In an age when life ‘trumps’ art and real drama seems more like a reality show, the award-winning Dezart Performs opens its 11th season with “a serious comedy, honest to God,” Church & State, November 9 – 18, at the Pearl McManus Theater (at the historic Palm Springs Woman's Club / 314 S Cahuilla Road, Downtown Palm Springs). Directed by Dezart Performs’ artistic director Michael Shaw, the play by Jason Odell Williams, is “crackling, resonant, humorous. I wish every member of congress would see it!” (National Public Radio).
“Church & State is the perfect play for this political moment,” said Shaw who founded the company in 2008. “You’ll laugh, maybe cry, and certainly think about the richly nuanced and very human characters created by Williams.”
The plot reads like recent headlines. Three days before his bid for reelection, a Republican U.S. senator makes an off-the-cuff comment to a blogger that gets leaked on Twitter calling into question the veteran legislator’s stance on guns and God. As his devoutly Christian wife and liberal Jewish campaign manager try to contain the damage, the Senator confronts his own code of ethics and authenticity. The result: an unsparing look at how religion influences politics and how politics has become, to some, its own religion.
“On paper, the topics of this play seem heavy,” Williams writes in an intro to Church & State, inspired by the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007 that left 33 people dead. Williams was further motivated by subsequent mass shootings in Tucson, Newtown and Aurora. “However, a heavy drama about heavy topics doesn't interest me. What interests me is a play that gets to the heart of the people around these issues. And when you write about people, you can't help but let them be funny and sad and honest, heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time.”
Williams is an Emmy-nominated writer and producer as well as an award-winning playwright and novelist. He has been hailed as a “postmodern Clifford Odets” by the L.A. Times and “this country’s newest Eugene O’Neill” by the Santa Monica Daily Press.
The cast for Church & State features Beau Marie as Senator Charlie Whitmore; Kelley Moody as Sara Whitmore, the Senator’s wife; Tammy Hubler as Alex Klein, the campaign manager; and James Owens in multiple roles including the clueless and lovable page, Tom.
“At Dezart Performs, while we don’t shy away from controversy or serious subjects we also know how to have, and stage, a good laugh,” says Shaw. “White Man on the Bus tackles racism, and white-privilege while Perfect Arrangement is a riotous comedy and Maytag Virgin is an endearingly funny love story of two hapless souls. Ultimately, our job is to entertain, but entertain in a way that, hopefully, leads our audience to leave the theatre thinking, and thinking about how they can contribute to a more civil society.”
Dezart Performs, one of the Coachella Valley’s preeminent theatre companies, recognizes that the performing arts enrich the life and culture of a community, promote greater understanding and provoke insightful discussion. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit theatre company, its mission is to provide an artistic home for bold and cutting–edge plays, creating an atmosphere of artistic growth for actors, writers, and directors who uniquely contribute to the diverse theatrical environment in the Coachella Valley.
Showtimes for Church & State are Fridays and Saturdays @ 7:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays @ 2pm. Ticket prices are $45 Opening Night with Post Show Reception; $35 Evening; $30 Matinee. All performances take place at the Pearl McManus Theater (at the historic Palm Springs Woman's Club) 314 S Cahuilla Road, Downtown Palm Springs. Season discounts are available. Tickets may be purchased online at www.dezartperforms.org
11th Dezart Performs Complete Season Listings
Church & State
A serious comedy by Jason Odell Williams
Directed by Michael Shaw
November 9 — 18, 2018
Three days before his bid for reelection, a Republican U.S. senator makes an off-the-cuff comment to a blogger that gets leaked on “the Twitter,” calling into question the senator's stance on guns and God. As his devoutly Christian wife and liberal Jewish campaign manager try to contain the damage, this look at how religion influences politics and how politics has become a religion is simultaneously funny, heartbreaking, and uplifting.
“Crackling, resonant, humorous. I wish every member of congress would see it!” – NPR
“Funny, human, devastating, brave and powerful…Church & State speaks to the lunacy of modern politics.” – L.A. Theatre Bites
“A timely and thought-provoking piece of entertainment. Very funny… fast-paced and entertaining!” – L.A. Splash
* * *
A comic tale of closeted lives by Topher Payne
Directed by Michael Shaw
January 11 — 20, 2019
It's 1950, and new colors are being added to the Red Scare. Two U.S. State Department employees, Bob and Norma, have been tasked with identifying sexual deviants within their ranks. There's just one problem: Both Bob and Norma are gay and have married each other's partners as a carefully constructed cover. Inspired by the true story of the earliest stirrings of the American gay rights movement, madcap classic sitcom-style laughs give way to provocative drama as two “All-American” couples are forced to stare down the closet door.
“A clever canape of a comedy…Mr. Payne is a deft and witty writer.” – The New York Times
“Usually a playwright has to choose between writing a laugh-out-loud comedy and a very serious drama. Topher Payne has written both with Perfect Arrangement.” – TheatreMania
* * *
White Guy on the Bus
A new drama by Bruce Graham
Directed by Michael Shaw
March 1 — 10, 2019
Week after week, a wealthy white businessman rides the same bus, befriending a single black mom. As they get to know one another, their pasts unfold and tensions rise, igniting a disturbing and crucial exploration of race.
“A scalding take on race.” -New York Times
“White Guy on the Bus is a play with guts. This one goes for the jugular.” – Chicago Tribune
* * *
The Maytag Virgin
A southern love story by Audrey Cefaly
Directed by Deborah Harmon
April 5 — 14, 2019
Alabama high-school teacher Lizzy Nash is on a leave of absence after the sudden death of her husband when a mysterious new neighbor moves in next door. Jack and Lizzy, both hiding a world of secrets and pain, excite and confound each other. Maytag Virgin explores the ideas of moving forward and self-enlightenment, and the bridge between the two.
“….unflinchingly honest. Cefaly's writing is richly-layered, creating compelling characters that must balance love and heartache, the safe with the unfamiliar.”- DC Metro Theatre Arts
“…it's the emotional journey of Maytag Virgin gives it such a wallop. Cefaly writes with sympathy and a finely-sharpened wit.” – BroadwayWorld.com