2013-14 DFW Theater Critics Forum Awards

Some of these shows I did not see. A number I  would not honor with awards. EVER. I am disappointed that neither Ochre House’s Christhelmet (directed by Matthew Posey) nor Diana Sheehan’s  Full Gallop or her sophisticated cabaret,  Searching for Gertrude Lawrence at WaterTower Theatre met the critical popularity threshold. I am quite thrilled for other wins. Call it a draw…. Direction: … Continue reading

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Festival of Independent Theatres 2014: A Reluctant Pass

  Several of this year’s participants in the Festival of Independent Theatres have presented productions of extremely limited worth, in my opinion. These shows, as they exist, lack cohesive artistic merit: in terms of content, in terms of production values, in terms of aesthetic. I have stared at a blank page on my MacBook numerous … Continue reading

No Error In Sight: Junior Players’ Comedy of Errors

  No “errors” noted in William Shakespeare’s early comic farce The Comedy of Errors, presented 1920’s film-style by Junior Players in collaboration with Shakespeare Dallas at the Samuell-Grande Amphitheatre through Sunday July 27. As part of its yearly arts outreach to nearly 6000 Dallas area youth, Junior Players mounts a full-scale, fully costumed, professional caliber … Continue reading

Grace in Styrofoam: CHRISTHELMET at The Ochre House

As posted on Dallas Morning News online: http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainment/arts/headlines/20140717-matthew-posey-packs-a-punch-in-christhelmet-at-the-ochre-house.ece Glide from chaos to redemption with the Ochre House’s Christhelmet, a vaudevillian drama with a transformative twist, written and directed by Ochre House founder Matthew Posey and featuring him in the title role.  A fixture of local theater for more than 20 years, Posey has carved out a … Continue reading

Mostly Entertaining Millie at Prism Theatrics

Lofty aspirations always merit praise, setting the bar high, while adding a dose of hubris can be off-putting. New venture Prism Theatrics states their vision on the inside cover of the show program of their inaugural production, Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, with music by Jeanine Tesori. “By bringing a Broadway caliber … Continue reading

Feasting Beggars, Flying Inspectors: DTC’s “Les Miserables”

I sympathize with the Dallas Theater Center. I comprehend the in depth planning behind their “concept” productions and note their fascination with descriptive words like “new, innovative, modern, and accessible to all”. I get the fact that the powers making artistic decisions there generally don’t seem to trust plays or their characters as written or … Continue reading

Trinity Shakespeare 2014: Oh, blessed brave new world!

AESTHETIC — noun A guiding principle in matters of artistic beauty and taste; artistic sensibility. An underlying principle, a set of principles, or a view often manifested by outward appearances or style of behavior. Nearly all theatre companies in this region function with mission statements, action plans of a sort, some better crafted, better articulated and … Continue reading

Dr. Who and Downton Abbey Actors perform Texas playwright’s London reading of THE LADY REVEALED

Celebrated Dr. Who and Downton Abbey  actors join the cast of the British premiere reading of Texas-based playwright and eminent theatre scholar Dr. Andrew Harris’ original work THE LADY REVEALED at Tristan Bates Theatre, Covent Garden, London, July 4, 2014.  About the play: “I have had great difficulty in containing myself or making myself go off … Continue reading

Triumph of the Soul’s Dark Night: Lyric Stage’s TITANIC

When I attend Lyric Stage’s resplendent productions I often feel I am not just enjoying superior entertainment, I am gaining a unique, immersive perspective into the richness of the American musical theatre genre not available elsewhere. Peter Stone and Maury Yeston’s “Titanic” fits into that category, at full tilt. From the exquisitely arranged orchestrations conducted by … Continue reading

Gone Southie: Watertower Theatre’s GOOD PEOPLE

David Lindsay-Abaire’s homage to the work-worn, hard-edged folk of South Boston (known as ‘Southies’), “Good People”, gets a sincere production from a strong acting ensemble in WaterTower Theatre’s regional premiere running through June 29 in Addison. Its 2011 Manhattan Theatre Club production won numerous prestigious award nominations from the reigning East Coast set, winning Tony … Continue reading

Tickets Going Fast: BOOTH at Second Thought Theatre

SOLD OUT! SOLD OUT! CALL FOR WAITING LIST! “For Second Thought Theatre, turning away patrons by the dozens is a great problem to have….” A Second Thought Theatre creative  driving force and playwright and director of the historical drama BOOTH, Steven Walters expresses sheer amazement at the overwhelming audience response to the original work, now in … Continue reading

