By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Didymus runs through April 17. Call (214) 827-5746.
Most theater producers will stir your coffee at intermission if it makes you happy. They often do the equivalent onstage, slinging homogenized fare that does all the work for audiences to keep you fat, happy, and sleepy. Scott Osborne and Patti Kirkpatrick, founders of Our Endeavors, are more the drill sergeant-psychotic aerobics instructor types: They want you on your feet, thinking, questioning, reassessing all the deep issues with their production choices. But they're not above entertaining, which is why their latest show, Loved It/Hated It: Two Distinct Plays, has at least a 50 percent chance of winning your heart. Maybe more.
"Our feeling is that we want people to love both of them, or love one and hate the other one," Osborne says with a perverse laugh. "We definitely don't want people to hate both of them. To that extent, we're including a ballot in the program so people can vote their feelings about the shows."
There's a lot of solid talent behind this evening of one-acts, so hopefully adverse reactions will be inspired by the confrontational material onstage rather than by the quality of its delivery. The evening begins with famed British leftist experimentalist Howard Barker. Wounds to the Face is his examination of identity through a series of vignettes about the human face. The kinda-sorta plot concerns a soldier who gets his face blown off by a grenade and the plastic surgeon hired to treat it. There's also a dictator, a painter, and a Man in the Iron Mask-type character.
"With this play, Barker asks us a beautiful and disturbing question: 'Who does your face belong to?'" says the show's director, Donna Sherritt. "I've talked to female friends before, and we think about that all the time: 'Am I putting on makeup for me or other people?' Barker expands on this by using different characters, including a dictator whose face is everywhere. Think about war-torn countries ruled by dictators. The image of Saddam Hussein's face is everywhere in Iraq. The people need it to blame and to worship. Now, does it belong more to them or Hussein?"
Following up the Barker piece will be the toxic comedy by Wallace Shawn, Marie and Bruce. Director Mark Farr compares Shawn's Marie and Bruce to Sartre's No Exit, except that the isolated hell in Shawn's script is a heterosexual relationship between a very powerful woman and an easily cowed man.
"Marie is the epitome of the emasculating woman, and Bruce is the epitome of the emasculated man," Farr says. "It's about getting into a relationship that you feel you'll never get out of. Maybe I'm trying to purge some of my own experience with that. The script is hellish, but it's also hilarious. There's this vicious hopelessness about it that's very appropriate. When you're talking about this kind of emptiness, there's no better way to illustrate it than with a sense of humor."
Both Farr and Donna Sherritt say their shows may make you squirm, but they're not entirely devoid of entertainment (Farr says entertainment is his first concern as a director). But he sums up the balloting for Loved It/Hated It--and the complex reaction Our Endeavors hopes to provoke--this way: "On the one hand, I don't want to lose. On the other hand, I don't want to win."
Loved It/Hated It: Two Distinct Plays opens April 8 and runs through May 1 in Frank's Place at the Kalita Humphreys. Call (972) 355-2879.