedroom are all crammed in, and this leads to some awkward blocking by the characters, especially when four or more people are on stage at once.

Kimball’s script has some hilarious lines; I laughed out loud at least a half-dozen times. Still, the book could use some smoothing out. The characters’ transformations at the end seemed unrealistically sudden, and one moment—involving Stevie and Mr. Rippit—came off as downright creepy.

These issues aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Duck and Cover. It’s a funny and, at times, moving piece of theater that will leave you smiling as the talented actors take their bows. Don’t miss it.

Duck and Cover, a production of Dezart Performs, is performed at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $22 to $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-0179, or visit dezartperforms.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

You don’t have to be a gay woman or a fan of quiche to thoroughly enjoy 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, the 2014-2015 season-opening production by Dezart Performs.

Written by Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood, the five-character play opened in Chicago in 2011, then hit off-Broadway in 2012; it was named a Best Overall Production at the New York International Fringe Festival.

Set in 1956, the play opens in a church basement, which has been turned into a fallout shelter. (The simple set by J.W. Layne works quite well.) The members of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein have gathered for their annual quiche breakfast. The main event on the agenda: the judging of the quiches, to determine which is best.

Everyone in the audience is a member of the society, too; attendees are each given a nametag upon entering. (I was “Dorothy.”) Throughout the production, the five ladies onstage zing individual audience members, focusing most of their venom on Marjorie, the impeached former building-and-grounds chairman sitting in the front row.

The egg—the main ingredient in a quiche, of course—has been sacred to members of the society since the group was founded by a pioneering woman who came across a colony of hens in the woods. Their motto: “No men, no meat, all manners.” When a misguided member once showed up with a sausage quiche, she was unceremoniously thrown out of the meeting. Joyce Jenkins’ brightly colored costumes and Lyndee Goodall’s hair-and-wig designs perfectly capture the era, and help define each character.

Thankfully, the entire cast is superb. It’s a joy when members of an ensemble are evenly matched, as they are here. Allison Feist is quite effective as emotionally fragile Dale. Adina Lawson is an absolute hoot as no-nonsense Vern, who takes her job as building-and-grounds chairman very seriously. There were times when she reminded me of a young Barbra Streisand. As the society’s innocent secretary, Ginny, Phylicia Mason is charming, even if her English accent was a bit inconsistent. Kristine Waters is hilarious and a bit campy as Wren and Yo Younger once again delivers a flawless performance as the group’s fearless Southern leader, Lulie.

Kudos go to director/producer Michael Shaw for choosing this piece, and for eliciting such great performances from his cast. Both the sound (Clark Dugger) and the lighting (Phil Murphy) are spot-on.

Act One ends with a nuclear blast destroying the outside world, apparently leaving only the members of the society alive. As Act Two begins, and the meeting progresses, the comedy gets broader, and the sexual double-entendres become more blatant. At one point, Ginny loses control, jumps on the table and buries her face, tongue-first, in the winning quiche; another character comments on her “good technique.”

Confessions begin, and the truth comes out: These self-proclaimed “widows” really prefer romantic liaisons with each other. (This isn’t a spoiler if you know the name of the play.) Dale’s monologue detailing why she’s the way she is, and why she hasn’t spoken to a man since a rift with her father at age 3, is terrific. Since audience participation is a big part of this show, by the end of the night, we were all proclaiming to be lesbians.

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche was originally conceived as a one-act. Having it morph into a two-act play works, since the pace is brisk. Including the 15-minute intermission, the total running time was about 90 minutes.

Once again, Dezart Performs has proven that it’s a gem in the valley’s theater scene. This production is wonderful: It’s fun, bawdy and, at times, touching. If you’re not offended by sexual humor or two women kissing, you’ll love this show—and you’ll never look at quiche the same way again.

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche, by Dezart Performs, is performed at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 23, at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, in Palm Springs. Evening shows are $25; matinees are $22. A champagne brunch at Lulu California Bistro, followed by the show, begins at 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 16; tickets are $44. A benefit performance for the Desert AIDS Project takes place at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 16; tickets are $35. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-0179, or visit www.dezartperforms.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche—From Dezart Performs

It’s 1956, and the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein’s lovely annual quiche breakfast is disrupted by … the threat of Communists! At 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $22 to $25; $44 for the show and brunch at LuLu California Bistro on Sunday, Nov. 16. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; dezartperforms.org.

12th Annual Annenberg Theater Opening Night Gala Fundraiser

Andrea McArdle, Maureen McGovern, Donna McKechnie and Randy Graff headline this special fundraiser, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. $95 to $295. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—From Palm Canyon Theatre

An eclectic group of kids compete for the big prize in the renowned spelling competition at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $28. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Broadway in Drag!—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The lovely Bella da Ball hosts this fourth annual drag pageant, as female impersonators vie for the crown in this Palm Springs Pride event, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7. $35 to $50. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

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, 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.

