Evidently Peggy Billo doesn't read reviews. If she did, she'dve known her role in Max & Louie Productions' staging of Paul Rudnick's The New Century was a loser. Rudnick's comedy is mostly an evening of monologues about tolerance vs. fear. The New York critics loved the first monologue, which is a talk to the audience at the Long Island chapter of Parents of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, the Transgendered, the Questioning, the Curious, the Creatively Concerned and Others. Those same critics howled at the late-night Florida cable TV show hosted by the flamboyant Mr. Charles (self-billed as "the gayest man in the universe"). But few of the New York reviewers had any interest in Barbara Ellen Diggs, a quaint artisan in Decatur, Illinois, whose son had died from AIDS. Maybe Decatur is a tad too west for those high-living, coast-hugging New Yorkers. Too bad they didn't see Billo as Barbara Ellen. Her steadfast resolve to maintain a smile in the face of numbing confusion offset Rudnick's rat-a-tat one-liners with a disquieting poignancy. Billo elevated an actor's showcase into a heartbreaking meditation.
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