By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Nehal Joshi's Captain Walker and Betsy Wolfe's Mrs. Walker more than capably share insight into the guilt and burden of parents who know that they are to blame for their son's condition. Gregory Lush and Liz Mikel, as Uncle Ernie and Gypsy, respectively, offer compelling, scene-stealing performances (although, granted, for vastly differing reasons and parts). And by the time his full-grown Tommy hits the stage, the audience is so accustomed to a silent lead character, it's impossible to not be enthralled by Cedric Neal's captivating and exuberant take on his character's final charismatic and tragic turn.
Where Tommy's inherently bewildering storyline lulls, DTC's players (from Oso Closo on down to the vibrant ensemble) gladly entertain in its stead. That seems Moriarty's goal with Tommy: This isn't a show where audiences will leave the theater discussing the moral plights of the characters; instead, it's a visual and aural spectacle, a performance meant to highlight not what theater is known to be, but rather to revamp its viewers' perceptions of what theater can be—and, similarly, what can happen when theater is used to its full capability.
While this production might not overcome the frenzied flaws of Tommy, it certainly overcomes any assumed flaws of the Dallas Theater Center's recent past, flaunting an exhibit that not only aims for attention but demands it. If Moriarty's mission was to present a piece that could draw in audiences from all the varied bases of curious theatergoers and intrigued local music fans—as well as the inquisitive who fall into neither of those first two lumps—he can consider his objective complete.
And when they get there, yes, they'll find exactly what Moriarty promised with this show: a production for a broader audience to marvel at; an experience few would anticipate; and, most important, a show whose lofty promises are absolutely, positively not just the same old bullshit.