No Waiting for Mendes’ Lear @ National Theatre Live

Within the first ten seconds that National Theatre Live’s “King Lear” opens on the screen, minus any credit roll or “Tour London Now” commercial distraction, Simon Russell Beale storms through immense leaden upstage center doors into the austere, militaristic, shadowy set like a mad bull on a rampage and snatches the ominous, dread-filled scene by … Continue reading

Sock It To Bernard: “Boeing Boeing” Flies High at GLCT

French people often get recognized both for their rudeness and their risqué sense of humor. Marc Camoletti’s romantic farce “Boeing Boeing”, listed in 1991’s Guinness Book of Records as the ‘most performed French play in the world’, explores both aspects of the French personality and delivers a hilarious evening of fun, fluff and frou-frou. If … Continue reading

Sanitizing Genocide & Dissing Critics at Undermain

Don’t you love it when theatre companies make stuff up and it unravels on Facebook? Here’s a recent example: Email I received from Undermain’s Press Director Dana Cobb on 3/10, re: press seats for 3/22 opening of We Are Proud to Present…: “Undermain Theatre strives to make as many performances accessible for reviewing press. Due … Continue reading

Winners announced: TeCo’s 12th Annual New Play Competition

WINNERS ANNOUNCED: “Strangers In A Chapel” by Antay Bilgutay wins 12th Annual New Play Competition. Literary Prize shared between Steven Young and Elle Vernee. Congratulations to this year’s winners. Every year I’ve attended the TeCo Annual New Play Competition, I have seen the quality of submissions improve substantially. What at first seemed like a casual jumble, … Continue reading

CityRep Soufflé: Cooking Up Much Ado

Producing a play shares similarities with cooking a perfect soufflé. Carefully selected, measured ingredients get mixed with scientific precision (with a master chef or director’s signature touch) and then “baked” at the right temperature for an exact duration. Removed carefully from the “oven” and presented elegantly to its audience at table (or in the theatre), … Continue reading

Sock It To Me, Jesus: “Godspell” at the Winspear

As I hustled out of the Winspear Opera House… …while the Dallas audience gave its customary, if somewhat tepid, standing ovation to the Lexus Broadway Series touring production of Stephen Schwartz’s early 1970’s musical “Godspell”, based on the Gospel of Matthew, two thoughts came to mind. The first: “You can’t make a silk purse out … Continue reading

CORIOLANUS: NT Live’s Gruesome Heart-throb

A mystery at a National Theatre Live screening? When I attend and review the NT Live performances at Dallas’ Angelika Film Center, I generally find myself one of eight silent people in the auditorium. Walking into a full house, wall to wall people, on a Saturday afternoon to see the NT Live showing of Shakespeare’s … Continue reading

“Blue Roses”: Lyric Stage’s Ethereal Launch

Blue Roses…Blue roses. Whisper the words aloud and imagine what those roses might look like. Fragile, haunting, tragic, illusory? When lyricist Mimi Turque plucked the words out of Tennessee William’s drama “The Glass Menagerie” to form the title of the adaptation she wrote with composer Nancy Ford, she hoped their collaborative endeavor would capture the … Continue reading

Gussy Up The Bath House: Hot, Classy Ladies’ Songs

Been to The Echo Room? Whatcha waiting for? Poof! Echo Theatre’s movie idol gorgeous traditional jazz bandleader waves his magic wand. The Bath House Cultural Center black box space transforms into a hot, hopping 1930’s vintage supper club, The Echo Room, with live music, dancing, classy flirtation and adult beverages and light snacks provided by … Continue reading

Uncomfortably Off the Rails: On the Eve

When I think of new or original as regards a play production, and no mention gets made in its press about adaptation of or inspiration from other works, I expect to see unique characters interacting in non-derivative plots and scenes. I, like other regional theatre critics, found myself utterly enchanted by the workshop production of … Continue reading

A River Runs Deep: Tom Sawyer at WaterTower Theatre

Tom Sawyer, that lovable Americana scamp icon, springs to life full throttle on WaterTower Theatre’s main stage through February 16, in a true-to-the-novel stage adaptation by Laura Eason, commissioned by Hartford Stage in 2010. It features regional professional Andrews Cope, perfectly cast in the title role, with bold direction by Emily Scott Banks. Well suited … Continue reading

Len Jenkin’s Reel Fantasy Adventure: Undermain Theatre

Guest review by Equity actor Jason Kane: Undermain Theatre’s long history with playwright Len Jenkin fits very snugly within the company’s body of work, reflecting its respect for lyrical language and magical imagery. Jenkin is a master of language, a good thing. Abraham Zobell’s Home Movie: Final Reel might fade from memory as a cookie-cutter … Continue reading

