Dallas Theater in 2011: Give it a Standing O

What a year it has been. What a fine theater town we're in.

Theater companies across DFW staged works of Texas-born playwright Horton Foote last spring. DTC's Dividing the Estate was the finest and funniest, starring character actress June Squibb, real-life couple Nance Williamson and Kurt Rhoads, and resident company actor Matthew Gray, directed by Joel Ferrell (what a topnotch year he had). Theatre Three's Foote trio included The Roads to Home, memorable for one hilarious moment: actress Pam Dougherty playing a Baptist gal named Mabel, squawking about being replaced as church organist by a "rich lady with dyed hair," punctuating each word with staccato knife-stabs into raw pie crust. Best piece of "stage business" all year.

Van Dyke brothers Jerry and Dick lit up the Eisemann Center with Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys. Produced and directed by Jerry, the comedy exceeded expectations that it would be merely a star vehicle/vanity project. Their acting was sweet and nuanced. The audience ate it up. Dallas actress Denise Lee, in a supporting role, more than held her own against the two old pros.

Drew Wall, Natalie Young and Alex Organ in Second Thought's Red Light Winter.
Drew Wall, Natalie Young and Alex Organ in Second Thought's Red Light Winter.

And for breakout comedy turns, may 2012 bring us some more as giddy as this year's by Shannon J. McGrann and Barrett Nash, both at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. McGrann starred in the one-woman Bad Dates, making the audience her best buds as she blew in and out of her bedroom in pre- and post-date cyclones of hope and sorrow. Nash, red-haired daughter of Bob Birdnow star Barry, was one of the Five Women Wearing the Same Dress in CTD's production of Alan Ball's comedy about a quintet of bridal party attendants. Watch for Barrett Nash, whatever she does next. This year, a bridesmaid; next year, a star.

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