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Rancho Mirage

In 1962, California surpassed New York as the most populous state in the union. The various mass migrations to the Golden State, beginning with the gold rush in 1849 and continuing for the next century and beyond, were fueled by promises of quick riches, a pleasant climate, and establishing a new identity.

(Left to right) C. Kelly Leo as Diane and Karen Slack as Louise
(L to R) C. Kelly Leo as Diane
and Karen Slack as Louise
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Nowhere are the noveau riche more evident than in the Coachella Valley, beginning with Palm Springs, and, a few decades later, including Rancho Mirage.

In Steven Dietz' newest work, we hang with three couples who are, in varying degrees, caught up in the hoopla of keeping up appearances.

(Left to right)  Bill Hahn as Nick and David Russell as Trevor
(L to R) Bill Hahn as Nick
nd David Russell as Trevor
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Diane (C. Kelly Leo) and Nick Dahner (Bill Hahn) are preparing to host a dinner party (lovely set by Guy Wright, properties by Caitlin Ayer) for their old friends, Louise (Karen Slack) and Trevor Neese (David Russell) and Pam (Emily Paton Davies) and Charlie Caldwell (Erik Sandvold). Before their guests arrive, Diane runs down to Nick a list of topics that are best avoided, while Nick grouses about not being selected to do a remodel for Trevor. Then we are let in on their secret; in fact, everyone's secrets.

Emily Paton Davies as Pam and Erik Sandvold as Charlie
Emily Paton Davies as Pam
and Erik Sandvold as Charlie
Photo: Michael Ensminger
From the get go, Dietz's characters never let up on one another, opening old wounds and inflicting new ones, with an abandon usually reserved for hand-to-hand combat, but in this case, with a deft comedic touch and a steady volley of zingers. In one way or another, the ensemble have all worked together before, which manifests in a variety of ways, but especially with trust and timing: the roll of the eyes; the pitch of the voice; the unspoken protestations; the wry and dry asides; the pregnant pause; and the pursed lips and muscle tension, for starters. Just when we think the babysitter (Devon James) is about to drop a bomb, Dietz pulls a double switch.

The greatest challenge for audiences most likely resides in the plausibility of such tough love. How can a group of longtime friends go at it tooth and nail and then ...?

Believe me, even if it is something you have not experienced, it happens! Dietz, who is the most produced playwright in the Curious repertoire, takes bold risks and runs the table.

Curious Theatre Company's presentation of the National New Play Network's rolling world premiere of Steven Dietz' Rancho Mirage, directed by Christopher Leo (costumes and lighting by Kevin Brainerd and Richard Devin), runs through December 7th. For more information: 303-623-0524 or www.curioustheatre.org.

 

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