Stay tuned

Marie and Bruce is the must-see second act of Our Endeavors' duo

Director Farr and his actors turn Shawn's obsession with pathological dependence into a lyrical look at how the imbalance of power in a relationship constantly shifts. When they're alone in the apartment, Marie is the undisputed glowering queen; when they go to the party, she is knocked off her throne by Bruce's knowledge of her insecurity. She knows he looks at other women, and he knows she knows, and exploits it viciously.

Vela and Goodwin are expert at tossing the emotional ball back and forth at each other, sometimes playfully and sometimes hard, with the intention to hurt. Their contrasting physical types are perfect for the first impressions we receive; their talent lets them wriggle out of these shells as new seriocomic forms. The last time Goodwin registered this strongly on stage was in Theatre Three's Racing Demon a couple of seasons ago; here his sex-craving, beady-eyed skinny wiener dude rises to match Ms. Vela, who rivets with silly but utterly sincere comic vulnerability, rolling in flowers and rifling through another woman's frilly toiletries.

Maybe that Loved It/Hated It ballot isn't so crazy after all. I didn't hate Wounds to the Face, but watching that very detached dissection next to the wooly sexual beast that is Marie and Bruce, I'm aware that all the talking I do about how theater should discuss real life was somewhat compromised by my preference for a piece that took on a wild life of its own.

Loved It/Hated It: Two Distinct Plays runs through May 1. Call (972) 355-2879.

Banter
One problem with operating a small theater company in Dallas is, of course, that it's very difficult to secure a venue for yourself, so any audiences that you build have to follow you around a city. A related issue is that so many of these theater companies have vastly different audiences that don't mix much, which is a shame. Why wouldn't someone who enjoyed Wingspan's work at least be interested in Wickerplane or Beardsley Living Theatre? It's not only nice to share, but it could mean the continued survival of theater companies that tend to flare up and then burn out.

These are troubles that have been bugging David Fisher, a former staffer at Dallas Children's Theater and a director and techie at theaters all over town. When he was named director of the Bath House Cultural Center, he seized the chance to address the issue. The Festival of Independent Theatres is the result, a three-week performance of one-acts in which eight small companies--including Echo Theatre, Cara Mia, Bucket Productions, and Core Performance Manufactory--stage in repertory a head-spinning variety of original work and unusual adaptations. They range from experimental pieces (Core Performance's Revolution, about the Biblical Creation and Fall) to spare, eloquently perverse sci-fi from Ray Bradbury (Beardsley's Kaleidoscope) to a combination of centuries-old and brand-new work excerpted from scripts by women playwrights (Echo's Voice Box). They are all individual zygotes that form what Fisher calls a "wicked brainchild"--referring to his idea for the unjuried festival.

"A couple [of the participating theaters] had been involved in the New York Fringe Festival and the San Francisco Fringe Festival," says Fisher, "so they were familiar with how this kind of thing operates. And when we got these groups together, we realized that everyone was good in an area that someone else was weak in. Steve Mahone [of Wickerplane, which is reprising Hamletmachine from the Dallas Video Festival] had never done a mass mailing; Echo always does a mass-market mailing, and they sell out 90 seats a night at the Bath House. Normally, when a theater company came in to do a show here, they had to be a jack of all trades--publicity, box office, all the producing side. With the Bath House as a collaborating producer, they can do some of the more intimate, experimental stuff without having to sink $3,000-$5,000 in it."

In the end, Fisher is concerned that people become aware of not only what their friends are doing (a Dallas theater deficiency, for sure), but what the committed theater artists across town are dabbling in.

"Small Dallas theater really is very fragmented," Fisher says. "Bucket has a straighter, upper-class audience; Beardsley has an older, more traditionally 'theater-type' audience. One thing we wanted to do was have people come for one show and hang around for the show afterward. Our goal was to cross-pollinate these productions."

The Festival of Independent Theatres opens April 15 and runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through May 1 at the Bath House Cultural Center. Call (214) 670-8749.

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