Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Palm Springs / Coachella Valley

Mr. Parker
Dezart Performs
Review by Robert Sokol

Also see Robert's review of Sherlock Holmes Confidential and interview with Michael McKeever

David Pevsner, Nick Giedris, and Marsha Mercant
Photo by David A. Lee
Life can change in the blink of an eye. Just ask Mr. Parker, a gay man of a certain age in an unenviable situation. His husband died in a car crash and the life and identity to which he so fully dedicated himself has ended without warning. Half a year later, he wakes up one morning to find a very handsome, very young, very naked man in his apartment.

All this and more is established in the opening minutes of Michael McKeever's funny, emotional, and trenchant new play now on stage at the Pearl McManus Theatre, produced by Dezart Performs.

Terry Parker (David Pevsner) has been grieving, mostly in isolation. He has also been anguishing over his months-old decision to end life-support to Jeffrey, his artist-spouse, five days after the accident, when it became clear that recovery was not possible. Was it clear, though? The nagging question makes Terry judge himself almost as much as Jeffrey's stylish and hyper-efficient business-manager sister, Cassie (Marsha Mercant), who judges Terry for putting her and "everyone" through "unnecessary" pain by taking those five days to decide.

That was then. Now, Terry has to contend with Justin (Nick Giedris), the high-energy, uber-chatty bartender/Uber-driver he brought back to the studio apartment–literally Jeffrey's former art studio–after possibly bottomless cocktails on a rare night out.

Justin is youthfulness in all its naïve, energetic, insecure, annoying splendor. He has few filters, an inquisitive mind, and a rapid-fire conversational style that rivals any pinball for the ability to ricochet from question to pronouncement to observation and back.

McKeever has written wonderfully free-flowing dialogue and Giedris maintains a staccato pace that is exhausting yet rings utterly genuine. It plays particularly well against Pevsner's alternately squinty, perplexed, jadedly, or wearily overwhelmed reactions.

In one of the best morning-after meet-cute scenes in recent memory, these two completely different people reveal themselves bit by bit to each other, and the audience, as if they just met. More specifically, Justin, who has the unfortunate–depending on your perspective–gift of remembering everything from the night before, reveals both of them to Terry, who is initially more than a bit fuzzy on the details.

What might have been two ships bumping gently in the night and moving on becomes something more, with all the expected May-December hiccups, treats and traps. Justin opens new and occasionally challenging experiential portals to Terry, who cautiously navigates these strange new worlds while happily picking up the tab.

It's unclear how long, if left in their bubble, these two might have explored and sparred before drifting apart due to generationally irreconcilable differences. The world outside, of course, intervenes to move things along. There's the possibility of a retrospective exhibition of Jeffery's work if Terry can just make some decisions, having taken over the management tasks that were Cassie's practical and emotional raison d'ĂȘtre. Terry is, however, frozen with fear, regret, indecision, and a self- and potentially exhibition-sabotaging insistence that the gallery bend to his evaluation of what is most important about Jeffrey's legacy.

Cassie, from her extremely privileged perch, sees Justin as both distraction to Terry and usurper of a place that should remain empty. She triangulates to remove him from the frame for an end she believes is best for everyone. That does not go well for anyone but, thanks to McKeever's storytelling prowess, the play advances to an honest and surprisingly hopeful note.

Directed with grace and wit by Randy Brenner, Mr. Parker is a complex and compelling portrait of three people peeling through layers of relationship, loss and need. McKeever has created wonderfully unique and specific characters that any actor should relish playing. It's clear the trio of talents in this production do just that.

Giedris, with his bright-eyed smile and buoyant charm sweeps aside obstacles to Justin's pragmatic worldview like so many dust bunnies to be cleared away. When pruned by reality and culpability, he absorbs the wound, but clearly sprouts new growth. With Christine Baranski-grade hauteur and style, Mercant gives Cassie the requisite cutting edges, showing frustration-tempered affection for Terry and noblesse oblige condescension toward Justin as she navigates them to her agenda. The center of their attention, Terry is buffeted by Justin's nonconformist style and Cassie's domineering expectations. In a rich bouquet of emotions, Pevsner's response is wry, defiant, bemused, frightened, childish, patient, angry, doubtful, curious, withdrawn, and often confused. Worst of all for Terry, he is hopeful.

Mr. Parker runs through April, 2024, at Dezart Performs, The Pearl McManus Theater, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs CA. Remaining performances are Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 and 7:00pm. Tickets are $48. For tickets and information, please visit or call 760-322-0179, Extension 1.