Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

 

Making Porn It's a bad play with a bunch of naked men in it. And it's selling out the house at every performance. Matthew Rush, a star of gay porn flicks (one hesitates to call him an actor), plays Jack Hawk, a newcomer to the X-rated world of gay-for-pay. When his wife, Linda (Kristen Shea), discovers his secret life as a porno boy toy, she decides to make him the highest-paid stud in the biz. Faster than you can say Dirk Diggler, he's earning big bucks for his big...you know. Los Angeles playwright Ronnie Larsen has created a successful string of smut-lite comedies like this that feature porn stars willing to show some skin in the flesh at small theaters from Canada to Florida. The run here has been such a hit, extra performances have been added. Just don't go expecting real acting. Unlike the movies these hunks star in, it's impossible to fast-forward through the dull parts here to get to the good stuff. Continues through December 5 at Teatro Dallas, 1331 Record Crossing (just west of Harry Hines Boulevard), 1-800-965-4827. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)

Orphans Treat and Phillip are orphan brothers isolated from the world by poverty and circumstance. Treat (Mike Schraeder) provides for mentally challenged Phillip (Erik Archilla) by stealing whatever they need to get by for another day. One night Treat meets a boozed-up businessman named Harold (David Middleman). He kidnaps the older man and ties him to a chair. Harold escapes his bonds but decides to stick around the ramshackle house, acting as surrogate father to the needy lads. A strange little family unit forms. The boys' life seems to get a little better (at least their wardrobes improve). Just when things start to look nearly normal, it all falls apart. No fairy-tale endings in this 1983 Lyle Kessler drama. But there are fine performances under the direction of Nick Orand. With each production, the new Second Thought Theatre company, mostly Baylor grads in their 20s, show that they're serious about doing good theater on small budgets. Can't wait to see what they come up with next. Through November 21 at Frank's Place at the Dallas Theater Center, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd., 214-679-2692. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)

Varekai This show is a circus of shapes and sounds, of light and ideas. Icarus (Anton Chelnokov) wings down from the ceiling, loses his feathers and finds love with a bendy sprite (Irina Naumenko) in white sequins. He hangs by his toenails from a net suspended 30 feet in the air. She twists into pretzel shapes, balanced delicately on platforms barely wider than her tiny hands. They get married in a forest of gymnastic creatures who slither and climb up, over and around the enormous stage inside the cavernous "Chapiteau" tent. The lights go off, and thousands of fireflies move in choreographed swarms above the audience. In quick segments over two and a half hours, dozens of acts redefine gravity and reset the limits of human physical prowess. Graceful and muscular, eerie and comical, Cirque du Soleil blends dream and nightmare into unforgettable new images. Through December 12 at Fair Park. Enter Gate 11 off Fitzhugh Avenue. 800-678-5440. (E.L.)

Blasted Within four years, British playwright Sarah Kane churned out a steady raft of confrontational plays, as if she knew she would die at 28 (at the very end, she did know--she committed suicide). Not everyone agreed she deserved a stage: London's Daily Mail called Blasted, her violent first salvo, a "disgusting feast of filth." The Undermain Theatre's production is rigorously faithful to Kane's apocalyptic vision, which means that local audiences should brush up on their British slang and harden their gag reflexes before attending. Blasted is the story of two perfectly mismatched souls--nave, drifting Cate and a reporter named Ian, her paranoid, jingoistic ex--fumbling toward reconciliation in a hotel room in a grim city in Northern England. An unnamed war rages in the street below that eventually, and irrevocably, enters their room; every manner of treachery humans can engender takes place in that room. The Undermain's actors sink their teeth into this material with a fierce and admirable allegiance. They make the play never less than spellbinding to watch, but Kane's conclusion feels too easily earned. Through November 20 at the Undermain Theatre, 3200 Main St., 214-747-5515. (Claiborne Smith)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead And there you have it, the end of the play, neatly revealed in the title by writer Tom Stoppard. The title characters are two minor courtiers in Hamlet, sent with the moody Dane to England by King Claudius (murderer of Hamlet's father). But Hamlet double-crosses the duo. They end up dead, not he. Hamlet returns to Denmark to do everybody in. Stoppard's three-act play attempts to show what R and G are up to when they're not in the action in the Shakespeare tragedy. "There's art in the building up of suspense," says Guildenstern (played with great verbal dexterity by Ian Leson). Like Waiting for Godot, this play, produced by Risk Theater Initiative, lays on absurd amounts of suspense, but not much really happens, unless you catch the bits and snatches of Hamlet unfolding here and there (some of it offstage). The acting's OK. It's the play within the play within the play that drags on too long. Through November 20 at Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm St., 972-943-8915. Reviewed November 4. (E.L.)

Rounding Third "You can observe a lot by watching," Yogi Berra once said. In Richard Dresser's warm little comedy about baseball and friendship, two coaches--one a veteran, one a newbie--watch their Chicago Little League team progress through a season. And we watch them watching baseball games we can't really see. Somehow it works, making for a winning play about wanting to win. Don (Doug Jackson, channeling Bob Elliott of Bob and Ray) is the die-hard coach whose 12-year-old son is about to age out of the league. Michael (Jeffrey Schmidt), a young widower with a clumsy kid, is the new assistant, so green he's not sure what a fungo is. Sharing the bench during games and practices, Don and Michael get to know each other the way men do, by talking sports and women. "Why do you coach?" Michael asks Don, who answers, "Why does Sinatra sing?" Thinking about baseball takes up 55 percent of Don's waking thoughts, followed by money, sex and "revenge fantasies." Between the wisecracks, the play also says serious things about middle-class men leading lives of quiet desperation. "Ever notice who the happy people are? Winners," says Don. "Everybody else is 30 seconds away from blowing their brains out." Nice subtle work from the two actors under the direction of T.J. Walsh. Continues through November 20 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St. in the Quadrangle, 214-871-3300. (E.L.)

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