Boise, USA

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Gene Franklin Smith's world premiere seems like an old play, not because of its theme but because the pitch and style are smothered under layers of melodramatic dust. Homophobia never sleeps, but some attic windows are being cracked open to let in shards of comprehension, even tolerance. In a week during which the California Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, Smith's play reeks of old, bad history. There is no doubt that the proceedings are going to be cut-and-dried, and quite dated.

It's Halloween night, 1955, in the sedate town of Boise, Idaho. The cops, supposedly on the prowl for pranksters and hooligans, bag a cornucopia of juicy goodies. To the shock and awe of the citizens, several upstanding men have been arrested for "crimes against nature." The knives are out, and the vigilant lawmakers -- county prosecutor Blaine Evans (Nic d'Avirro) and Mayor "Buck" Jones (George McDaniel) -- lick their political chops with holier-than-thou salacious joy. Will Fairchild (Craig Robert Young), allegedly with the FBI, aligns himself with the inevitable prosecution of justice, bribing a young deviant, Eldon Halverson (Westley Thornton), into naming names. Reputations are shredded, secrets are in the open, marriages are torn apart. Which way the witch-hunt?

Director Arturo Castillo keeps his cast on an even keel, lining up his actors to "testify" to their terrible crimes, getting a sad recitation of mea culpas that are devoid of humanity or hope -- and that could substitute for almost any deviation from propriety. The play's main color is in the town's elite who are slavering over the fruits of their righteousness before squirming when the hot tar begins to drip onto their moral superiority.

Seamus Dever ignites the role of Dr. Jack Butler, the state psychiatrist who brings hope and humanity in his satchel, and Cameron Mitchell Jr. as Frank Jones, the mayor's openly gay brother with feisty cheer in his bag of tricks. Audrey Moore as Butler's wife and Melissa Kite as Moore's make the proceedings a bit more friendly. Matty Ferraro has a heartbreaking cameo as Herbert Jones, the disgraced son of the mayor. This is a well-produced evening, though it takes itself a tad too seriously.

Presented by Salem K Theatre Company

at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A.

Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. May 16-Jun. 29.

(323) 960-4420.