BWW Review: There is Good Reason to See Desert Ensemble Theatre's FOR A REASON
Desert Ensemble Theatre's (DETC's) world premiere production of FOR A REASON, by DETC's playwright-in-residence and founding artistic director, Tony Padilla, is DETC's eighth production of one of Mr. Padilla's plays. FOR A REASON is an uplifting comedy with witty repartee and fine acting by the whole cast. It is well worth seeing.
The script's premise is that nothing in life is truly meaningless - everything happens for a reason, and constitutes at least a teaching moment, if not a life-changing event. True to the title, the play seems to be about mundane subjects, until one examines how everything fits together. At that point, it is easy to see the play's depth.
The four-character comedy centers on Pablo Luna (Charles Herrera, an Actors' Equity member), an aging, wealthy writer with a degenerative disease who needs a caregiver both for safety and companionship. His widowed daughter-in-law, Sandra (Leanna Rodgers), would like to be free to travel and even move out, but she worries about leaving Pablo alone. She figuratively twists his arm to hire someone, and Pablo grudgingly chooses Aaron Watson, who appears to be able to hold his own in the sarcastic philosophical debates in which Pablo likes to engage. When Pablo hires Gisele (Bonnie Gilgallon), a woman from his past, to judge one of their verbal sparring contests, Sandra is appalled to discover that Gisele appears to be a call girl.
Currently in its eighth year, DETC is now in Jerome Elliott's capable hands as artistic director. Shawn Abramowitz, DETC's executive director, directed FOR A REASON, as well as stepping into the role of Aaron Watson with three weeks' notice after the original actor left the show because of a sudden schedule conflict. Mr. Abramowitz's smooth performance does not show any hint of his last minute addition to the cast. He and the rest of the cast exhibit an easy camaraderie; their chemistry is perfect for a play that is about love, but not romance.
The action takes place in Pablo's den or living room. The set (designed by Lauren Bright), with its combination of antiques, avant-garde tchotchkes, and brass curio shelves evokes the house of a wealthy intellectual who has traveled around the world. Frank Cazares's costume design successfully draws a contrast between the down-to-earth Sandra and the sultry Giselle, with the latter wearing high spike heels and a low-cut, red dress.
The play is short - only an hour long - but it generally moves quickly. I don't want to give away too many of the bon mots, but most are funny, and the audience laughed heartily on the day I attended. Visitors from the North will especially appreciate the line, "If they can't stand the heat, they should move to Canada." Much of the dialogue is R-rated, and the play is definitely not appropriate for kids. Those adults who can get past the talk about sex and body parts, however, will be glad they attended this gem.
The rest of the crew consists of Sierra Barrick (assistant director and stage manager), Ashton J. Bolanos (lighting design), and Gus Sanchez (sound).
Performances take place at the Pearl McManus Theatre, in the Palm Springs Woman's Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, (two blocks south of Palm Canyon Blvd.), in Palm Springs, California.
FOR A REASON will run through February 17, 2019, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., and on Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 each ($26.87 including service fee), plus tax. Call 760-565-2476 for tickets or more information, or consult the web site, www.detctheatre.org.
The rest of DETC's 2018-19 season consists of:
PROOF, by David Auburn (March 15-17 and March 22-24, 2019)
Catherine has inherited her late father's mathematical brilliance, but she is haunted by the fear that she might also share his debilitating mental illness. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, PROOF examines the connection between genius and madness.
GRACELAND and ASLEEP ON THE WIND, by Ellen Byron (April 19-21 and April 26-28, 2019)
Two one-act plays presented on the same program, with an overlapping character. GRACELAND takes place at the entrance to Elvis Presley's mansion, at five o'clock in the morning, three days before the estate is to be opened to the public. Two Presley fans, Bev and Rootie, are camped out before the gates, each determined to be the first to enter. ASLEEP ON THE WIND takes place ten years before GRACELAND, in Bayou Teche, Louisiana. Rootie's favorite brother, Beau, wants to convince Rootie to finish school and to tell her that he has volunteered to go to Vietnam.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jerome Elliott