Dec 2,1983 / Montrose Voice 19
'Private Lives' Explodes with Talent and Laughter
By Billie Duncan
Drop everything next Tuesday night and
go see Private Lives at the Pink Elephant,
1218 Leeland. If you can't make it this
Tuesday, go the week after.
But whatever you do, do not miss the
Noel Coward wrote the play over 50
years ago as a biting and humorous
merry-go-round featuring two "regular"
couples, but it works so well with an all-
male cast that it is a wonder that the play
is not done this way for gay audiences
with regularity. Basically only some pronouns and two proper names seem to have
For those who have not seen Private
Lives before, the premise of the play is
simple. Victor and Mandi Prynne are on
their honeymoon. Elyot and Cyril Chase
are on their honeymoon.
Mandi and Elyot were once married to
one another. The two new couples wind up
at the same resort on the same day in
rooms with adjoining balconies. From
there the sparks fly, passions ignite and
the play becomes a series of explosions
alternated with sifting through the emotional rubble.
This is a character comedy, with the
revelations of the characters and their
urbane and witty banter dominating the
BILLIE DUNCAN PHOTO
Ian Tanna (Elyot) and Jerry Garrott
(Mandi) share a tender moment between
barbs in "Private Lives" at the Pink
John David Etheredge directed the production at the P.E. with a great sense of
Btyle and an obvious love of the characters. His use of the tiny stage space is
extremely creative, and his sense of the
rythms of the play is superb. (Please note:
this is done in the much larger expanded
room of the Pink Elephant.)
Bruce C. Herling is riotous as the pretty,
but pouting Cyril, a boy who could tame
lions with his ever-present handkerchief.
Herling snaps, primps and pouts his way
through his role with an air of total right-
Joe Watts (co-founder of the Diversity
Theatre, producers of the show) is perfection itself as the stuffy, pompous, pseudo-
macho Victor. Actually, Victor is a loser in
this play, but Watts plays him winningly.
The two characters on whom the play
focuses are Mandi and Elyot, however.
Ian Tanna as Elyot is astoundingly varied
within the perimeters of his character.
Tanna's gamut runs from domineering
stupidity to tender introspection with complete concentration and sensitivity.
Now we come to Jerry Garrett as Mandi.
Garrett w»uld-walkaway with this show if
the other actors were not, as good as they.
are. He is superlative as the bright, compulsive Mandi whose abilities to manipu
late are only thwarted by his innate sense
Garrott's performance is one of those
gems, one of those treasures against
which a person can gauge any other performance. He is worth seeing again and
Finally, proof that there are no small
actors, only small parts: Jim Keel is Louis.
Keel is a real scene stealer in a beautifully
underplayed rendition of the disapproving "maid."
As for the other production values, the
sets were designed by necessity and the
lights were not designed at all. The sound
was good, however, with the talent on the
tape provided by Tim Tavcar (vocals) and
Mickey Rankin (piano). The players were
This is the first of a series of productions
planned by the Diversity Theatre, which
is dedicated to bringing to gay (or nongay) audiences the many facets of gay life
as portrayed on the stage.
If the following productions come near
the quality of the performance of Private
Lives, Houston may become known as the
city for excellence in gay theatre.
□ Duncan's Quick Notes
"All artists have a hope. One is to become
a big star. That is not mine. I think you are
a star every time you step on stage."
With that statement, Denise Le Brun
somewhat illuminated what it is that
makes her so very special every time she
steps on a stage.
The next stage upon which she will step
is the Theatre One, 3517 Austin, in the
opening of the Houston Community
College Artist and Audience series.
Her one-woman show will play from Dec. 7
through the 11th. _
FoTthose who have not been fortunate
enough yet to experience Le Brun, here is a
quick background: born and educated in
France, friend of Edith Piaf, co-
entertainer with Jacques Brel, international singer, presence on the American
stage from New York to Houston to Los
Angeles, with a year at the Dunes in
"Vegas?" said Le Brun, her musical
voice lilting with the memories of France.
"To start with, it's not a city. It is a mecca
of show business."
What of the American mecca of theatre,
New York? "I think it represents well the
Los Angeles: "To live in a city where you
depend on a car.... Well, I'm a Parisian!"
However, she now resides in Houston.
