By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Set in the summer before the 1929 stock market crash, the play depicts small-town Texans as racist, misogynistic boobs masquerading as the Waltons. Director Kerry Cole and her cast operate under the misguided notion that Talking Pictures is rosy-tinted nostalgia for a simpler era. But get real. In this play, blacks, whites and Latinos attend segregated schools and churches, and divorced women are regarded as floozies by good Christians. There's talk of "colored people." A "mixed marriage" means a Baptist married to a Methodist. Yeah, good times, and don't you miss the lynchings and Klan rallies?
Foote, author of The Trip to Bountiful, cranks out this sort of old-coot twaddle and passes it off as American lore. In Talking Pictures, his theme is impending change. Main character Myra (Renee Krapff) plays piano at the silent movie house. Talkies will eliminate her job. She rents a room from a railroad engineer (Vince Davis) about to be made redundant by the decline of passenger trains. His wife (Wendy Welch) won't permit radio-listening on Sundays, and she gets flustered when teenage daughter Katie Bell (Emily Jackson) talks to Estaquio (Michael Mandrinkian), son of a Mexican minister.
Donít Rock the Jukebox continues through March 11 at Collin County Community College in Plano, 972-881-5809.
Talking Pictures continues through March 25 at Theatre Three, 214-871-3300.
Not one moment rings true, partly the fault of Foote—characters enter and exit constantly and for no logical reasons—and partly the cast's. Such gesticulating, squealing and overemoting. With a voice so grating it could etch limestone, Emily Jackson further annoys by upstaging fellow actors at every turn. Derik Webb, playing a lovesick bricklayer returning home after a hot day's work, skips over the stage like a fairy headed for the bottom of a garden. Or the bottom of a gardener. As his girlfriend, pianist Myra, Krapff hits one note and holds it for two hours.
Actress Jody Rudman gets much-craved yuks when she pops up late in the action. Foote's women are either madonnas or whores. Her Gladys is the latter, a tart trying to land a rich man before she loses her looks.
Speaking of looks, will someone stage an intervention and stop costumer Michael Robinson before he strikes again? The clothes in Talking Pictures bear all his hallmarks: cheap fabrics, uneven hems, unflattering silhouettes, wrong shoes and clashing colors (he puts Rudman in a pink and black dress with mustard-yellow hat). No woman in Texas, no matter how prudish, would don a heavy flannel robe over a nightgown in July. No men in 1929 wore hair over their ears or collars unless they were hobos. And no laborer, even a skipping one, would don cowboy boots to lay brick. Details like these are distracting, but noting them did provide something to do during a rotten show.