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To kick off its 20th anniversary year, Diversionary Theatre, San Diego's gay and lesbian theatre, chose Paul Rudnick's latest madcap comedy. "Mad" is the operative word here as the playwright intertwines the life of Ludwig of Bavaria--the 1880's Mad King responsible for building a series of storybook castles inspired by Wagnerian operas--and the fictional exploits of James Avery, a wild teenager in 1930s and '40s Texas.

Ludwig and James love beauty and their fellow man more than society is ready to accept. Ludwig loves the beauty of swans and the opera Lohengrin above all. James loves beauty but in rural Texas must steal it from the local five-and-dime. Attracted to beautiful men, Ludwig finally becomes engaged to his cousin Sophie, a hunchbacked princess he bonds with, but they never marry. James falls in love with high school beauty Sally and his best buddy Henry Lee, eventually having sex with both. During World War II, when James and Henry are behind German lines in Bavaria and discover Ludwig's magic castles, the plot lines converge in mirth and tragedy.

Tim Irving directs with panache and keeps the madness flowing smoothly in this light-as-air confection. The laughs come fast and furious under his nimble touch. The only problem is, some of the performers don't hold for the audience laughter, and their next one-liner is lost. As Ludwig, Andy Collins possesses the perfect delivery for Rudnick's often non-sequitur brand of humor. He is the calm in the madness. Angelo D'Agostino as James has a rough, tough look and a steaming sensuality that perfectly embodies the character's sexual duality. Andrew Kennedy as Henry is picture-perfect as James' object of lust. Zachary Mikles offers support as the obsequious footman.

Playing a variety of roles, the show is nearly stolen by its two female performers. Laura Bozanich plays a Bavarian queen, a frustrated Texas mother, and nasal tour guide Natalie Kippelbaum. Lisel Gorell-Getz brings diversity and much humor and charm to Marie Antoinette, beauty queen Sally, and humpbacked Sophie. She's a treasure, as is this delightfully surreal and wacky comedy. Shulamit Nelson's colorful and wide-ranging costumes add to the flavor and fun of the play.

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