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Working-class Hispanics and opinionated vaginas mark this year's Festival of the Unexpected

With the rise of Latin Americans as formidable consumers and hotly pursued voters, the world premiere of former Dallas playwright Octavio Solis' Dreamlandia couldn't be more propitious. Solis' map of the shifting fault lines between illusion and reality on the Texas-Mexico border, directed by Richard Hamburger, is the centerpiece of Dallas Theater Center's Big D Festival of the Unexpected.

It's an impressive return for the festival after a two-year absence. Some have said that the lapse was a result of producer Melissa Cooper taking time out for her and husband Richard Hamburger's kid. Others whisper that it was a casualty of managing director Edith Love's mercilessly efficient corner-cutting, but we think that the angles and edges showcased in the festival are the kind Dallas Theater Center shouldn't do without. Among the productions, readings, and musical performances set to make brief appearances during a tight two-week schedule, there are highlights of notable Dallas talent for which you should mark your calendars. They include Samuel Beckett's Rockabye, directed by Rene Moreno and featuring Sheriden Thomas as a woman in a rocking chair tormented by her past (5 p.m. May 27); The Vagina Monologues, a staged reading of Eve Ensler's reportorial collage of women's sexual experiences, directed by Echo Theatre's Pam Myers-Morgan (9:45 p.m. May 20, 6 p.m. May 21, 6 p.m. May 22); and Stanley Rutherford's one-man comedy about a soulful neat freak, The Chinese Art of Placement, featuring Mark Farr and directed by Kitchen Dog dominatrix Tina Parker (9:45 p.m. May 27).

Speaking of cultural outreach, art Samaritans often drone on about the importance of taking performance to the poor and the undereducated. We think this year's festival -- its cup running over with racial politics, female genitalia, and Samuel Beckett -- represents a sturdy bridge of understanding to the city's rich and overeducated. We know there's no income or degree requirements to attend a DTC show, but that $54 a pop for tickets has to come from somewhere, and it ain't washing cars. Confronting working-class Hispanics and opinionated vaginas will be good for the souls of Dallas patricians.

 
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