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THEATER REVIEW: Cygnet Theatre stages Mae West tribute, "Dirty Blonde" | VIDEO

Claudia Shear’s “Dirty Blonde,” now playing at Cygnet Theatre, is one of those dual story-line plots that spans many decades.

Melinda Gilb (“The Receptionist”) stars as Mae West, aka the “Dirty Blonde,” as well as Jo, a modern day fan of the show biz legend.
Steve Gunderson (“Parade” and “Sweeny Todd”) and David McBean (“It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Fully Committed”) play a variety of roles in support.

One plot line follows the rise of Mae West as the wise-cracking vaudeville act whose star rose on Broadway and in the movies. She became the most famous sex goddess of the 20th century, and an icon for double-entendre sexual humor. While younger audiences may not remember West, or the blonde bombshell that she became, older audiences certainly will.

Mae West with her “live and let live” attitude was both refreshing and daring. She was a woman ahead of her time, shocking the sensibilities of her era by supporting the rights of African-Americans, gays and women. Mae West was the Madonna and Lady Gaga of her time.

In the other plot, Shear interweaves West’s story with that of two fans, Jo and Charlie, two lonely hearts who meet one day outside Mae West’s crypt at the Cypress Hills Mausoleum. Jo is impressed that Charlie had actually met Mae West in her golden years, and the two become close friends with a budding romance. But when Jo discovers that Charlie likes to dress in drag as Mae West, she is convinced that he is gay.

The New York production of "Dirty Blonde" was nominated for four Tony Awards in 2000, but San Diego version directed by Sean Murray is not nearly as worthy.

The Cygnet production relies on a sparse stage and a whole lot of multimedia to fill in the blanks about Mae West's amazing career, as well as a method to keep the time travel obvious. Still, the play is choppy at times as the three cast members must endure countless costume changes from the 1910s through contemporary times as well as carry props.

Gilb does a good job playing Jo, but she doesn’t really capture the sexpot essence of Mae West. Gunderson and McBean do a fine job playing multiple characters, a dream for any actor.

The details

“Dirty Blonde” plays through June 17 at Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Town.

7:30 pm Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 pm Fridays; 3 and 8 pm Saturdays; 2 and 7 pm Sundays.

For tickets, call (619) 337-1525 or visit HERE.