Saturday, July 23, 2016

Gay Marriage and Ruthless!

Charlene Baldridge
Photo by Ken Howard
Witness: A Gay Marriage

Company of A Gay Marriage
Photos by Kaleb Scott
After a decade of contented coupledom, songwriter Jack (Tom Andrew) and his conventionally employed partner, Brian (Michael Lundy), tied the knot, mostly because of the recently enacted law regarding same-sex marriage but also because they love one another.  Ever since they made it official, things have been going sour in their relationship. Or was it the boon of Jack’s hit song, sold to Carrie Underwood, that turned the tide by providing the long-dependent Jack his own income?

At any rate, they’re acting more like Brian's long-wed hetero parents, retired criminal prosecutor Morty (J. Marcus Newman) and his homemaker wife Eileen (Patricia Elmore Costa). Certainly Jack's divorced sister Karen (Sherri Allen) is no role model. And yet, when Jack leaves Brian without warning, having developed what he considers destructive and abnormal feelings (he literally wants to kill Brian), each flies to these very relatives seeking understanding and succor.
Andrew and Lundy as the newlyweds
On the surface a comedy, A Gay Marriage, billed as “a new play about what happens after the honeymoon ends” (written and directed by Ronnie Larsen), is incisive and insightful, providing wisdom and truth as enacted by this fine, committed and impressive ensemble.

Sadly, A Gay Marriage runs only through July 31, Wednesdays at 8 and Fridays and Sundays at 7pm at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd., San Diego. A Gay Marriage plays in alternating repertory with Larsen’s comedy about you-know-what, Making Porn. Schedule and tickets ($25) at

Apparently word of mouth sells tickets

Stellar pair: McBean and Bowman
Photos by Daren Scott

Word of mouth about Moxie Theatre’s production of the near cult musical Ruthless! must account for the nearly filled house Thursday, July 21. The spoofy piece, with book and lyrics by Joel Paley and music by Marvin Laird, is co-directed by Leigh Scarritt and Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, who cast it to the nines. Scarritt provides her own Leigh Scarritt Productions “kids” (students and members of her singer/actor youth ensemble) to portray elementary school thespians whose drama teacher (Jeannine Marqui) is casting a musical titled Pippi in Tahiti.

A frustrated performer unaware, Judy Denmark (Eileen Bowman) has an 8-year-old daughter named Tina (Madison O’Donovan) who covets the title role of Pippi. When it goes to Louise Lerman (Hayley Silvers) instead (her parents sponsored the production and provide costumes) Tina becomes the Pippi understudy, in part to assuage her anger. Promptly, she goes “bad seed” and arranges for Louise to die in a jump-rope accident.

McBean as Sylvia St. Croix
There are many other film associations, situations, characters and performances that keep the musical moving along after it starts to grow tedious, and it does, despite so many ghastly/wonderful one-liners; however, the performers pull it off, including the amazing about-to-be second-grader O’Donovan, who has enough poise and vocal chops to be two decades or more older than she is. She’s like the niece in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, only her star turn lasts all evening.
Launer as LIta
As if Bowman and O'Donovan weren’t enough, the list of delicious, seasoned performers is extraordinary. In a role that could have been written for him, David McBean, who can do no wrong here) portrays Sylvia St. Croix, a sarcastic, pushy agent, who shows up in Judy’s kitchen after seeing Tina perform at the Rolling Hills Home for the Aged, and asks Tina, “How would you like to be a star?”

Others include real-life theatre critic Pat Launer as Lita Encore, a theatre critic who happens to be Tina’s grandmother (and who even gives her a bad review!); Cashe Monya, who becomes Judy’s housekeeper when Tina goes to prison, and Judy wins two Tony Awards; and perhaps the most subtle and funny of all, Shirley Johnston as a lesbian journalist who comes to interview Judy. As most all do, she, too, has a secret agenda. And then, the night I saw the show, longtime School of the Visual and Performing Arts teacher, Neil Rothschild played the two line, 11th hour role of Judy’s husband, Richard. This actor in this cameo varies every night but none will display better timing and naiveté than this one.

O'Donovan and Bowman
as reunited daughter and mother

Funniest songs in the show are “I Hate Musicals” (Launer), “Teaching Third Grade” (Marquie), and “I Want the Girl” (McBean); and of course the climactic “Ruthless!” sung by Bowman, McBean and O’Donovan. The end is rather “Hamlet,” but that makes Richard’s entrance even more hilarious.

I met McBean’s niece and his mother in the lobby before the show. The child’s major complaint in viewing Uncle David's performances thus far has been that her he never has enough gowns. He surely does this time, thanks to costume designer Kate Bishop, whose “Pippi” costume achieves a high mark of some kind. Missy Bradstreet’s wigs are a hoot; Johnston provides choreography; set and properties by Angelia Ynfante and lighting by Sherrice Mojgani. David Scott did what he could with the venue’s challenging acoustics.

Ruthless! plays at 7pm Thursdays, 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 2pm Sundays through August 7, Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. San Diego 92116. $30, or 858-598-7620.

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