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BWW Review: ELECTRICITY at Oscar's Dinner Theatre

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A Tuesdays-Only Treat in Downtown Palm Springs

BWW Review: ELECTRICITY at Oscar's Dinner Theatre

Do you know what the longest running play in Palm Springs is? Have you seen it, or even heard of it? You should - you definitely must - see Electricity, currently in its third year of production in this town (albeit only on Tuesday nights).

The show by actor/playwright Terry Ray is set in a motel room, and the first two years were actually performed at INNDulge in a motel room with an audience of 20 serving as flies on the wall, watching the action. Fortunately, the show has transferred to Oscar's dinner theatre in the middle of town which enables about triple the audience, comfortable tables and chairs, and some really terrific food (more on that later).

Electricity is the story of two men who attended high school together and knew who each other, but weren't close. They have now caught up at their tenth high school reunion. Brad (Mel England), a worldly bad boy, pretty quickly lets it be known that he is gay and that his longest relationship has been one night. Gary (playwright Terry Ray) is fluttery, insecure, and prattles on about his loving wife who awaits him at home. I don't want to give more about the plot because the playwright has done such an excellent job with the awkward nervousness of two guys who have decided to share expenses with one motel room.

The 10-year reunions are held where the men graduated from high school in 1973 in Chillicothe, Ohio (where the paper mill makes the entire town smell like a fart). The four scenes of the play are set around the high school reunions of 1983, 1993, 2003 and 2013, and for various reasons, the men have little or no contact in the intervening periods. Still, as different as they are, there is some force that keeps them coming back - some electricity.

The magic of the script is the playwright's keen ear for the cadence, subjects and values of 28-, 38-, 48- and 58-year-old men. By the fourth scene, we know these guys so well that the proscenium has disappeared and we're sitting in an arm chair in their hotel room, listening to them tell their truths and knowingly nodding along with them. The two actors use a few costume and wig tricks to establish the ages, but the majority of the growth comes from some damned fine acting. So many twists that we see their lives have taken, we understand because we saw the seeds being sown twenty years (or actually 40 minutes) ago. I was especially struck by how when one character gently nudged a behavior in the other, it could result in a major change of behavior in that other man a decade later. It made me question the effect I might have had on a friend or even a stranger's life with a passing suggestion.

The play is obviously about a gay couple and easily 2/3 of the audience was gay men, most of them of a certain age (which pretty well describes any Palm Springs audience), but there was a fair sprinkling of mixed- and all-female couples. The value of this production certainly exceeds the gender of the characters.

When I attended college in Orange County, several times per year I would drive into L A to see Fantasticks or Charlie Brown, both of which played for years. They both had the power to transport me and to make me leave the theatre feeling different than I did when I went in. I think Electricity is filling that spot for me now. I have seen it twice in the last couple of months, and won't hesitate to see it again in a few more months.

Oscar's Dinner Theatre has a new chef and the meals my partner and I had were truly wonderful. They are presenting a three-course meal at a very reasonable $39 (their main courses alone are about that amount). The meal starts with a choice of soup or salad, followed by Salmon (I highly recommend!), Chicken Fettucine (my partner gave it raves), a Steak Salad or Bolognese Pasta. And I don't care what diet you are on, don't miss the dessert choices of Binuelo Cheesecake or Mango and Raspberry Sorbet.

The doors open at 5:30 for dinner and the show starts at 7:00. There is one intermission, and each performance features a celebrity leading a Q & A following the show. The first time I saw it, the guest was an amazingly-hearty Ruta Lee, and this time it was writer/producer Ron Oliver, an erudite and charming Hollywood fixture.

Tickets for the show are available at www.ElectricityThePlay.com . It is currently set to run every Tuesday at Oscar's through the end of the year, and hopefully will continue long after that (unless/until it moves to Off-Broadway!). Oh, and proof of vac, natch!


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