With the rise of a particularly unsavory brand of anti-intellectualism blasted across cable media and boldly defended in many halls of political discourse, especially in Texas lately, it’s a delight to observe the success of two outstanding theatre productions setting the artistic standard for the N. Texas region. By success, I mean their ability to attract sell-out crowds to fill seats, audiences ravenous for a depth of thought, a variety of textual richness and performances that inspire introspection as well as entertain. These potent productions form a powerful antidote to repugnant anti-intellectualism, a feat worthy of celebration.
Closing February 22 and nearly sold out: Dallas Actors’ Lab presents Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, adapted by Annie Baker, directed by Dylan Key. http://www.dallasactorslab.org/ . (214) 871-5000
Part of the Elevator Project on the 9th floor at the Wyly Theatre, this small production company succeeds by presenting a musty classic as sharp contemporary drama. Period text reference and modern delivery and dress blend smoothly in a satisfying anachronistic cocktail, stirred gently, not shaken. A bit more superficial and glib than historical classicists might prefer, this production has earned and held the interest of thinking audiences of all ages across the region. Acting stand-outs: DAL Artistic Director Kyle Lemieux, David Goodwin and Janielle Kastner. Watch them dig deep, stroke the magic thespian lamp and release that glowing genius lurking inside the re-imagined play’s soul. The production strips away a trainload of outdated baggage to illuminate its human elements at universal scale, the triumph of survival and the human spirit. No “shades of “ cable TV fare, not in any way.
Closing Saturday February 21, check for wait list seat availability: The Ochre House presents a grand Matthew Posey original, Soft Noodle Map. www.ochrehousetheater.com 214-826-6273.
Posey concocts as elegant and minutely–detailed stage productions as Faberge did decorating his famous eggs for Russian despots. Delicate as ghost’s breath, each a world unto itself, full of vulgarity, hope, confusion, betrayal and love unexpected, Posey’s plays don’t come with super-titles or neon signs guiding the audience along safe pathways. You must traverse the arc of his literate woods on your own, metaphorical machetes, cutlasses or Jedi light sabers, optional. This production takes place on the rooftop of an astro-physicist’s home, where the messy, mundane details of his life below pursue him like Greek Furies. Friends and family, alike, gang up on the pensive Ansel Barber’s retreat to an endless universe full of exquisite constellations viewed through his telescope portal. And painted across the walls of the tiny Ochre House venue in Deep Ellum. Noodle theory, not remotely culinary, makes ultimate sense of the chaos, with Christian Taylor giving another Tony-worthy performance as the unanticipated, gentle agent of redemption. Complex, churning like sour buttermilk turned sweet with old-fashioned Sturm und Drang, Posey as Ansel Barber leads attentive audiences carefully down a Black Hole to mindful enlightenment. As almost afterthought. You snooze on Posey’s court, you will definitely LOSE this game.
Now we don’t want those tacky, smug anti-intellectuals to win, do we?