Also see Bill's review of Brilliant Mistake
Bluebonnet Court involved a motel, people from the movies, and gay themes. Coming Attractions continues Ms. Gershick's fascination with all of the above. The action is set at the Desert Knight Hotel in Palm Springs, a place where lesbian film actresses and others involved in the entertainment industry would go to unwind in an era when public knowledge of their true identities would have spelled the end of their careers. (The Desert Knight is closed now, but a similar property still operates near the hotel's location.)
The story opens immediately following the memorial service for Dee Dee Windom (Jill Drexler), so-called "manager to the stars" and owner of the Desert Knight. The mourners include Pat Mackenna (Samantha Ginn), Dee Dee's widow; Dani Decker (M'Lafi Thompson), the hotel's manager; Morris Gordon (Mark Petrich), a friend and client of Dee Dee's who made good by following her advice; along with Donovan Tate (Benjamin Cole), Morris' boi du moment. Arriving unexpectedly are Rebecca Metz (Amanda Morrow), a film student on her way to Hollywood with an idea for a script, and Veronica Scott (Robin Christ), a film noir star who's pretty close to being washed up. Arriving even more unexpectedly are Dee Dee's ghost and Anita Bryant (Ms. Ginn again), but they seem to be visible only to certain characters.
Mix together with alcohol, drugs, and lots of bitchiness, and you have at least the potential for a pretty funny lesbian comedy of manners. Note I said "potential."
Ms. Gershick understands Hollywood in the 1950s (a mentality still alive in the 1970s, when the play is set), the dynamics of the closet for entertainment professionals, and the even more labyrinthine dynamics of lesbian relationships. She's written some laugh-out-loud lines, most of which don't take the possession of "gaydar" to understand.
And, from a technical standpoint, Moxie has given her play a loving production, with a scenic design by Angelica Ynfante that captures the look and feel of a Palm Springs retreat that is going to seed, lighting by Michelle Caron that is rich with desert hues, sound by Matt Lescault-Wood that puts us smack into the disco era, and costumes by Jeannie Galioto that range from glamorous to gloriously tacky.
No, the problem's in the acting, the quality of which varies quite a bit. Ms. Thompson is always reliable for a solid performance, and she gives that here. Ms. Ginn's widow is basically a non-speaking extra, but her Anita Bryant is a dead-on hoot. And, whenever one or both of these two characters are on stage, everything chugs right along in a very entertaining manner.
Get these two off stage, however, and it all changes. Lines are misremembered, energy sags, and laughs don't land. Individual performers come to life sporadically, but then become somatic again.
I'm not sure where to lay blame (Moxie veterans Jennifer Eve Thorn and Jo Anne Glover co-directed), but what could have been campy fun is played as overly serious and plodding far too often.
Coming Attractions runs through July 1 in the Rolando neighborhood of San Diego.
Moxie Theatre presents the world premiere of Coming Attractions, by Zsa Zsa Gershick. Co-directed by Jennifer Eve Thorn and Jo Anne Glover with Angelica Ynfante (Scenic Designer), Jeannie Galioto (Costume Designer), Michelle Caron Lighting Designer), Matt Lescault-Wood (Sound Designer), Missy Bradstreet (Wig and Make Up Designer), Daniel Lloyd (Properties Designer/Carpenter), and Nicole Ries (Stage Manager).
The cast includes Robin Christ, Amanda Morrow, M'Lafi Thompson, Mark Petrich, Benjamin Cole, Samantha Ginn, and Jill Drexler.
Performances Thursday – Sunday, May 25 – July 1, at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd., Ste. N, San Diego, CA 92115. Tickets ($25 - $40 with discounts for seniors, students, and military) available by calling (858) 598-7620 or by visiting http://www.moxietheatre.com.