Local hero

Kurt Kleinmann burns the candle at two ends--president of the Dallas Theatre League, whose Leon Rabin Awards are coming up November 2, and artistic director of Pegasus Theatre, which recently launched its 14th season. For '98-'99, he has transferred some of that Theatre League passion for recognizing and saluting the Dallas scene to his own company--he inaugurates Pegasus' "All Dallas Season" with Wax Lips, a world-premiere script by Dallas playwright John Davenport.

But Kleinmann insists he sees little commercial risk in producing plays by relatively unknown writers. "I don't consider it at all risky, because the times we have done a show by a name playwright, many haven't done well for us. Shows by new playwrights have done as well or better. People have come to expect we're going to do something new, something they've never heard of. And once they enjoy what they've seen, they'll give us the benefit of the doubt and come back."

Wax Lips certainly has an intriguing premise--a young man is pestered by the ghost of his dead friend, who wants the living guy to finish a script he began about a jazz trumpeter whose lips are shot off. Complications include an aggressively amorous landlady (Shannon Woelk from Reefer Madness, Pegasus' last show) who enjoys the "naughty Naugahyde" of her tenant's office couch for the conquest of young males.

"Something that's interesting about this show," Kleinmann says, "is that Shannon can only play the role through October 25 because of a prior commitment. At that point, it will be taken over by Steven Shayle Rhodes. If audiences want to, they can come see both performances and decide if this role was meant to be drag."

The rest of the season includes comedies by Dallas writers Robin Armstrong, Steve Lovett (a gay romantic comedy that this critic saw as a staged reading, and was impressed by its consistent wittiness), and Kleinmann himself, who is restaging one of his own scripts from a past Pegasus season.

"I could've written a new script for this season and made it four world premieres," Kleinmann says, "but I wanted to focus my energy on running the theater, on producing this 'All Dallas Season.' Besides, next year people will be celebrating the millennium, and I've got to write one for that."

--Jimmy Fowler

Wax Lips is at the Pegasus Theatre, 3916 Main, Thursday-Sunday through November 21. Call (214) 821-6005.


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