The Temperamentals Newly formed Celebration Theatre presents the Houston premiere of an important moment in the movement for gay rights, the founding of The Mattachine Society, an underground activist group that began in Los Angeles in the '50s. Brief scenes convey a cinematic sense and include humor as well as drama. Harry Hay (Steven Bullitt) is the driving activist force, joined by his lover Rudi Gernreich (Mitchell Greco), Viennese-born designer of women's fashions. Bullitt captures the dedication of Hay, while Greco's Gernreich is nuanced and intelligent, but understated, as though he or the director had too much reverence for the subject matter. The other founders are Chuck Rowland (John Dunn) and Bob Hall (Rob Flebbe). The fifth important character is Dale Jennings (Jeff Dorman), a defendant who won an important case involving false entrapment. The last three actors also portray many other characters and do so exceptionally well — John Dunn as Vincent Minelli uses stance, walk and vocal shifts to create an indelible portrait. Dorman sews up the blue-collar role of Dale, and is invariably interesting in other roles, as is Flebbe, who apparently can change personalities as quickly as he can change a jacket. The staging by director Jimmy Phillips is highly effective, molding episodes seamlessly into a vivid portrait of the times. The play is best in the first act, as plans and friendships are formed; the second act veers off into some tangential areas, such as Hay's growing fondness for flamboyant shawls. The production is graceful and stylish, making wise use of Barnevelder's ample stage. Rich humor enlivens a docudrama about the early struggle for gay rights, and skilled acting makes it well worth seeing for its entertainment value alone. Through February 11. Barnevelder Movement/Arts, 2201 Preston St., 832-303-4758. — JJT

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