Playwright Gene Franklin Smith’s character-driven drama about gay persecution in the ’50s avoids politically correct preachiness, and instead conveys a powerful message through crackling stagecraft. In 1956, Boise, Idaho, is on the brink of becoming a big city, complete with all the urban troubles and crimes that come with it. Amid this atmosphere of civic insecurity, 17-year-old hustler Eldon (Westley Thornton, nicely weasely) gets arrested for lewd behavior — and to save his skin, he publicly names his many clients, sparking a witch hunt. The subsequent prosecutions spread from child molesters to homosexuals to political opponents of the town’s Machiavellian mayor (George McDaniel). Caught in the trap is respected bank vice president Joe Moore (Kris Kamm), who watches as his happy family life crashes and burns. Director Arturo Castillo’s energetic and taut staging fiercely renders the ironic contrast between the era’s Norman Rockwell wholesomeness and the savagery of the prosecutions for homosexuality. The play is remarkably well cast with performers who look as though they are truly denizens of their era. In the role of an increasingly appalled psychiatrist (imported to provide lip service to the clinical value of the mayor’s prosecutions), understudy Scott Victor Nelson gives his introspective character a searingly haunted quality. Other moving turns are offered by McDaniel as the oily and bigoted mayor, Kamm as the destroyed banker, and Melissa Kite as the banker’s equally shattered wife.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: May 16. Continues through June 29, 2008

LA Weekly