Review: Kitchen Dog Theater Puts on a Lean, Mean Richard III

Also: With Snake Eyes, Second Thought rattles the emotions.

Worth seeing for its strong acting, it might be helpful for prospective theatergoers to review the play and its characters beforehand. The heavy editing and the modern-day take on it confused at least one audience member on opening night. "Back in Shakespeare's time, how did they do the part with the phones?" she asked.

With very, very long cords.

————

One of these days, Dallas actor Clay Yocum will be cast as a goofy, sweet, romantic lead. He'll get to kiss the girl and not make her cry, the way he has in most of the roles he's played in local theaters (and will as Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar this summer at Contemporary Theatre). He might not even have to brutally kill anyone the way he did in WaterTower's Take Me Out or the way he does in the current Second Thought Theatre production of company founder Steven Walters' new play, Snake Eyes at the Mardi Gras Motel.

René Moreno and Cameron Cobb are Richard III and Buckingham in a Kitchen Dog production full of fiery speeches and modern gadgets.
René Moreno and Cameron Cobb are Richard III and Buckingham in a Kitchen Dog production full of fiery speeches and modern gadgets.

Details

Richard IIIcontinues through May 3 at Kitchen Dog Theater at The MAC. Call 214-953-1055.

Snake Eyes at the Mardi Gras Motel continues through April 20 at Second Thought Theatre, Addison. Call 972-450-6232.

Walters is still finding his voice as a playwright, but in this one, his latest in a series of premieres for Second Thought, he's at least found a fresh, workable style for telling paralleal stories. On one side of the small acting space in the Studio at WaterTower Theatre in Addison, we see a trash-strewn motel room; on the other, the interrogation cell of a small-town police station. Stepping seamlessly from one to the other and back again, Yocum bends time and space as he plays high school football coach Weldon Brown, who has murdered two players and gone on the run with a 16-year-old student.

The girl Weldon shares his motel bed with is Lissie, a troubled foster kid, played by 26-year-old Maxey Whitehead, an actress whose skinny frame and mighty acting skill convince us she's a teenager. She's in love with Weldon, but he sees his role in her life more as rescuer than romantic partner.

The tortuous road to perdition for Weldon includes revelations of sexual abuse and some possible justification for the murders. It's the death chamber for the coach—his public defender (Allison Tolman) doesn't hide her contempt for him—but before he gets there, playwright Walters actually succeeds in making us feel sympathy, even admiration, for Weldon. Given the dicey subject matter in Snake Eyes, that's not easy.

It helps that Yocum is playing him. This actor has been on the critics' radar since his debut a few years ago at WingSpan in John Patrick Shanley's Danny and the Deep Blue Sea. Last season he was Biff Loman in Classical Acting's Death of a Salesman. With a shaved head and a soft belly, he's no matinee idol, but the way Yocum broods and rages is undeniably sexy. So directors keep casting him as killers, and Yocum keeps knocking 'em dead with great performances.

Someday his role as a prince will come.

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