“The Festival of Independent Theatres continues its commitment to exploring new theatrical work and encouraging diverse voices within the independent theatre scene. FIT was created as an outlet for smaller companies without a permanent performance space to give them an opportunity to produce seldom seen, new or avant-garde works. FIT exists to promote awareness and growth of Dallas area theatre through collaboration, participation and cultivation.”
One Thirty Productions’ The Turquoise Pontiac
Directed by Larry Randolph
Brimming with quirky humor and an undercurrent of mystery as palpable as the shifting sands blowing into a squalid bar next to a lonely highway on the Southwestern desert, this one act premiere by Ellsworth Schave follows close upon One Thirty’s successful 2009 FIT entry also by Mr. Schave, Under a Texaco Canopy. Last year’s show earned high critical and audience acclaim.
In spite of a promising first scene reminiscent of The Prisoner with wry humor and menace, this year’s production doesn’t quite match the caliber of the previous one. Its direction feels untidy in scenes with the romantic leads. Too many confusing plot elements jumble around without resolution, leaving all characters a bit adrift at the end. The acting ensemble and costumes are A+. Elias Taylorson squeezes every hair-raising laugh out of the opening scene script as enigmatic bartender Roscoe, rambling on about a “social contract” with dusky, laconic drawl and mysterious foreboding. Shane Beeson as the hero The Traveler communicates the sheer panic of a Twilight Zone victim as he innocently wanders into the unexpected snare awaiting him in the bar. Morgan Justiss cuts a striking picture as the statuesque heroine, The Soprano, “in her medieval period”, attired in unique body armor made from beer bottle caps from Roscoe’s bar. Dan Tillman as Lee the philosophizing train engineer gets to speak the best line in the play and balances Taylorson’s droll one-liners well with easy demeanor and hulking presence. The audience laughs heartily, in spite of the play’s less than inspired unraveling. A rewrite might be in order, Mr. Schave; rethink and energize some of the blocking, Mr. Randolph?
The Muse by The Drama Club
Directed by Lydia Mackay
Prologue to a much larger work, floating around in the hyper-creative mind of regional director/ set designer Jeffrey Schmidt for ten years, this ritualized, kinesthetic, sensual movement and sound exploration of youth transitioning to adulthood sans dialogue, is equally entrancing and repellant.
Not the piece to see if traditional plotline and conventional characterization float your boat. It’s remarkable in the images it creates that lurk in the mind’s eye for days after viewing. Major regional talents Anastasia Munoz, Maryam Baig Lush, Lulu Moore, John L. Flores and Newton Pittman bring a fearless ferocity and collaborative entropy to this work in process, honoring the FIT mantra and the Drama Club mission like swallowing a tequila-soaked scorpion whole and enjoying every gag-inspiring gulp. It’s exciting to see grounded artists take such unearthly risks. Newton Pittman’s three-sided sound contraption, a “cage” from which he controls and defines all onstage action with percussion, keyboard, Theremin and found objects, is sheer genius. This is an addictive one-act to revisit, knowing you’ll experience its heady vitality anew each time. Step WAY outside traditional boundaries.
Wingspan Theatre’s Feeding the Moonfish
Directed by Susan Sargeant
Here’s a mind-blowing, visually satisfying, poetic 1988 psychological thriller of sorts, by award-winning playwright Barbara Wiechmann. Honoring Aristotelian constructs, it portrays one life-changing evening in two young people’s lives. A desperately lonely girl follows an equally lonely and disturbed young man out onto a spooky Florida pier, where he goes regularly to “talk to the moonfish”. Both find that their individual isolation and disenchantment draw them together as their sorrow and rage surface on the moonlit pier.
“The moon’s got a force, an it pulls an pulls at the insides of these fish and locks em into a way of behaving,” he tells her. “They got no minds of their own anymore. Once the moon’s got em they’re hopeless beyond all control. All they got is moon minds.” What happens is clearly far beyond their control. Josh Glover and Barrett Nash imbue their roles with painful intensity, which resolves into welcome release as they desperately cling to each other at the end. Not the finest script but a sensitive, evocative production.
White Rock Pollution: Alice in Wonderland
Directed by Tom Parr IV
Based on a production by Andre Gregory and the Manhattan Project
Wow. In spades. Alice in Wonderland on a teensy-weensy budget with minimal props and set pieces in an intimate black box space never looked so fantastic. It’s all about Zen-present acting and mindful direction that honor and illuminate the highly literate, imaginative text better than many ‘realistic’ high budget movie versions.
Adult actress Danielle Pickard becomes a totally believable 7 year-old girl who falls down THAT rabbit hole, inventively created by the rest of the ensemble, and experiences various escapades drawn with meticulous love from Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland. Every actor pulls his/ her fair weight and delights the audience. Ben Bryant draws cries of astonished recognition, emerging from clustered umbrellas as The Caterpillar. Clay Wheeler’s Hatter couldn’t act much madder. Randy Pearlman earns cheers as a priggishly officious, perilously wobbly Humpty Dumpty and a luridly leering Cheshire Cat. Whitney Holotik breathes metaphorical fire as the manic schizoid duo Red Queen/White Queen. Brian Witkowicz amuses all with his silly, stupid Dormouse (superb comic delivery) and displays unimaginable gravitas as the saddest and most ridiculously lovable White Knight on the planet. As satisfying as any Alice in your dreams….
Interviews with actors/ directors and designers: http://thisweekinthearts.com/
And four more productions to come…get your passes now! 214-880-0202
The Festival of Independent Theatres, managed by David Meglino with technical direction by Graeme Bice, runs through August 7 at the Bath House Cultural Center on White Rock Lake.
Visit www.bathhousecultural.com for info and directions