By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Carson Kreitzer's decade-old play, directed here by Elizabeth Ware, begins with this statement from Amalia, a sideshow attraction missing her arms and legs: "You are wondering if I've ever had sexual intercourse."
Um, no, I was wondering how you zipped up your dress.
Amalia goes on to describe in gritty detail how she does the dirty deed and with whom. To paraphrase: She may not have hands, but she has a strong grip where it counts, and she uses it on plenty of men.
Morgana Shaw plays the tarty torso perched on a table with her limbs camouflaged behind and below. The actress stays that way for 105 minutes (no intermish), telling her tales of life on the carny circuit. She gets one good laugh: "I'd gladly commit murder to be able to scratch my nose." Just staying still like that for so long must be murder for the actress.
Behind Amalia sits Pinhead (M. Shane Hurst), a mentally disabled man-child who sings beautifully from his filthy cage. Aquaboy, the Human Salamander (Sachin Patel), has spent so much of his life in a tank he's grown gills and is afraid to breathe air. Judith the Dog-Faced Girl (Lulu Ward) came to circus life as an abandoned child with a cleft lip. The only "normal" characters are sideshow owner Mr. Flip (Kent Williams), who's always on the lookout for a new freak act, and Matthew (Daniel R. States), who sweeps up after the animals and spends his nights with Amalia.
Nothing much happens in Freakshow. Under murky lighting (by Kellene Linnenburger), these creepy characters speak and move excruciatingly slow, telling long, sad stories about their lives. Whole caravans could pass during the pauses. I kept hoping one would, rolling over torso girl, Aquaboy and the other geeks and putting them out of their and our misery.
Dallas Theater Center ends its current season with a 342-year-old comedy about a man who hates other people and disdains happiness. Molière's The Misanthrope looks fancy and sounds fruity-snooty, what with its dialogue composed of hundreds of "alexandrines"—rhyming couplets of 12-syllable phrases. But like its title character, the production is fun-challenged.
Directed by David Kennedy, soon to depart as associate artistic director at DTC, this Misanthrope is a hopeless mishmash of acting styles and silly visual jokes. Scattered around the gorgeous period drawing room set by Lee Savage are intentional anachronisms. Chanel shopping bags. Piñatas. Plexiglas chairs. As a statement on consumer indulgence or as easy sight gags, the props end up as distracting clutter.
In the title role, out-of-town hire-in Adrian LaTourelle has the tough task of playing an unlikable man. He's good at that, but his perpetually grumpy Alceste should also gin up some sympathy for himself. What shattered his spirit? Lawsuits filed by the poet he offended with his too-honest critique? The lavish attention his girlfriend (the squeaky Kelly Mares) pays other men? LaTourelle just makes him a big jerk for no reason.
Nice work by local actors Regan Adair and Matthew Gray, playing varying degrees of fops. Jessica D. Turner is, as always, lovely to look at and careful with her diction. Matt Lyles stumbles on as a harried messenger. He gets more laughs in two minutes onstage than LaTourelle gets in two hours.