Dead Baby Jokes

With Ted Tally's Little Footsteps, Rover Dramawerks falls flat on its farce

Playing Joanie is Joslyn Justus, a recent theater grad from Austin College who might need to fall back on that other major, whatever it was, for a career. She isn't just inexperienced, she's ill-suited for the stage in almost every respect. She can't move well, has no comic timing and lacks any sense of how to make a line sound conversational instead of memorized. In a pinched, nasal voice she delivers her dialogue with the flat, uninflected tone of a computerized answering service. And she's so disconnected emotionally that she seems to be reading some lines cold off an invisible screen just past the other actors' heads.

If her chemistry with Dalton's Ben is bad, it's worse with the actors playing her nosy parents (they show up in Act 2 to throw a christening party for the unwanted spawn). Joanie has a teary breakdown scene with her dad, played by a lumbering Ron L. Chapman, and then an extended confrontation with her mother, played by Terrie Justus. There's not a believable moment in any of it, though Joslyn and Terrie Justis actually are mother and daughter.

Predictably, all is forgiven among the characters, if not between audience and actors, by 10:05 p.m. Ben, Joanie and the parents gather for a group hug. Then Ben's left alone onstage to cuddle the swaddled prop baby and utter some sort of benign twaddle about how he's ready to be a daddy now. Then he looks up at the rafters and says, "Now what?" The lights switch to a creepy red glow and...curtain.

There's not a believable moment in the 
mother¯and¯daughter scene, and Joslyn Justus and 
Terrie Justus are mother-and-daughter.
Carol Rice
There's not a believable moment in the mother¯and¯daughter scene, and Joslyn Justus and Terrie Justus are mother-and-daughter.

Details

continues through August 20 in the Addison Theatre Centre Black Box Theatre. Call 972-849-0358.

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Over a year ago I swore off Rover Dramawerks productions after enduring a series of their performances that were no less torturous than this one. To be a viable theater company, they just have to do better. Finding obscure plays and slapping them on a stage with cheap talent and bargain basement aesthetics--the Little Footsteps set wouldn't pass muster at a junior high drama club--well, it's just not good enough. Raise the bar. Try harder.

Rub the cream in or you'll get the hose!

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