By Victor S. Barocas
What do you have when traditions become evolution? When ghosts become family history? When losses becomes gains? These and other questions are tackled in the Desert Rose Playhouse production of “House of the Rising Son.”
Written by Tom Jacobson and directed by Jim Strait, the play offers the audience a mix of comedy and poignancy. It begins in LA and concludes in New Orleans — telling the story of one man’s search for the right man to continue his family’s legacy.
“House of the Rising Son” begins with true lust between two men. Dr. Trent Varro, a nationally recognized expert and speaker on parasites, is from New Orleans. Felix Martin, an audience member, lives in LA. After having sex, it becomes clear that the attraction between Felix and Trent is more complex than a simple quickie.
While Trent asserts that parasites contribute to human survival, Felix acknowledges his belief in ghosts and fascination with ghost stories. Both parasites and ghosts are recurring themes throughout the play.
Trent persuades Felix to travel with him to New Orleans. Upon their arrival, Felix meets Trent’s family: the father (Garrett) and grandfather (Bowen). Trent, Garrett and Bowen live together in a very old house, reputed to be haunted.
While searching for these ghosts, Felix walks in on his Trent and Garrett beginning to have sex. Totally confused by what he believes is incest, Felix freaks out. Trent explains that he was adopted by Garrett, and that Bowen adopted Garrett. Felix learns that this nontraditional family continues through adoption. And, Trent explains that what Felix saw was not incest, but a tradition that dates back more than two centuries.
The youngest son is charged with finding a younger man to continue the family dynasty, Trent continues. Felix, if adopted, would become an integral part of the family. He would become a sexual and/or emotional partner with Trent, as well as Garrett and Bowen. And, at some time in the future, Felix would become responsible for finding a new family member.
The play continually explores the themes of ghosts, traditions, adaptation, and evolution. While there are some unexpected twists, “House” concludes with the four men demonstrating how their family adapts as its members grow as individuals.
The “House of the Rising Son” offers the audience a straightforward storyline. At the same time, its provocative, unorthodox redefinition of family makes it worth the trip to the Desert Rose Playhouse. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 27.Tickets are $25-$28.Desert Rose Playhouse is at 69-620 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. Info: desertroseplayhouse.org