When I learned that Terry Ray’s play Electricity was doing an encore this weekend at the Desert Rose Playhouse, I felt like a beloved friend was coming to town for a visit. Electricity performed in Palm Springs for two years in a hotel, accommodating only 20 guests per performance in a real hotel room. Most of 2021 he performed every Tuesday at the Oscars. I saw him again at the beginning of the year, then I came back a month later. It was a “feel-good” theatrical experience – the kind of show I would see every other month if it had an extended runtime. And his three years in Palm Springs were indeed in preparation for a long run Off Broadway.
The show is in four scenes with an intermission. After their tenth high school reunion, two men decide to save some money and share a room. Gary (playwright Terry Man) was a nerd in school and didn’t progress much in the decade that followed. Brad (Mel England) was the bad boy in the class, and he seems to have gotten “nastier” by the time we meet him. The nerd booked the room and swears he didn’t realize there was only one bed. He also talks at length about his wife at home, and how much he loves and misses her. Brad seems to have nothing to hide – in his story or his body.
The truth comes out in stages, and the men end the first scene together under the covers, as we had guessed. However, the magic and depth of the play comes from the fact that the two men find themselves in the same room every ten years. We see how they have evolved and observe the changes, both subtle and profound, that they have brought to the behavior of the other. I loved watching how a simple observation or suggestion in one meeting became a major personality trait in the other man the next time they met. Is the person you can’t get out of your head really the person you’re meant to be with? Can a single word or phrase you speak change another person’s life in a meaningful way? This scenario, in the hands of two excellent actors, is impressive in many ways.
The decor is simple: a motel room classified 2 stars at best. The costumes are nondescript streetwear, but with props and heaps of acting, the pair are able to go from 28-38 to 48-58 in ten years since high school. The comedy/drama is directed by Steven Rosenbaum and produced by Michael Darner. It’s heading to Off-Broadway this fall, so it’s probably the last chance we’ll have to enjoy this amazing game in our own backyard.
Electricity plays February 17-20 at Desert Rose Playhouse, 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. Tickets and more information are available at www.DesertRosePlayhouse.org, or by phone at 760-202-3000. Proof of vaccination will be required at the door and masks are required by the City of Palm Springs.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next production of Desert Rose, The trainee, by Mae West. The play will be performed from February 23 to March 6. The play was banned from Broadway in 1928. Come and find out why for yourself with this rarely produced gem.