The spring theater season begins with WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, which isn't a "fringe festival" at all but a juried collection of plays, solo performances, dance and music on three stages. This year's event, running through March 23 (and co-sponsored by the Dallas Observer), features 19 shows by various companies, some of which played only the first weekend, some only the second.
Honky, a play by Greg Kalleres, is WaterTower's own entry, directed by Kelsey Leigh Ervi in the Studio Theatre space. It's a one-joke play that stretches its thin idea into an intermission-less hour and 45 minutes.
A pill is marketed that "cures" racism. After a black teen is shot for his pricy basketball shoes, the black shoe designer (Calvin Roberts) seeks therapy, as does the shoe company's white CEO (Alan Pollard) and the white adman (Ian Ferguson) who wrote the catchphrase uttered by the shooters. Their shrink (played with brewing anger by Rebecca McDonald) is black. They all start swallowing pills to alleviate conflicted feelings. When the designer beds the adman's white fiancee (Whitney Holotik, in a sharp comic turn as a sex kitten), things get ugly. (Cue "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from Avenue Q. But only in your head.)
Adam A. Anderson and Lord Alfred Brown do wonders with cameos as Frederick Douglass and a couple of subway punks. But the play, not committed firmly to its comedy or drama, lurks somewhere in a gray area.
Audacity Theatre Lab's Roberts' Eternal Goldfish, written and performed by Brad McEntire, was a Loop standout (not running the second week). A bitter man, once left stranded in the ocean during a family snorkeling trip, has a life-altering epiphany thanks to a seemingly unkillable pet goldfish. McEntire's an expert at swimming solo onstage, charming the audience with sly looks and inventive storytelling.
Then there was Beware of Plastics by Actor's Conservatory Theatre, starring seven teenage girls doing dull monologues about what unique snowflakes they all are. Plus Jesus. Lots of Jesus. Awkwardly directed, badly written, painfully performed, this piece belonged at church camp skit night, not in a professional theater festival.