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BWW Reviews: REVOLVER Thought Provoking Theatre at Celebration

Revolver/by Chris Phillips/directed by Ryan Bergmann/Celebration Theatre/through July 21

Reminding one a tad of La Ronde or its gay counterpart f-ing Men in its staging, Chris Phillips' Revolver is a nightmarish -sometimes frightening, sometimes titillating - series of six (like the barrels of a gun) vignettes revolving around the physical/emotional impact of being gay in West Hollywood. WeHo's geographical shape resembles a revolver and in Phillips' exact description is "the pit-stop between the real world and heaven". Not a pretty picture by any stretch of the imagination! Back and forth between the devastation of earthly violence and an intriguingly appealing re-envisioning of the afterlife, the play's nonlinear structure may not always seem ideal, but its blatant sense of anguish, rage and topical message of forgiveness within the gay community and beyond lend it a sturdy backbone. With a fine cast and fluid staging from Ryan Bergmann, Revolver merits attention.

Violence against gays continues to horrify on a daily basis, as does bullying of gay teens in high schools across our country, so the portrayal of the repercussions of gay violence is a must. We need to get the word out as much as is humanly possible. Without laws to protect and enough support to right what is wrong, the gay community sadly goes nowhere but into a dark hole of depression and degradation. Being gay has never been - and obviously never will be - easy, as long as people close their minds and hearts to equality. John Colella's character Vince DiSanto, a fictional gay activist writer/journalist, who is saluted at the very top of the play by a reporter (Matthew Scott Montgomery) for his bold attempts to defend the gay lifestyle in the wake of the Matthew Shepard tragedy, expresses in what is perhaps one of the best scenes of the play his rage against indifference to violence toward gays. The scene, which is the next to last in the play, not only comes alive with intelligent, passionate writing and the fine impassioned work of Colella, but serves to remind one of the importance for gun legislation in America, as he surrenders the revolver he had kept for protection. He symbolically strips himself naked for this great cause. In the very last scene, Matt, Matthew Shepard (Daniel Montgomery) and his killer Aaron, Aaron McKinney (AJ Jones) play out one of the most beautifully moving scenes of forgiveness one will encounter in the theater this season. Bravo to the sensational execution and powerful writing!

The entire ensemble under Ryan Bergmann's clean direction give their all to the work. Apart from the fine work of Colella, both Montgomery boys, who are real-life twins, and Jones, the cast also includes riveting performances from Robert Paterno as a killer and recovering alcoholic and Terrance Spencer who manages to be delightful as JC and then delightfully obnoxious as addict Patrick, who refuses to let go. Credit Janet Roston for a splendid tango sequence between JC and and Judas (Spencer and Daniel Montgomery). Each actor covers two roles which are as different as night from day, allowing each a chance to display some electrifying versatility.

Some scenes moved me far more than others, especially the last two, but I was equally entertained by the tango and by a very funny audition scene between MS Montgomery and Jones, so overall, the evening is enjoyable, thought-provoking and definitely worthy of your time and contribution.

Sadly, after 20 years, Celebration Theatre will be closing its doors in its current home on Santa Monica Blvd on July 31, but look to its website for a future home, which hopefully will not be too far down the road. Celebration's contributions to the gay community - and to the community at large - have been too vital to be dismissed.

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