BWW Review: You'll Die Laughing at Desert Rose's DIE MOMMIE DIE.
Playwright Charles Busch is known for his sendups of old melodramas, with juicy female lead parts often played by a man. DIE MOMMIE DIE, now playing at Desert Rose Playhouse, is one of these. With fabulous acting by Loren Freeman and his supporting team of kooky characters, superb direction by Robbie Wayne, terrific technical design and execution, and plot twists galore in Act II, this production is a great deal of fun.
Angela Arden (Mr. Freeman) is a washed-up singer whose life completely disintegrated when her twin sister, Barbara, died of an overdose. The death occurred before the play begins in the late 1960's, but a clever slide show at the beginning explains the back story. Angela is at the center of a dysfunctional family - her Yiddish-quoting movie producer husband, Sol (David Brendel) has cultivated the public perception of being a good-hearted liberal, but he is a horrible person who verbally abuses their son, Lance (Matt E. Allen), who is not only trying to deal with being gay, but also suffers from severe mental illness. In contrast to her adoration of Lance, Angela despises their daughter, Edith (Melanie Blue), who is uncomfortably close to her father. A horny gigolo (Rob Rota) and a Bible-quoting maid (Lorraine Williamson), who not-so-secretly loves Sol, round out the cast. In keeping with the requirements of a melodrama, all the actors sound deliciously over-the-top, as if they're performing in a soap opera. They seem to be having a ball with the foibles of their nasty characters, and their enthusiasm is infectious.
The technical aspects of the show are also top-notch. Over the summer, Desert Rose reworked the lighting and changed the angle of the stage with respect to the room. Phil Murphy's lighting design is superb. Costume and set designer Bruce Weber put Angela in some breathtakingly ungepatchikt (overdone) outfits. Matthew McLean's and James Cesena's props are hilarious - especially the ones designed to cure Sol's constipation.
The only beef I had with DIE MOMMIE DIE is that the script is slow in Act I, during which playwright Busch sets up the plot's hairpin turns and laughs that occur in Act II. Nonetheless, Mr. Wayne uses visual and musical gags in Act I to generate laughs even when the lines themselves aren't particularly funny.
The rest of the crew consists of Matthew McLean (stage manager), Duke Core (lighting technician), Robbie Wayne (sound design and costumer), Ruth Braun (assistant costumer), and Brandon Cincotta (hair design).
DIE MOMMIE DIE will play one more weekend, through October 27th, at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets cost between $34 and $37, and are available on the Web site, www.DesertRosePlayhouse.org, or by calling 760-202-3000.
The Desert Rose Playhouse is located just north of Frank Sinatra Boulevard, near the Emperor Buffet, at 69-620 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. The box office opens at 4 p.m. before evening performances and at noon on Sundays. A bar in the lobby sells libations before the show and during intermission for the Friday and Saturday performances.
The rest of the season's offerings include:
- A return engagement of last year's hit, CHRISTMAS WITH THE CRAWFORDS, created by Richard Winchester and written by Mark Sargent (November 29-December 22), featuring almost all of the 2019 cast. Broadway World's review of last year's show can be found at www.broadwayworld.com/palm-springs/article/BWW-Review-Desert-Roses-CHRISTMAS-WITH-THE-CRAWFORDS-is-a-Hilarious-Musical-Confection-with-a-Terrific-Cast-20181203
- The world premiere of the musical, THOSE MUSCLE BOUND COWBOYS FROM SNAKE PIT GULCH, by Andy Halliday and Frank Schiro (January 17-February 9, 2020). It took twelve pitchers of martinis for fading Broadway star Delmont St. Regis to write his dream musical, set in lawless Snake Pit Gulch, a gold rush town where the "men are men and the mail order brides ain't coming." Claim jumping, crooked card games, a jail break and sweet romance are all part of the mix in this show-within-a-show.
- BEAUTIFUL THING, by Jonathan Harvey (March 6-March 29, 2020). Shy Jamie and athletic Ste are teen boys who live in the London projects and think they could be gay; and
- NOOSE WOMEN, conceived by Lewis Lauder and adapted for the American stage by Judith Chapman (April 17-May 10, 2020). This play, which won Desert Rose's contest to discover new playwrights who author material that would appeal to LGBTQIA audiences, explores what people will do to get their fifteen minutes of fame.