Lovesick Blues

Cookin' with talent, two musicals turn up the heat under heartache

After artsy duds like Joe Egg and I Am My Own Wife, Dallas Theater Center needs at least one big audience pleaser to get back into the plus column. Hank Williams: Lost Highway feels like a hit. Zeiler's performance at one of the final previews had the usually reserved DTC crowd on their feet ecstatically whistling and stomping for more. The ovation for Mississippi Charles Bevel--a man with a voice so round and pure it sounds like the whistling wind--was just as wild.

The age of the typical theatergoer today sits somewhere between early Baby Boomer and "What's he saying?" Hey, a show about heartache with a song list like this--"Honky Tonk Blues," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey, Good Lookin'," "Lovesick Blues" and "I Saw the Light"--sings to the music of their lives.


A...My Name Is Alice at Contemporary Theatre doesn't hit the same high notes or reach the scope and scale of the Hank Williams Show. But its two acts offer loads of punch lines and a pinch or two of poignancy in moments that depict loneliness from a woman's perspective.
Contemporary Theatre's A...My Name is Alice offers loads of punch lines.
Contemporary Theatre's A...My Name is Alice offers loads of punch lines.

The theme of this one is women's problems: makeup, break-ups, corporate shakeups. The musical revue was written back in the early 1980s, and it's a patchwork of songs and sketches by some 30 writers, several of whom later made it big as creators of sitcoms (Friends' Marta Kauffman and David Crane among them). Some of it is terribly dated. A bit by Anne Meara about construction workers hooting at women's hooters falls flat and a sketch about butch gals playing professional basketball is so long it threatens to throw the whole show into overtime. But CTD's cast of five bursts with girl power and is so cute they almost overcome the script's material weaknesses.

Cutest of all is Marisa Diotalevi, a regular in CTD productions, most recently co-starring in The Women and before that, half of the two-person Parallel Lives. She's so funny she can get laughs just standing still, which she does to great effect in A..., particularly when a quick costume change makes her miss a cue. The show's best running gag (by Kauffman and Crane) features Diotalevi as a strident feminist poet who throws her whole wiry little bod into every line, sending the audience into screaming fits when she gets to the climax of each man-blaming verse: He did it! He did it!

Castmates Megan Kelly, Sara Shelby-Martin, Stacia Goad-Malone and N. Wilson King take turns amusing and seducing in song. Kelly takes her sweet time on the ballad "I Sure Like the Boys," an ode to men who take theirs.

Directed by Cheryl Denson, always a sure hand with comedy, A... My Name Is Alice is awfully attractive.

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