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Monday, February 3, 2020

THIS SIDE OF CRAZY

Prolific playwright Del Shores is at it again with families who pray together, but don't necessarily stay together.  Turning on his Texas roots, this Los Angeles premier takes place in Kentucky. The ghosts of his past productions come to life to haunt us once again. 

In his author's notes Shores tells a heart felt tale of where the characters in this play came from.  Suffice it to say that when you see it and read his notes it will all fall together in a beautifully dramatic way.  Dottie Rambo was the real life and very prolific Gospel Music icon whom Shores met in Kentucky. 
Dottie Rambo, the inspiration
Ditty Blaylock (
Sharon Garrison) is and has been the Christian doppleganger of Gypsy's Mama Rose, pulling together a successful singing trio: featuring her three formerly adorable daughters, Rachel (Bobbie Eakes), Abigail (Dale Dickey) and Bethany (Rachel Sarsa).  As "Super Stars for Jesus" many years ago, singing tunes written by Ditty, the Blaylock Sisters were on the top of the Gospel Music charts. Ditty's heavenly tunes reaped fame and fortune. It is now almost twenty five years since the 'incident' that changed forever, the pathways of the singing sisters and their proud mama. Rachel's husband Jude, lies in a coma where Rachel is discovered at rise taking her spousal pleasure as Ditty listens appalled in the living room and points a gun at her head. She pulls the trigger.
Rachel Sorsa, Sharon Garrison, Bobbie Eakes and Dale Dickey

As with his other plays, Shores pits family rivalries and the shadow of death (Daddy's Dyin' and Who's Got The Will?) to form a situation of conflict and dark humor that may be singular to his unique world view.  Shores' characters, especially in his one man show "Six Characters in Search of A Play," bristle or cuddle with a distinctly southern accent that endears his audience to the sometimes complicated argument in each of his productions.  His families are often a mess. We relish the love / hate / conflicts and their resolutions.

Mama Ditty has been invited to receive a life achievement award from the Gospel Music Association and has promised to deliver her trio of sisters to perform... without asking them first.  Abigail, the middle child, has been locked in a looney bin for twenty odd years and Bethany announces some radical personal changes as she is lured back into the fold. 

Rachel still lives in the family home with Ditty and Rachel's husband, Jude, long since in a coma fueled by the "incident" that is not entirely clear.  Well, it's a little clear, but that might be a spoiler.  

Returning to The Zephyr, Shores brings to life his endearing story on Tom Buderwitz's intimate set.  Staging in a tiny space like the Zephyr is always interesting. A couple of choices were a problem for me, but this story with its moments of humor ("That's coma humor," says Rachel at one point when the action seems to stop on a dime!) and deeply moving pathos.  The trick with Shores writing is the fine line walked between schtick and the reality of the lives of his characters.  Directing the production himself, these actors rise to the occasion beautifully. 
For playgoers who have enjoyed Del Shores' writing and his many productions (including film versions of at least two of his plays) this is a must see. 
It's in WeHo on Melrose, so take time to find parking! Good luck with that! Of course, a visit to The Zephyr and to Melrose is always a cultural adventure. 
So. Just go!  

THIS SIDE OF CRAZY
Written and directed by Del Shores. 
Opened Friday, January 31, 2020
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 2PM and 7PM
Through Sunday, March 8, 2020
Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood, CA


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