Venus Rising

Christina Vela and Our Endeavors flesh out a sexy myth in I, Patti Diphusa

Last Thursday's opening night performance of Whisper climaxed with almost a half hour of SMU students in black ninja wrap punching, high-kicking, and wielding menacing weapons of rod and chain at Montgomery. You could see that a good deal of physical and emotional energy had been poured into the play, even if you didn't notice co-director Tina Parker nervously clasping her hands on the sidelines. While it's true that every once in a while I could sense an actor stepping into invisible floor marks of fight choreography with deliberate effort, the action went smoothly if a tad slowly inside the MAC's small black box space. Co-director Bill Lengfelder's movement students didn't interrupt the quite impressive pace that author Goodwin established and Parker re-created in the cast's utterly un-ironic exchanges. As soon as Alexis is plunged into an international heroin underworld, a series of performances bursts into bright comic book colors: a very goofy and entertaining Quynh Tran as a long-haired, sunglassed Japanese drug lord; Max Hartman as an S&M-loving agent working for we're-not-sure-which-agency who attempts to use and then erase Alexis to get to the heroin ring leader; and Joe Steakley as a blond, horn-rimmed geek whose unrequited love of Alexis is manipulated to near-fatal ends. Parker has helped her actors shape an explanatory/exclamatory style of performance that is lifted from the panels of a comic book yet without the camp exaggeration that usually goes with three-dimensional versions of the genre. They betray little self-awareness and absolutely no sense that the material they're delivering is silly or simplistic, "like a comic book," as their dialogue underscores with heavy black marker whatever's happening in the scene. Couple this with an exquisite use of shadow and color--lit panels by designers Aaron Hoard and Eric Cope that look superior to many of the Dog's mainstage shows--and you wish that the troupe had sufficient resources to program this simply but smartly executed mini-adventure as part of their subscription season. If mounted for more than just two weeks, expanding word-of-mouth ripples would surely ensnare a variety of persons who otherwise would never set foot inside a theater.

Christina Vela and friend traverse the alleys and nightclubs of post-fascist Spain in Our Endeavors' world premiere adaptation of Pedro Almodovar's stories.
Christina Vale
Christina Vela and friend traverse the alleys and nightclubs of post-fascist Spain in Our Endeavors' world premiere adaptation of Pedro Almodovar's stories.

Details

I, Patti Diphusa, International Sex Symbol opens February 2 and runs through February 25 at the Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons at Motor St. (214) 327-4001

Whisper runs through February 4 at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave. (214) 953-1212

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