Review: “The New Century” in Guerneville

For an area with as large a gay population and as much theatre as Sonoma County, it’s surprising how little gay-themed theatre is produced in the region. Oh sure, the larger companies will produce the more mainstream musicals like Cabaret or La Cage aux Folles every few years, and Halloween usually brings The Rocky Horror Show, but little else seems to cross local stages.

The nomadic Pegasus Theater Company, in existence in one form or another for about 20 years, is the exception. Its Russian River roots have been planted firmly in the gay community since its inception, and it regularly programs shows with gay content into its seasons. Previous productions include newer plays like Avow to old chestnuts like Norman, is that You?

This season Pegasus brings Paul Rudnick’s The New Century to the Mt. Jackson Masonic Lodge in Guerneville. Rudnick (I Hate Hamlet, In & Out) has taken a collection of comedic one-acts and put them together for this show. It’s basically three monologues and a “wrap up” scene.

Noel Yates

“Pride and Joy” opens the show with a meeting of the Massapequa, Long Island chapter of the PLGBTQCCC & O – the “Parents of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgendered, Questioning, Curious, Creatively Concerned and Others”. Ms. Helene Nadler (Thea Rhiannon) introduces herself to the membership as the “most loving mother of all time”. She has to be. She has three children: a lesbian daughter, a transgendered son who dates lesbians, and a gay son into BDSM and scatology. Beat that, parents.

We the meet “Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach”. Charles (Nick Charles) has been exiled from New York by the gay community for being “too gay”, which happens to be the title of the cable access show he now hosts along with his “ward” Shane (director John Rowan) where he answers viewer mail and revels in being who he is.

With “Crafty” we meet Barbara Ellen Diggs (Noel Yates), a crafts-crazy Midwesterner who makes toilet paper koozies and tuxedo toaster covers. The passing of her son by AIDS has led her to question her faith. “I don’t know if I believe in God anymore,” she says, “but I do believe in cute.”

All these characters come together in “The New Century”, a really contrived closing scene set at a New York Hospital maternity ward that seems tacked on by Rudnick to create a full-length show.

The show suffers from the challenges inherent in running a small theatre company – no budget, minimal sets and lighting, a limited talent pool leading to casting issues, etc., but it has heart, which counts for a lot, and you have to love a show that credits costumes to an entity called ‘Nutsack Creations’.

Rating (out of 5): ★★½

‘The New Century’ runs through November 25 at the Mt. Jackson Masonic Lodge, 14040 Church St., Guerneville. Friday – Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2pm.  $15 – $18.  800.838.3006. pegasustheater.com

Photos by Anna Narbutovskih

This review was originally published in the North Bay Bohemian.

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