Denise Le Brun has lived in more American cities than most Americans. "I have
been where my shows took me."
Actually, she did not plan to come to this
country and spend years traveling around
and singing. "I came to visit for three
weeks," explained Le Brun. Then she
smiled. "I didn't know the country was so
big." She first entered the country in 1969.
She's still finding new places to explore.
When she got here, she spoke not a word
of English. She had studied German and
Italian in school, so she figured that English would not be that difficult. "I thought
it would take about Bix months." She
laughed. "It took much longer than that"
Her gauge for success in the language
was simple. "I knew I could really speak
English when I could understand the
So now the United States is as much a
home to her as France, and she likes having two countries. "It's like having two
husbands. I'd like to have two husbands.
As for her current show, she feels that
an English-speaking audience would not
be up to listening to two hours of songs in
French. "I don't want to sing to an elite. I
want to sing to people who have been
working all day."
• • Le Brun i«- a- strange -combination-of-
thingB, both emotional and physical. She
is a tiny woman who has a commanding
BILLIE DUNCAN PHOTOS
Wild and wonderful hair styles
dominated the "Illusions a head"
fashion show at Numbers
Motorcycle madness was the theme of
the final creation in "Illusions a head"
■Thes^jvidfionul-Prvnrh singer hemse
Le Brun talked about discovering
presence without being overbearing. She
is expressive but not effusive. She is more
like a well than a fountain. No matter how
much she gives, there is always a secret
place kept deep inside.
She is the perfect choice to kick off
HCC's new program of entertaining
artists. For reservations or information,
Another interesting artistic experiment
came off last week. And it was quite successful. "Illusions A Head" took to the
Numbers stage on the 23rd.
It was a fashion and hair show that featured the present, the past and the future,
as envisioned by Ken Powers and a gaggle of merchants and hairdressers.
The show was to start at 10pm, so most
patrons expected a show by maybe 10:30
or 11pm. A large crowd waited considerably longer, while the lasers cut through the
smoke and the liquor flowed.
Zardoz finally stepped to the microphone to start the show (Now, please, that
really is the poor child's name. I know. I
asked. Would they lie to me?).
Soon we were off to see the first wizard,
Antonio Amico. who designed the
gowns for the first section: the present.
Amico has an eye for the glamorous and
the glitz. Bette Midler or Roxie Starr
would feel equally at home in his creations.
The second section was the past, with
clothes from Stop the Clock. This was a
delightful section with a variety of 50's
looks from the racks of recycled clothing
available at Stop the Clock.
Finally, the future was revealed. Very
revealed. The first models to emerge were
basically nude with strategic bands of
colored cellophane wrapped around their
young and nubile bodies.
Then from the fog and colored lights,
another image emerged. A massive black
and silver machine—motorcycle at least,
monster at most—pulled on to the stage.
Seated in the passenger position was the
occupant of the coup de gras: a studded
black leather skirt and hooded top that
Mary's Cassandra would kill for.
The audience screamed their appreciation, and the show was over.
Later in the dressing room, producer
Powers explained with a sense of astonishment that six hairdressers had been
involved in the hair designs for the show
with "no problems."
The six were Powers, Susan Van
Doom, Annette Noland, Joni Punam.
Jeff Lee, and Antonio Amico. All thehair
styles in the show were a lot of fun. So were
the food trays in the dressing room provided by Baja's (everything they say
about starving journalists is absolutely
I was having such a good time finishing
off the food trays that I asked when
another fashion and hair show was
planned. Powers stood silent for just a
moment, then muttered, "Oh, God!" and
walked away. A lot more goes into putting
these shows together than anyone can
And while we're on the subject of shows,
the Ripcord seems to be thinking of having a couple of shows in the next month or
two. The tentative dates are Dec. 12 and
New Year's Eve.
Rumor has it that Vickie Vagina,
Clare Clitoris and the Rev. Mother
Christine will appear. One never knows
what to expect from the Ripcord, does one?
One more note. Kindered Spirits continues its tradition of fine live music every
week. Linda Christian has the Wednesday spot, while the incredible talents of
Harriet Reynolds fill the room on Thursdays.
Harriet, by the way, is part of Alexandra Haas' group that just closed at Rascals. Herhonesttwrformance-.^harmoniee
and song writing abilities add immeasurably to an already fine act.