KPBS AIRDATE: DECEMBER 31, 1997
There’s been a veritable cross-dressing convention in San Diego theaters this month. Let’s see, there was “Dysfunctional Family Theatre” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Titanic”: The Play, and of course, “Our Gay Apparel,” and now, that unisex, imp-in-a-unitard, “Peter Pan.”
I haven’t actually seen PP yet, but the buzz on this national tour has been great. Two-time Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby has already logged in 1500 performances in the sprightly role, which earned her a Tony nomination for Best Actress in the 1990 revival of the show. At 44, she may be a little long in the tooth, but she’s still pretty lithe in the body.
In fact, when she flew into L.A. last month in the role, the Times hailed her as “an eerily elfin presence, cackling with throaty laughter, hopping on one foot in a transport of boyish glee at any opportunity for adventure — or mischief…. It’s hard to imagine anyone who is more distinctively the physical embodiment of Sir James Barrie’s classic character…. The perfect urchin, Rigby personifies the spirit of childhood as few before her.” Whew! Mary Martin must be rolling in her grave. Of course, no one talks about Rigby’s singing, but that’s another story. Meanwhile, in this story, the current revival brings out the dark side: Hook’s cruelty as well as camp, Peter’s anger and bitterness, and that all-too-familiar feeling of going home to a mother who no longer wants you. So, this one will appeal to the child within — your body or your home.
This weekend is also your last chance to catch the current rendition of the Diversionary Theatre holiday classic, “Our Gay Apparel.” Written by Robert Joseph, the theatre’s late artistic director, this third version boasts some new material Joseph left behind, unfinished. The ending is still ridiculously neat, cheery, soppy and incredible, but it’s a fun trip getting there. This production isn’t half as funny as the first one, but it does boast the return of that oversized comic talent, Carol Mackintosh, who, under Gayle Feldman’s uninspired direction, unfortunately doesn’t get to do that hilarious bit with the panty hose her character has never wrestled with or donned before. It was one of those fall-in-the-aisles theater moments, and I miss it.
This coming-out story is a little ragged around the edges, but it concerns a lesbian couple, a gay couple, a raging queen named Adam and a bull-dyke named Eve, played by the aforementioned Mackintosh. They’re all settled in for a holiday in Alice’s family cabin, when a blizzard brings Alice’s parents unexpectedly for Christmas Eve. Everyone should have such goofy, clueless, accepting parents.
Believe it or not, all this is funny for straights, too — if you’re also not narrow, and if you don’t mind being the butt (pardon my French) of some homosexual humor. But the pack’-em-in gay audience is howling throughout the proceedings. As Alice’s girlfriend, Tracy Gulzow is the most natural actor onstage, and C. Taylor does a nicely neurotic turn as a mother trying to confront her daughter’s sexuality, though simultaneously playing with every phallic object in the room is superfluous and silly. Jason Cuneo does a cute, mincing turn as Adam, drag queen extraordinaire, though he can’t pull off the dance number, and the Supremes takeoff, which should be a highlight of the show, is both lame and light on the lamé. The talent bank is a little overdrawn in this year’s account, but the show is still good for a laugh. So, just keep clapping if you believe in fairies…..
And tonight, make a dramatic resolution to see more theater in 1998…. I’ll see you there! Happy New Year!
I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1997 Patté Productions Inc.