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BWW Review: THIS SIDE OF CRAZY at Palm Canyon Theatre

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Del Shores' Newest Play is a Must-See!

BWW Review: THIS SIDE OF CRAZY at Palm Canyon Theatre

A very magical combination of excellence has just occurred in Palm Springs theatre, and even though it's only for one weekend, I wanted to tip you off to it. The show is Del Shores' newest play, This Side of Crazy. The magic occurs when this smart script is delivered by four of the Coachella Valley's finest actresses under the helm of one of the valley's top directors, Richard Marlow.

The play is set in the home of Ditty Blaylock (Deborah Harmon), the most prolific writer/singer of gospel music in the country. Her oldest daughter, Rachel (Yo Younger) lives with her. We discover that Ditty is scheduled to be honored with a television special by The Gospel Music Network, but she has promised that her three daughters, the Blaylock Sisters, would appear with her. Problem is, the girls can't stand each other and haven't been in the same room for years.

The next daughter we meet is Bethany (Melanie Blue), an atheist lesbian who has the energy and grace of a big floppy puppy. The last daughter is Abigail (Denise Strand), who has been confined to an institution since strangling Rachel's husband, who has survived 20 years in a coma. She has, well, anger issues.

Shores has smartly structured the first act where we get to meet each of the characters in duet scenes, learn their histories and their idiosyncrasies - and they are all rich in idiosyncrasies! Then in the second act, the fireworks begin when the mother and three daughters share the room. The fur certainly flies, long-buried hostilities surface, and truths are revealed.

Playwright Shores was in attendance opening night and conducted a Q & A after the show, giving some background as to what motivated him to write the show and who it was based on. The consummate entertainer, his answers were part stand-up comedy, part world-renowned playwright, and every inch a Texan gentleman. When he brought the cast and director onstage, he expressed genuine praise for their work - the first time the play had been produced without his directing it. The ladies' shared where their Texan accents came from, how they unwind after a rehearsal or performance, and what the characters mean to them.

Between the writing ,directing, and superb performances all around, the family was totally believable and as dramatic as some of their battles got, they all boiled down eventually to a place of love. They are indeed family.

Extra credit goes to the amazing set design by Toby Griffin. With various levels and cut-away walls, it allows the action to flow throughout the house without set changes. J. W. Layne's lighting design and Derik Shopinski's costumes kept us in the scene, with a special shout-out to Ditty's ensemble for her television special. Hilarious!

This Side of Crazy only plays through Sunday, November 21, at Palm Canyon Theatre with Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Palm Canyon Theatre is centrally located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive at the corner of Alejo. For tickets or more information, phone 760-323-5123 or visit www.PalmCanyonTheatre.org.

Photo by Paul Hayashi


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