The Color of Funny

Shades of Gray puts fresh, new comedy into the Pocket; theaters help stranded PRT patrons

I'm gonna be so bad to you!

Not Cole Porter but not bad for an up-and-comer.

Brent Black says he was inspired by Jason Robert Brown's storyline-free Songs for a New World as he wrote Shades of Gray into a loosely themed two hours of musical comedy. With its clever commentary on the world of '80s babies, the show succeeds as light entertainment and makes a nice introduction to the work of a bright new composer. The real story will be what Black does in the rest of his promising career.

Love is a life sentence in Shades of Gray.
Love is a life sentence in Shades of Gray.


continues through September 24 at Pocket Sandwich Theatre, 214-821-1860.

Plano Repertory Theatre went under a few weeks ago. Not a surprise. Since early this year, many of its actors, directors, designers and full-time staffers had gone unpaid. The theater's debts were in the hundreds of thousands. Management was locked out of offices for nonpayment of rent. Audiences were subjected to pleas for cash donations in the pre-show speeches before performances.

Sad to see a theater with a nearly 30-year history fall into such a sorry state. Certainly the quality of productions had eroded considerably under the misguided artistic direction of young Ryan J. Pointer, who had a tin ear for what Plano's audiences would go for. He picked lousy plays with controversial themes--the all-male and utterly dreadful Shakespeare's R&J, the unwatchable Violet, among others--and he could take a warhorse like Camelot and muck it up with clunky direction. He claimed to be spending upward of $35,000 per production (equal to budgets of bigger and better shows at the more professional WaterTower Theatre and Contemporary Theatre of Dallas), but PRT's onstage output looked increasingly slapdash and down-at-the-heel.

With PRT's demise, its 3,000-plus subscribers are left without refunds for the three shows remaining in that theater's pre-sold season (including the musical Nine, which would have opened September 8). In the spirit of artistic cooperation, several of the Dallas Theatre League's member theaters have offered to make good on those tickets with seats at their shows.

Offering PRT patrons trade-ins for tickets are Contemporary Theatre (currently running a delightful production of Beth Henley's The Miss Firecracker Contest), Theatre Three (with the just-opened Imaginary Invalid and the new "Appetizer Series" musical Elegies: A Song Cycle), Plano's Quad C Theatre and several others. The theaters can't afford to hand out 3,000 free tickets for any single production, so PRT's stiffed customers are asked to call ahead to each theater to see if seats are available. It's a nice offer by these companies, which hope to lure some of PRT's audience onto their subscriber rolls.

With the demise of one theater comes the resurrection of another. Pegasus Theatre, which lost its longtime East Dallas home a few years ago, returns with productions of two of its campy comedy-mysteries. First up is Death/Take:1!, opening at the Dupree Theater at the Irving Arts Center November 4. Then Mind over Murder opens January 5 at the Eisemann Center Theatre.

Both comedies are by Pegagus founder and resident playwright Kurt Kleinmann and will be performed in the company's unique "living black and white" style that emulates old B-movies by painting everything, including the actors, black, white and the subtle gradations in between. Talk about shades of gray.

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