Fuzzy Thinking

DCT's James and the Giant Peach feeds Freudian fantasies; Immigrant goes bananas

The best reason to invest two and a half hours in this production is McElyea's sensitive and beautifully sung performance in the lead. Believable and engaging in every scene, the actor allows Haskell to mature subtly as the story progresses. McElyea has worked at that Yiddish-tinged accent to make it authentic, and he even lets it take on just the slightest hints of Texas twang the longer the character lives in Hamilton.

Young McElyea was terrific wearing a gingham dress as Miss Great Plains in Uptown Players' recent hit musical Pageant, and he's just as good wrapped in a fringed tallit as Haskell in The Immigrant. He handles this show's difficult score (by Steven M. Alper) better than anyone else onstage (certainly better than Corolla, who is off-tempo more than he's on). Influenced by klezmer music, the songs are written in odd minor keys, their melodic lines sung nearly independently from the tunes played by the four-piece band led by pianist Jay Adkins.

What weighs the show down most are an unwieldy book by Mark Harelik (it's based on his family history) and its tendency to work themes into the ground. The talky parts are too talky. The musical parts could be trimmed in half. It's like, enough already, we get it.

Dallas Children's Theater dares to eat a Peach in ways you don't expect.
Dallas Children's Theater dares to eat a Peach in ways you don't expect.

Details

James and the Giant Peach continues through April 22 at Dallas Children’s Theater, 214-740-0051.

The Immigrant continues through April 7 at Stage West, Fort Worth, 817-784-9378.

The Pretentious Maidens continues through April 29 at Teatro Dallas, 214-468-8732.

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What I don't get and maybe never will is the style of acting used at Teatro Dallas. In the latest production, an adaptation of Molière's one-act The Pretentious Maidens, directed by Cora Cordona, the manner of performance is highly stylized and unnecessarily coarse. It's all deliberately harsh and too broad to be enjoyable.

In their 80-seat theater in West Dallas, the Teatro Dallas cast screams and shrieks where whispers would suffice. They stomp and crash around the tiny stage. An offstage drummer punctuates lines of dialogue with rim shots so loud the audience flinches in pain.

Wearing whiteface with black-painted mustaches on the men and spit curls on the women, the actors demolish Molière's frothy playlet about uppity sisters (Heather Pratt, Natalie Berry) tricked by suitors (Gabriel Montez, Eduardo Guzmán) into flirting with lowly servants (Scott Barber, Ignacio Lujá) who are pretending to be fine gentlemen. They steamroll the fun out of every scene.

Light comedy and heavy acting—like a minuet danced in combat boots.

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