When David Fosworth visits his parents without notice on Mother's Day, it's a surprise. But he has even more of a shock in mind for his conservative family: his longtime roommate and life partner, a female impersonator nicknamed "Butch." He winds up introducing Butch (in drag) as his girlfriend, a Mexican actress named Margo. So goes the story of "The Gay Deceiver," currently on the boards at the Elite Theatre Company in Oxnard's Heritage Square.
A farce (of course), its story is something like "La Cage aux Folles" sideways, and should appeal to--or upset--pretty much the same people as the French transatlantic hit. Playwright John Patrick treats the gay couple with humor and sympathy, but they're not going to upset any stereotypes, either. The same goes for Patrick's treatment of Margo, for that matter: She comes off as exaggerated as "Spanish Rose" in "Bye, Bye Birdie."
Taste aside, it's a pretty funny play, and certainly had Friday's opening-night audience laughing throughout. Art McDermott and Glen Jacobs star as David and Butch. Jacobs is very funny as Butch's alter-ego, Margo, and the effect is magnified by the fact that he stands a good six inches taller than McDermott. (On the other hand, it's hard to see how any but the squarest of parents wouldn't have suspected the sexual orientation of this David.)
Robert Zarit and Judy Heiliger play David's parents: He's a Bible printer and conservative candidate for mayor of Palm Beach; she's something of a surprise. Nita Fouhse plays David's addled grandmother, a caricature in her own right and just as amusing in her own way as Jacobs. Jack Lee is seen as a minister.
Some of the acting was a little ragged on opening night, one performer having trouble with lines and a couple of others too obviously reading, but the cast musters a lot of spirit under Christine Laird's direction. Fouhse's own long-haired dachshund, Dindi, appears under the pooch's own name (and deserves some sort of an award as the most mellow little dog in history).
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
* WHAT: "The Gay Deceiver."
* WHEN: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through April 29 (no performance Easter Sunday).
* WHERE: Petit Ranch House, 730 S. B St. (Heritage Square), Oxnard.
* HOW MUCH: General admission $10; seniors $7.
* CALL: 525-6301.