By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Directed by Rene Moreno, with clever choreography by Sara J. Romersberger, and onstage accompaniment by handsome pianist James McQuillen, Closer Than Ever is close to perfect.
That one-man It's a Wonderful Life at WaterTower Theatre is written by Steve Murray and titled This Wonderful Life. Greg White, a theater prof at Texas State University, re-enacts the 1946 Frank Capra film, playing all the roles.
The question is, why? Murray makes no comment on the movie, a story of a small-town good guy named George Bailey losing and finding his soul on a snowy Christmas Eve. TWL isn't a send-up, a putdown or really a play. It's one sweaty actor doing lots of voices, none of them sounding a ga-ga-gol-durn like the movie's star, Jimmy Stewart. White wheezes, stutters and sputters through the 90-minute performance, confusing character names and stumbling on lines and over the cluttered set.
A one-man Godfather might be fun. Or a one-woman Mommie Dearest. But this one? Mute all bells. No wings awarded.
The Ruby Sunrise at Collin College Theatre Center doesn't let facts get in the way of TV history. Rinne Groff's play opens with a runaway teen (Christin Felts) inventing a crude cathode ray tube in an Indiana barn in 1927, but it's too late to beat actual inventors Philo T. Farnsworth and Vladimir Zworykin to patent rights. The action jumps to the '50s, the heyday of live TV dramas, as a plucky "script girl" (Bailey Frankenberg) fights for story credit. After that, the plot spins out to diatribes about blacklisting in the Red Scare.
As always, Collin College produces at pro level, with strong turns by the student cast, particularly by an actress credited as Tomorrow (no last name), playing dual roles as a slatternly farm gal and a snooty TV actress. She has such a crazy-cool Kathleen Turner vibe, it's like she's acting in living color and everyone else is in black and white.