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Theater and Dance

15 Jan 2017
Frankly, I was uncomfortable going to see Clybourne Park, Dezart Performs’ latest production. The setting for this “Black (and White) Comedy by Bruce Norris,” as the play’s poster says, is Chicago—in 1959 for Act 1, then fast-forwarding 50 years to the same house in 2009 for Act 2. The show won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2011, as well as the Tony Award for Best Play in 2012, and it requires a cast of eight—a sea change for Dezart, which until previous show Casa Valentina, always kept the cast size small (possibly because of those dressing rooms?). The play deals with the always-awkward topic of race and real estate. My husband, Ted, was born in Chicago, and we have discussed the way his city divided up into enclaves dominated by Italians, Greeks, Germans, Scandinavians and African Americans. For those who can remember the bad old days of segregated neighborhoods…
19 Nov 2016
Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and I was hopeful as I settled into my seat at the Desert Rose Playhouse on opening night of The Santaland Diaries. I wanted to like it—and indeed, I did. However, I wish I’d liked it a little bit more. David Sedaris first presented his essay about working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s on National Public Radio in 1992. The piece was adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello in 1996, and the one-man show debuted at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York in November that year. The play, which runs not quite 90 minutes with no intermission, details Sedaris’ trials and tribulations as he first interviews for—and then lands—a position at Santaland as an assistant to the big man in red. The elf selection process has 30-something out-of-work actor David (played by Chris Clonts) on edge: “If you can’t even…
05 Nov 2016
How far should spousal loyalty go when your mate’s creative expression causes you emotional pain? When does a risqué hobby become deviancy—and who decides what’s deviant, anyway? These are the questions examined in Dezart Performs’ production of Casa Valentina. Harvey Fierstein’s provocative play earned four Tony nominations, including one for Best New Play, in 2014. The time in Casa Valentina is 1962—a more innocent yet much less tolerant era. A group of professional heterosexual men gather at a bungalow in the Catskills to relax and blow off steam. They eat, drink, dance and laugh—all while dressed as women. This haven for transvestites really existed, at a resort called Chevalier d’Eon, named after an 18th-century cross-dresser. The story was revealed when antiques dealer Robert Swopes stumbled across a box of pictures at a Manhattan flea market. Each photo captured these men in all their feminine glory: Bewigged and clad in dresses,…
29 Oct 2016
They call it synchronicity when similar events coincide. I had no idea what the word “Annapurna” meant—and yet I stumbled across its name and discovered its meaning just a couple of weeks before seeing the play of that title at Coachella Valley Repertory. Synchronicity! Turns out Annapurna is the Nepalese name of one of the 14 “over 8,000 meter high” mountains in the world—and it is listed as the deadliest of them all: One out of every three climbers of this rock has been killed. At CV Rep, the play’s director and the company’s founder and artistic director, Ron Celona, chose Sharr White’s Annapurna to start the company’s sixth season—and congratulations on succeeding in a business where so many theaters fail. However, this show is not about mountain-climbing. It’s about relationships—which can certainly be as dangerous, given the mortality rate of marriages these days. Ulysses and his wife Emma split…
25 Oct 2016
Dezart Performs has developed a reputation for presenting bold and avant-garde theatrical productions—so it means something when artistic director Michael Shaw says that the 2016-2017 season is Dezart’s boldest yet. Shaw says he has a fondness socially relevant yet “wacky” plays. Casa Valentina, Dezart’s season-opener, certainly fits that bill. Written by Harvey Fierstein, Casa Valentina received four 2014 Tony Award nominations, including a nomination for Best Play. Set in the Catskills in 1962, the play offers a peek into the lives of heterosexual men who enjoy dressing up and behaving like women. During the week, they pursue respectable careers as ad execs, lawyers and sales reps—but when the weekend rolls around, they cut loose and take on their female personas. Casa Valentina is owned and operated by George—whose alter ego is Valentina—as well as George’s wife, Rita. The play is based on a real-life haven for heterosexual transvestites that was…
01 Oct 2016
It’s autumn, and again, the theater season begins. How auspicious that the beginning of our fourth season of theater reviews coincides with the opening of the fifth season of plays by the fabulously successful Desert Rose Playhouse. With all the doom-sayers proclaiming that live theater is dead, and that newspapers are dead, we have both survived. This year, Desert Rose’s artistic director, Jim Strait, tells us that he and producer Paul Taylor are “addressing the woes of the world by doing comedy.” What a great idea! Their plans for 2016-17 include The Santaland Diaries, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom with Coma, Southern Baptist Sissies and Clark Gable Slept Here. If these crazy titles are any indication, we’re in for a LOT of fun this year at our desert’s LGBT playhouse. The initial offering, POZ, was written by Michael Aman. It’s set in 2003 in The City (as New Yorkers proudly call…