By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Director-writer-actor Steven Walters, who's a member of the Brierley Acting Company at DTC and is co-founder of Second Thought Theatre, had a full year of high quality work. For Second Thought's excellent revival of his own play Pluck the Day, he hired former DTC actor Matthew Gray to direct the sharp comedy about a group of young men friends about to cross into the difficulties of adulthood.
At DTC Walters was cast against type, but he rose to the challenge as half of a gay couple torn apart by tragedy in the drama Next Fall, which also featured deeply moving acting by Terry Martin, artistic director of WaterTower Theater. (See how it is? Everybody works everywhere.)
Another busy crossover is the aforementioned Alex Organ, who came out victorious in the title role in Shakespeare Dallas' summer Coriolanus — the man can swing a sword and yell some Shakespeare. Organ then yukked it up adorably in Lyric Stage's Most Happy Fella.
Contemporary Theatre of Dallas does well by Southern gothic dramas and Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana is one, though it's set on a Mexican beach. Director René Moreno pulled the audience in by keeping acting subdued and mood dripping with atmosphere.
Among the many new plays that debuted here in 2012 were three standouts. Ruth, by Kitchen Dog company member Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, was directed by Tim Johnson when it premiered at KDT in May as the center of the New Works Festival.
Thomas Ward starred opposite his real-life wife, Sherry Jo, in his revelatory two-person play International Falls, about a Louis C.K.-like stand-up comic (which Ward briefly was) sharing a one-night stand with a Holiday Inn clerk. (Sherry Jo Ward also gave a galvanic performance in Tracy Letts' August: Osage County, directed by René Moreno at WaterTower this year.)
Playwright Erik Ehn's fact-based new drama Diamond Dick: The Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, directed by Shakespeare Dallas' Raphael Parry, was a big draw in the spring and again this fall in its Project X premiere. It then joined a cycle of Ehn plays from around the world in a marathon in Manhattan, where The New York Times lauded it as the best of all the productions.
Two solo performances are worth noting. Barrett Nash held the audience in the palm of her tiny hand in the one-woman true tragedy My Name Is Rachel Corrie, directed by Clay Wheeler for the Festival of Independent Theatres. She will star in a reprise at Second Thought in 2013.
Bruce DuBose played every part in the astonishingly good An Iliad at Undermain Theatre in September. There was a moment in the condensed retelling of the Trojan War when DuBose let out a mournful wail that echoed all over the basement theater. Chilling. Unforgettable.
It feels as if Dallas theater is on the cusp of a new era of greatness, and what better evidence than the last show of the year, the time-travel musical On the Eve? Written by Kitchen Dog actor Michael Federico and Home by Hovercraft band members Shawn and Seth Magill (who also played time-challenged hero "Chase Spacegrove"), the show directed and designed by Jeffrey Schmidt filled tiny Magnolia Lounge with really good rock music, Irish step-dancing, eye-popping bits of stage magic and stirring performances by Gregory Lush, Martha Harms, Ian Ferguson, Maryam Baig, Jenny Ledel, Brian Witkowicz, Tara Magill and others. The too-short 10-performance run left standing-room-only audiences begging for encores. If any show needs a repeat in 2013, it's this one.