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Review: 'revolver' nails bull's-eye at Celebration Theatre

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A potent charge of relevant provocation propels “revolver” at the Celebration Theatre. In the final production at its longtime venue, L.A.’s flagship gay theater scores a profoundly affecting bull's-eye with Chris Phillips’ incisive study of violence and forgiveness, as expressed in societal, personal and even eternal terms.

Unfolding in seemingly random vignettes that echo the six chambers of the title firearm, “revolver” explores its thematic subtext via distinct issues, from homophobia to substance abuse to the afterlife, that impact on the gay community, but by no means exclusively.

Therefore, by keeping things specific, playwright Phillips raises the stakes for his characters and the audience. To give away how he achieves this, in a synoptic scenario that approaches Terrence McNally territory, would be criminal.

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Safer to discuss the accomplished staging, fully representative of the Celebration ethos, directed by Ryan Bergmann with one eye firmly trained on the present day. The spare production makes seamless use of rolling doors, Rebecca Kessin’s layered sound and Matthew Brian Denman’s mordant lighting, and is graced by a sterling cast.

Terrance Spencer and Daniel Montgomery are as tickling as a tangoing Son of God and his betrayer as they are touching as, respectively, a dead addict’s survivor and the real-life symbol of hate crimes. Robert Paterno makes his vengeful psychotic and recovering user seem like two different actors; AJ Jones finds divergent shades in his closeted A-lister and hate-crime perpetrator.

And in the climactic interview that brings Phillips’ thesis to electrifying light, John Colella and Matthew Scott Montgomery are riveting and indelible.

So is “revolver,” and this trenchant watershed may well reach far beyond its certain Purple Circuit demographic. It certainly deserves to.

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“revolver,” Celebration Theatre, 7051B Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Dark July 4. Ends July 21. $30. (323) 957-1884 or www.celebrationtheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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