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By Rory L. Aronsky | May 6, 2005

Adopting a more freewheeling and less awed style after “Neverland”, writer/director and even lyricist/composer Damion Dietz tries out a lot of different plots and ideas in “Beverly Kills”, which puts Gary Kelley and Rick Sparks out of the Peter Pan legend and into Los Angeles, where dreams are formed and shattered in a short amount of time and for some untalented souls, hope never dies. As 40-year-old drag queen Beverly Jackson (Gary Kelley) tells an unimpressed directing duo at the Pride Playhouse, “I was a semi-finalist on Star Search, when I was a child.”

Beverly wants it all. He (or she?) wants that fame that’s so golden to the millions that pour into the city that subsists on so many kinds of drugs (even adrenaline can be put into that mix), that you’d need more than a stapler just to close its eyes. He wants to be noticed, celebrated, honored, pampered, cooed at, and given those illustrious contracts afforded to those currently working on the lots that make up Tinseltown. But he’s terrible. He can’t sing, can’t get into any kind of performance, and no wig change would help that, much as he tries to convince the Pride Playhouse directors, who are working on a show called “Balls Out!”, in which Dietz accomplishes his first item on what must have been a massive checklist: Tell the entire world that it’s ok to be who you are. Gay or straight (mostly gay here), the world was made for all kinds of human beings, as frightening a clan as many of us are.

After Beverly storms out with his anger in tow and later seeks counsel from Rocco (Tony Sora), his masseuse and confidant, on how to exact revenge on the city that’s scorned him, Shane (Rick Sparks) comes into the picture. Barry (Patrick Allen) breaks up with him for an exotic dancer that’s looking to get his foot, or thong, in the door of that business. Shane, in contrast to the outlandish and kitschy Beverly, is an innocent. He came to this town on built-up hopes, hoping something would happen for him, a town that is his best friend basically. But he lives in the theater, sleeping there at night, much to the chagrin of the closeted director of the playhouse.

Between these two, Dietz tries for everything. Not only rightfully cheering gay pride, he also incorporates bits of satire, digs at Hollywood with Beverly doing an audition number from the Broadway musical “Hindenberg”, which shows that you can put a Jack and Rose in any kind of disastrous situation on any mode of transport. Dietz and cast also have fun with the personas of Hollywood as Beverly stops at Union Station to pick up unsuspecting arrivals to Hollywood that aren’t familiar with the territory and therefore rounds up members of a cult designed to exact revenge on Hollywood his way, through bombs in fanny packs with newly anointed celebrity impersonators as his outlets. However, there’s too much packed here. Beverly is an entertaining character at the beginning and Gary Kelley breathes his traits with more energy than Speedy Gonzalez on crack. At least his targets are relatively small ones, no plans for world domination, which is a plus for who he is. But as more time is spent with him, he goes from entertaining to exasperating. There’s simply too much of him at one shot, with little control in sight. Even with the different outfits, it’s easy to become tired of him quickly.

As Shane, Rick Sparks shows a relative sensitivity that’s touching without being mind-numbingly sentimental. Like Gary Kelley, he can really make each role different, though there is a complete contradiction to his character in the third act, which is strange considering that he made it easy for himself to go along with a potentially new flame. As for the set of fake celebrity impersonators within Beverly’s cult, the funniest is Strip (Craig Lucas), a Dietz comment on the fake airbrushed men of Hollywood. So fake in fact, that Three (Saadia Billman) acts as his representative.

Dietz is bright and energetic, enthusiastic about all he has in this movie. His real strengths lie in more personal tales that are less broad than this. In other films, his talent blooms in that area. Being too broad, he loses that sensibility.

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