Theater Review: MID-CENTURY MODERNS (Revolution Stage Company in Palm Springs)

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by Barry Schoenfeld on November 16, 2023

in Theater-Palm Springs (Coachella Valley)


Written and nicely directed by Mark Christopher, Mid-Century Moderns is a light, breezy, funny and entirely enjoyable entertainment.

Mid-Century Moderns is the musical adventures of Maryann Popecky, (Shannon Mary Dixon) a Wisconsin widow who want to move West for her dream job – a secretary! But when her car breaks down in the middle of Palm Springs circa 1966, it seems that the fates have something else in store. She finds freedom from the ghost of her late husband, and from all the old ways that have been holding her down — and she just might find love, but on her own mid-century terms.

Combining cleverly-chosen projections and limited set pieces, the cast breaks into familiar 60s tunes at the drop of a hat. Are those the opening notes of “You Don’t Own Me,” or “It’s Not Unusual?”

But what makes a “jukebox” musical work? Is it just great songs (in this case by ABBA, Elvis, Elton John and more); great performers; or a great book that strings it all together? Of course, it’s all three. And Mid-Century Moderns succeeds on all counts.

Dixon plays Maryann SO perky, her energy is infectious. Her sweet voice, her acting (which “winks” at the audience), and her natural stage presence make her a standout in this talented cast. The ballads are less successful, but still well done.

Many scenes can become cartoonish, but this cast knows just how to play them to full effect. John Corr as Tom is a perfect example, and his silly, Buddy Ebsen-like rubbery body and exquisite comedic timing causes fits of laughter. Delivery of some seriously hokey lines depends on smart, funny direction plus the actors’ belief in and commitment to the characters — both are in evidence here.

Set designers Jason Smith and Tom Valachi must also be singled out, if only for their choice of a “vertical” bed to play some of the scenes. Just watching the actors get in and out of this set piece provoked giggling. But the smoke effects, both on set and on screen are a bit confusing: Is this just a cute “fish out of water” story? Perhaps Maryann is dreaming (well, as they say, life is but a dream). Or is it a parable? Do we need to see the world we’re in more clearly, and then respond accordingly? Do we need to drop our old ways?

Miss DD Starr and Ben Lopez‘s simple choreography is silly, goofy and perfectly suited to each scene and to the 60s music. Congrats to them and the performers who made it fun for themselves and us. “Incense and Peppermints” — a 1967 song by the Los Angeles-based psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock – was one of the best numbers.

Mid-Century Moderns isn’t very modern — it’s just a great night out.

photos courtesy of Revolution Stage Company

Mid-Century Moderns
Revolution Stage Company
611 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs
Fri at 7; Sat and Sun at 2
ends on November 26, 2023
for tickets ($45-$65), visit Revolution

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