Boom-boom Room

Miss Firecracker lights up the night at CTD; Art paints a bleaker picture at Hub Theater

The men's roles aren't as showy, but Venable and Latham both get their licks in. Latham, playing the hapless carny, wisely underplays against all the noisy fireworks happening around him.

Rodney Dobbs has created a scenic design that makes the acting space at CTD appear double its usual size. With a few clever tricks, the two-story house of act one somehow turns into a shabby carnival and enormous pageant tent in act two. Beautiful lighting by Jason S. Foster deserves its own "ooohs" and "aaahs" by the end.

In a word, CTD's Miss Firecracker is dynamite.

Jennifer Knight, Jenny Thurman and John Venable are exceedingly fun to watch in CTD's Miss Firecracker.
Jennifer Knight, Jenny Thurman and John Venable are exceedingly fun to watch in CTD's Miss Firecracker.

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continues through September 18 at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, 214-828-0094.


And then there's Art, now fizzling, uh, playing at the Dallas Hub Theater in Deep Ellum. In Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning play (translated from French by Christopher Hampton), three men argue for 70 minutes about a pricey white-on-white painting. Their differences of opinion about the artistic quality of the piece escalate into personal attacks, which ruin their friendships.

Who's to say what art is anyway?

Well, I'm to say that this production isn't. It's directed by SMU senior Patrick Rieger, whose talent probably can't be judged on the basis of this show. He was, after all, directing for a company that doesn't understand that low-budget doesn't have to mean lousy. Art can rise from humble resources. The fine young Second Thought Theatre recently wowed audiences with an imaginative staging of Ubu Roi that used dollar-store pool noodles and hula hoops. It was great theater. And it was art.

In Art we see three pretty bad actors in pretty cheap suits walking around on a dirty stage floor saying lines they don't seem to comprehend (and haven't memorized fully) against a backdrop of white butcher paper taped to the back wall.

It's so awful it's almost bad-funny. Waiting for Guffman bad-funny. Tim Shane, whose eponymous company produced this turkey, casts himself as Serge, the art connoisseur. Serge is supposed to be a wealthy doctor with impeccable taste. Shane plays him with the faux sophistication of a head waiter who believes he's fluent in French because he can read the menu.

Howard Winningham, as Marc, is only slightly less stiff and colorless than the butcher paper. Playing Yvan, who tries unsuccessfully to act as peacemaker between Marc and Serge, Mark-Brian Sonna tries unsuccessfully to act. He is out of his element, his league and possibly his mind in taking on this role. In the longest and most emotional speech in the play, his character breaks down talking about his upcoming marriage to a woman whose father has given him a low-level, soul-grinding job. Sonna flutters through it with a thick lisp, whiny voice, dirty socks (his shoes come off in the scene) and girly gestures. He is so absurdly wrong for the part, it's like watching Corky St. Clair trying to play Willy Loman.

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