|I thoroughly enjoy a good contemporary play highlighting passionate social issues of our time. Theatre is such a stellar way to explore, enlighten and to provoke thought. It may be pure coincidence that I have often seen some gems fitting this very description over the last ten years at the Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood. One of my absolute favorites was Del Shore’s Southern Baptist Sissies. I was desperately hoping that David L. Ray’s Caught, now in the 10th month of its world premiere at the Zephyr, would stand up to the likes of Del Shores, continuing the tradition… if only in my own mind.
Caught (with a cross instead of the ‘t’) A Tale of Marriage, Love and Family Values. That’s what the program says. And that about sums it up. It’s Los Angeles July 2008, and Kenneth (Jason Dechert) and Troy (Will Beinbrink) are days away from getting married. Yes, two men pre-passage of Prop 8. Kenneth receives a call from his sister Darlene (the AMAZING Deborah Puette) a Georgia preacher’s wife, saying that after some many years, she and her daughter are on their way to West Hollywood to stay for a spell with Kenneth and Troy. The men have what appears to be the perfect relationship with the one exception that Kenneth isn’t out to his family. This causes an obvious strain when Kenneth is reluctant to tell his wildly religious sister that the two are more than roommates and getting married shortly after her arrival. Daughter/Niece Krystal (Savannah Southern-Smith on this particular night) figures it out immediately and is excited at the thought of having two fabulous gay uncles. Darlene, not so excited. Predictable, yes. This is a story of love, growth, acceptance and non-acceptance alike. Nothing terribly new here. Too bad. But the stereotypical story is still a good one. It works because there is some honest writing within the stereotypical scenario, as well as some fine and truthful acting. If you were concerned about the lack of the token flamboyant sidekick, fear not. He’s represented by Splenda (Micah McCain), the Internet ordained to-be minister and good friend of Kenneth and Troy. And the conservative right is represented by J.P (Ian Vogt), the later to-be-found-out philandering Georgia preacher who arrives to collect his wife and child, as his less than virtuous actions are reason they got on a plane, in the first place.
Average story being told… some fine acting and nuanced details entwined in the writing. Eh and YAY!
Now, I’m not a connoisseur of set and lighting design… I notice it when it’s terrible. I may possibly take note when it’s great. Well, the set in this cozy little Zephyr Theatre is jaw dropping. Adam Flemming, set designer extraordinaire, you are a rock star. So often small theatre equals lame set. Not the case here. The lighting, Lisa D. Katz, designer, who defines indoor and outdoor space with the magic of lights, on the same stage at the same time, is also superb.
That’s fun. Truly!
So, let’s cut to the quick. Am I recommending you go see this show in its final week of a long, successful run? This very show that I’ve described as having a stereotypical, nothing new story and a great set? Yes, yes I am. I can’t help but to come back to the single coolest thing about this production, which is the truth that is told. Not the truth on where you should stand on gay marriage. Not that kind of truth. The truthful moments, the truthful writing, the truthful characters brought to life before your eyes… even when delivered in an often-used package. You will laugh, cry, and consider… if you are paying an ounce of attention. This may not stand up next to the brilliance of Del Shores and Southern Baptist Sissies, like I had hoped. But this is fine intimate theatre in Los Angeles. You have one weekend left to be a witness to this rare (and you regular LA theatre goers know what I mean) treat.