The Fabulous Follies of Palm Springs, "where everything old is new again." This isn't Las Vegas kitsch, it's extraordinary entertainment: the youngest member of the ensemble is fifty-eight years old, and the oldest one's over eighty. It would be a perfect American show if the impresario Riff Markowitz didn't talk between numbers. "Looking at the first four rows," he begins, "once again I see a lot of plastic surgeries who can't sit down and smile at the same time." He singles out a young woman: "Stand up! What's your name?" "Tara." "Sara?" "No, Tara, with a T." "Terrible name! My god, what are you doing here? You're way too young for this audience!"

Next up is a man in an orange polo shirt: "So that's how you dress when you go to the theater? What's your name?" "Willy." Markowitz snorts with laughter. "Of course your name is Willy! What's your last name?" Willy makes a sad face: "Weep." "Come again?" "W-E-E-P." Markowitz: "Fantastic! Willy Weep. What do you do for a living?" Willy: "I'm a salesman." Markowitz: "So, what do you sell?" Willy: "Parts." Markowitz bursts out laughing. The audience joins in. "I'm not even gonna ask you what kind of parts! ... Wasn't such a great idea, sitting in the front row, eh? That woman there next to you ... is that your ... aha, girlfriend." He turns to her: "Willy's never gonna marry you, I've been watching him the whole time with his hand on the man's knee on his right. Are you secretly gay, Willy Weep?" Willy shakes his head. "You know, Palm Springs isn't just a retirement city, it's a gay city too." Markowitz looks around. "Look, there's some now! Textbook examples!" A male couple in the second row nod in annoyance. "Willy Weep here could look just like those guys, but he doesn't have the guts!"

During the pauses in this torrent of words, the ancient ensemble dances and sings. Riff Markowitz rests up so he can lay into the "old bags" in the front rows. They breathe a sigh of relief whenever he takes a break. Me too — luckily, I'm sitting in the seventh row, more or less untouchable. During the intermission, I take pictures of the attractive neon sign next to the stage.

"Where's the idiot who was taking pictures of the sign by the stage?" Markowitz starts the second half of the show. He walks right up to me. Me, who felt so safe in the seventh row! "You think it's so great to take pictures of everything? What's your name?" "Martin." Markowitz, hesitant at first, now looks dumbfounded. "Aah, Martin! Feel free to pronounce your name the right way! How is it they let somebody like you into our country?“

It would be funny if it wasn't aimed at me. I try to be quick on the comeback, I want to show off my wit. "Stop, keep your hands off my microphone!" Nobody can cut a good figure next to Markowitz. "You must be some kind of idiot, Marrrtin — taking a picture of a sign. Don't you want a picture of me?" I quickly snap one. In the photo, Markowitz looks saggier and more worn down than in real life.

Plaza Theater, 128 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, USA

Translated by Geoffrey C. Howes