Jesus Hopped the "A" Train Haven't we seen this before? Murderers locked up in the notoriously harsh Rikers Island prison share their tales of woe and talk about God. Was it OZ? Law & Order? NYPD Blue? Of course, it was. Stephen Adly Guirgis' two-act drama owes its thin plot about prisoners yearning for redemption to all of those. Throw in a twist from The Practice about a defense lawyer coaching a confessed killer how to lie on the witness stand and add more than two hours of four-, six- and 12-letter profanities, and you've got a good idea what you're in for. It's an exhausting ride, this play. And as ugly as some of the stations where the real A-train stops. The performers in Kitchen Dog Theater's production give it their all--particularly Sean T. Perez as the much-abused first-time killer Angel Cruz--but they start out at a 10-plus for intensity and volume and never let it drop below a 9. All that screaming, all those F-words, get old by the beginning of the third hour. Dan Day directs. The bare-bones set suggesting a cellblock, and a huge iron cross is by Jake Maudlin. Through November 6 at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave. 214-953-1055. Reviewed this week. (Elaine Liner)
The Wild Party Two musicals based on the same long Jazz Age poem by Joseph Moncure March opened on Broadway in 2000. Last season Theatre Three produced the one adapted and composed by Michael John LaChiusa. Now Uptown Players, winding up their third and best season, give us the steamier version by Andrew Lippa. This troupe gets it right. This is the one to see. The emphasis is on unbridled sexuality, as the party thrown by Queenie (Stacy Oristano) and her mean boyfriend Burrs (James Wesley) wears out its revelers with an orgy of drinking, coke-sniffing, dancing and lovemaking. Sung-through like an opera, the show presents the drama of two couples who swap partners. Queenie seduces playboy Black (Donald Fowler). Burrs hooks up with call girl Kate (Emily Lockhart). And all 19 members of the cast strip down to their tiny skivvies for some Fosse-esque dance numbers. Definitely a hot night of musical theater. Not perfect, but then, what booze-soaked party ever is? Through October 24 at the Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 Stemmons Freeway at Motor Street. 214-219-2718. Reviewed this week. (E.L.)
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To Kill a Mockingbird Dallas Children's Theater opens its 21st season with Christopher Sergel's adaptation of Harper Lee's Pulitzer-winning 1960 novel. "Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it," begins the narrator. "Somehow, it was hotter then. Men's stiff collars wilted by 9 in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon and after their 3 o'clock naps and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum." Ah, such writing. That's the beauty of this perennial best-selling novel. Unfortunately, the stage version condenses the plot and truncates some characters. And unlike the novel and the 1962 movie, the narrator is no longer the grown-up tomboy Scout, but a neighbor lady named Maudie (Elly Lindsay) who talks to the audience like the stage manager does in Our Town. Still, the story of racial prejudice in 1930s Alabama packs a big punch, and DCT's cast is full of top-notch professional actors who know how to treat a classic with respect. The leading character, defense lawyer Atticus Finch (played here by the fine Bill Jenkins), is one of the great heroes of American literature. Robyn Flatt directed this production, which co-stars Guinea Bennett-Price as housekeeper Calpurnia and Julius Washington as the wrongly accused Tom Robinson. Young Pam Covington and Evelyn Roberts alternate in the role of Scout. Recommended for older children and adults. Continues through October 17 in the Baker Theater at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts, 5938 Skillman St., 214-740-0051. Reviewed September 30. (E.L.)