AMERICA’S PARANOID 1960’S RETURNS TO THE PEARL MCMANUS STAGE

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

Dezart Performs of Palm Springs presents the West Coast Premiere of its 2014 Annual Theatre Festival award winning production “Duck and Cover”, written by Michael Kimball and directed by awarding winning actor/director Judith Chapman.

Bunny (Scott Smith), Hugh Whitebottom (Michael Shaw) and wife Claire (Yo Younger) Photo credit: Clark Dugger

Bunny (Scott Smith), Hugh Whitebottom (Michael Shaw) and wife Claire (Yo Younger) Photo credit: Clark Dugger

It’s 1962. WW II is but a sad memory. America has lost its innocence and now teeters on the brink of massive social change: civil rights, women’s rights, students’ rights, Viet Nam, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and the Pill. But in suburban Massachusetts, the Whitebottom household remains sheltered from it all.

Young twelve-year old Stevie Whitebottom (Stephen Lee) wants a pair sneakers. His mother, Claire (Yo Younger), would like to get her driver’s license. But her priggish husband Hugh (Michael Shaw), a shoe store manager, sees sneakers, and women’s rights as the first step to the breakdown of American society. And then those troublesome and pesky Russians are up to their old tricks as in the “cold war”. Something to do with nuclear missiles down in Cuba. What’s a typical American family to do?

Before Hugh, Claire, and Stevie can figure out a coping plan, Hugh deems it’s time for Stevie to get the traditional “birds and the bee’s chat” from the father, except that Hugh gets tongue-tied and a case of sweaty-palms; ultimately postponing the session.

Hugh Whitebottom (Michael Shaw), wife Claire (Yo Younger) and Bunny (Scott Smith) Photo credit: Clark Dugger!

Hugh Whitebottom (Michael Shaw), wife Claire (Yo Younger) and Bunny (Scott Smith) Photo credit: Clark Dugger!

Claire’s brother Bunny (Scott Smith), an itinerant trumpet player and his musician buddy Eddie (Robert Ramirez) arrive unannounced looking for a place to crash. Bunny, it seems, accidently burned down his apartment losing everything in the fire. Together with the daily visits of their slightly, mentally-challenged delivery milkman Mr. Rippit (Hal O’Connell) who offers tips and the odds on baseball, football, basketball, and horse-racing among other tidbits – even volunteering to help Hugh with Stevie’s puberty chat – send Hugh over an emotional cliff.   Claire, in her best “Father Know Best” wife role tries to cope.

“Duck and Cover” is like watching a rerun of the old Jackie Gleason’s TV show “The Honeymooners” or any number of family sitcoms from the 1960’s. What drives the satiric production are the wonderfully earnest takes on the characters created by Michael Shaw and Yo Younger. It’s a delight to watch two pro’s, who know how to sell their performances reel-in their eager and receptive audience.

Scott Smith, Robert Ramirez, Stephen Lee in his stage debut, and Hal O’Connell, all turn in nice performances. O’Connell shines in a little gem of a cameo, and Lee’ performance is quite composed for a twelve-year old (his real age) actor in the company of such seasoned performers.

Jack Rippit (Hal O’Connell) and Claire Whitebottom (Yo Younger) Photo credit: Clark Dugger

Jack Rippit (Hal O’Connell) and Claire Whitebottom (Yo Younger) Photo credit: Clark Dugger

Director Judith Chapman deserves credit for keeping everyone on their toes in this paean to the kinder and gentler American comedies of the 1960’s. Chapman’s creative team includes: Set Designer Thomas L. Valanch, Lighting Designer Phil Murphy, Sound Designer, Clark Dugger, and Scenic Artist Walter Lab.

“Duck and Cover” performs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sunday Matinees at 2:30pm though February 8, 2015. Call the Box Office for tickets at 760-322-0179.

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