August, Osage County: Cliff’s Notes Version

Remember Cliff’s Notes?  The ultimate cheat-sheet style study guides designed to “present and explain literary and other works in pamphlet form or online” in condensed format? Frowned upon by serious literature professors, they offer a superficial overview of great literary work without depth or nuance. They exist as the sort of panacea a time-challenged or … Continue reading

Region’s Best On Stage 2013

Best productions, ranked by preference. Criteria include: text merit, director’s vision, integration of design elements, ensemble effect, innovative, dynamic use of space, accessibility for audiences, development of character arcs that adhere to playwright’s intent. Any one of the top five productions could have ended up in the #1 slot. Thoroughly entertaining and illuminating. The Taming … Continue reading

The Sound of Misplaced Ire: Carrie Underwood as Maria

GUEST EDITORIAL by Jonathan Beck Reed, offering a rational perspective on Carrie Underwood’s performance in the recently televised THE SOUND OF MUSIC on NBC: Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, I suppose, so, here’s mine. Carrie Underwood is a strikingly beautiful young lady with an AMAZING, clarion voice, far more impressive exhibited through the words … Continue reading

Seeing “Red” at City Rep: A Splendid Creation

“What do you see? Nothing else exists….”  The idea of anyone writing a dynamic stage play about a famous abstract expressionist painter from the 1950’s that a non-academic would want to read might inspire skepticism and yawns. Producing it in a way that communicates its protagonist’s creative process and philosophical intentions effectively as it soars … Continue reading

Mucking About with Sir Kenneth Branagh: “Macbeth” on NTLive

  Sir Kenneth goes mucking about, and offers nothing new or exciting for his pains. The National Theatre Live screenings present William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, co-directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford for the Manchester International Festival, produced in a deconsecrated Victorian church. In his cozy pre-show chat with NT Live’s host, Ashford reveals that … Continue reading

NT Live’s “Othello”: The Beast in the Desert

NT Live makes good once again on its bold promise of quality, audience-accessible stage performance. London’s incomparable National Theatre offers a contemporary “concept production” of William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy “Othello” that makes the 16th century play feel as if it were written today, as edgy and raw as anything composed fresh on the latest version … Continue reading

Trigger Happy at Theatre Three: Assassins

Squeeze that little finger. “Sic semper tyrannis!” shouts John Wilkes Booth from offstage. It’s not just killing. It’s assassination…. Is there a creepy chill in this theatre? Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins really bothers me. It’s not just the subject matter, which is pretty disturbing. It feels disjointed, with the characters and scenes disconnected … Continue reading

Matt & Ben & Miller & Catherine: Echo Theatre

No doubt about it. Miller Pyke and Catherine DuBord give non-stop, outstanding performances as Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in Echo Theatre’s oddball, one act farce Matt & Ben, running at the Bath House Cultural Center through September 28, 2013. Pyke, tall and rangy in gesture and energy, bulks up readily like a guy with … Continue reading

Strike Two at Undermain Theatre

Would it not seem logical if a theatre company invites a critic to attend its shows that the company would seat that critic in a good seat? A prime location with unobstructed views, where the critic could obtain the fullest, most positive impression of the creative team’s earnest work? With some companies in the North … Continue reading

DFW Theatre Critics’ Forum Awards: 2013

Critics’ Forum Awards in 2013: a testament to the diverse, dynamic thespian output produced in our North Texas region, from originals to Classics, contemporary and edgy to the beloved, tried-and-true. In 2013 a youth theatre program figures prominently in the honors, and a 12-year-old member of its dedicated ensemble earns recognition for giving one of … Continue reading

Game of Luv: JAILBAIT by Dallas Actor’s Lab

Ever had a memorably awful experience in the “bar scene”? Dating Game gone all to Hell? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Laugh, gasp, wince if you must: but don’t look away from Jailbait, Deirdre O’Connor’s 2009 dramatic comedy about hetero mating rites and wrong. Very, very wrong. Dallas Actor’s Lab, under the founding artistic direction of University … Continue reading

Elevator Plays: Going Up?

I think they are happening. At the Wyly Theatre, I’m told. Tiny casts performing short scenes in elevators? Mormon family-sized casts performing elaborate scenes for small audiences squeezed into capacious elevators? A smattering of the brave, homeless groups of thespian collectives from across the region? What about wheelchair patrons? If only I had detailed information about … Continue reading