A Magical Evening of Luminaries

Don Martin hosts, and Christopher Marlowe is the musical director at this fundraiser for CV Rep featuring Kaye Ballard, Joyce Bulifant, Carol Channing and many others, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2. $75; $250 VIP. At the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower, 39000 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

McCallum Theatre

Mummenschanz, the Swiss mask theater troupe, is part of the Palm Desert International Dance Festival and Choreography Competition, at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13; $20 to $65. Also part of the festival: A Man’s Requiem, by the SEOP Dance Company from South Korea, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15; $20 to $65. Renowned musical Anything Goes is performed at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 29; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 30. $35 to $105. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

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, through Sunday, Nov. 2. $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.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, though Saturday, Nov. 1. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Noises Off!—From Desert Theatreworks

Desert Theatreworks re-imagines what’s been called the funniest farce ever written for their intimate theater space, at 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Nov. 9. No show on 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 Odd Couple—From Palm Desert Stage

Lou Galvan and Matthew Shaker star as the famously mismatched roommates at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 23. $28; $25 seniors Friends of IPAC; $17 students. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-636-9682; www.pdstage.com.

The Rocky Horror Show—From COD Theatre

The campy rock musical that made “The Time Warp” famous is performed at 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.

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, from Friday, Nov. 14, 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, from Friday, Nov. 21, 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.

Published in Theater and Dance

In a valley full of theater, Dezart Performs sets itself apart by focusing on the new.

“We’re bringing new and original material to the desert—stuff that’s never been seen at least in the Coachella Valley, if not Los Angeles,” says Michael Shaw, the artistic director of the nonprofit company which is wrapping up its season with its Sixth Annual Play Reading Series over the next two weekends. “We seek out stuff that hasn’t been seen by a wide audience, if it has been seen at all.”

The Play Reading Series is the culmination of a process that starts every August or September: Dezart Performs puts out a call to the world for submissions of original plays that are unpublished, and have never been performed in the Coachella Valley. This year, Dezart received 95 submissions from across the country and even the world. (That number is mercifully a bit down from the whopping 122 scripts the organization got two years ago.)

“Apparently, the word is getting out,” Shaw says. “Playwrights are constantly looking for venues.”

All the submissions went to about 15 readers. They were scored in two rounds, and the top 20 were forwarded to Shaw, who picked the finalists.

This year, there are but four finalists, and all are full-length plays; in previous years, due to the inclusion of one-acts, the Play Reading Series included more finalists.

“We received very few one-acts, and a lot of full-lengths,” Shaw says.

This year’s four finalists will be each read by professional actors in directed shows at the Palm Springs Womans Club over the next two weekends:

• At 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 11, is The (Former) Prostitutes Potluck Supper, a comedy by Frankie Little Hardin. It focuses on a group of women, plus one man, who have all retired from the world’s oldest profession, and who meet once a month for a supper in small-town Georgia. However, tensions rise when a newcomer joins the group. For mature audiences only.

• At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 12, is Whispers to the Moon, a drama by Kris Bauske. Every August for 42 years, a man and a woman—each married to someone else—have returned to the same hotel on the Riviera to consummate their love. When the woman’s adult daughter shows up unannounced, things get complicated.

• At 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 18, is The Living Mrs. Del Vecchio, a comedy by Larry Ukolowicz. At a funeral, three women join forces and form a “trial-by-jury organization created to chastise anyone who simply ruins a lovely day.” The play then depicts their first trial, featuring pizza, vodka and dance performances.

• At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 19, is Duck and Cover, a comedy by Michael Kimball. In 1962, a sheltered family in suburban Massachusetts deals with the chaos created when the 12-year-old son wants sneakers, and the wife wants her driver’s license. The problem: The husband sees sneakers and female drivers as steps toward anarchy.

After each show, audience members are asked to submit a ballot scoring the play. Each play is scored individually, and not in comparison to the others, meaning people who can’t see all the shows will still help determine which play is deemed the audience favorite. And there’s a big prize in store for the audience favorite: Dezart will mount a full production of the play as part of its 2014-2015 season.

Last year, two plays—Exquisite Potential and Invasion of Privacy—tied as audience favorite; therefore, Shaw and company decided to produce both plays this season. Both productions received high marks from reviewers and achieved success at the box office.

Although he realizes asking audience members to devote themselves to seeing four readings over two weekends is a lot, Shaw wants people to see as many of the plays as they can.

“We encourage … people to get invested in the entire process. That’s why we keep the series very affordable. I want everybody to come to every single one of these.”

Dezart Performs’ Sixth Annual Play Reading Series takes place at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, April 19, at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. Tickets are $8 for each reading, or $25 for the entire series. For tickets, call 800-838-3006, or visit www.dezartperforms.com. Visit the website for more information.

Published in Theater and Dance

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