With only a few months in office, Mitchell Rasansky has taken up the mantle of the Dallas City Council's new scold and all-around grumpy old fart. Already, he has donned environmentalist garb to oppose construction in his district of a new soccer field for a championship-winning team at a Catholic girls' school. He also opposes soccer leagues in public parks, which evidently he feels were intended for blue-nosed old biddies to walk their schnauzers. Somehow we'll have to endure two years of Rasansky's kowtowing to the NIMBY crowd.

Hey, we know what you're thinking: the elections department? If they're so great, how come we have so much election fraud? Look, the county elections department, under the able leadership of Bruce Sherbet, serves us in Dallas the way a good umbrella might in Seattle. So it can't keep off every drop. Would you rather not have it? The county elections department runs city and school board elections under contract. When it goes, give up on local democracy.
There are no trendy sushi spots. No "fete set." No designer dogs. If that's what you want, you don't move to Lakewood. The best local eateries are a pizza joint (Scalini's), a coffee shop (Legal Grounds) and a Tex-Mex joint (Matt's). But don't mistake this lack of ostentation for want of dinero. Nice traps on the boulevard run $800,000 and up, and starter prices in the back sections top $300,000. For that you get the big hardwood trees, the historic architecture, the tight neighborhood association and some of the smoothest streets in town.
After Democratic state Senator Royce West refused to give Republican state Senator John Carona a day's delay to consider changes to a piece of legislation, Carona, who is 9 inches shorter than West, came bounding across the Senate floor and poked his index finger into the chest of West. Carona huffed and puffed, and West told him to back off and may have done some finger-pointing in his own defense. Even though West may have been disrespecting Carona to begin with, the statewide media interpreted the altercation as a huge breach of decorum on Carona's part. That attitude hasn't helped bolster the low opinion some hold of Carona's politics already. They see him as a water carrier for special interest groups, including the apartment industry.

This past year hasn't been uniformly stellar for Fort Worth's Jubilee Theatre: Its 2000 production of Black Nativity was watered-down by a mix of amateur singing and movement, and Hedy Understands Anxiety turned a career woman's hunt for the truth about her mother into a symphony of shouting, hand-wringing and brow-knitting. But the glittering successes made us feel like members of the Mile High Club--floating in midair from and ravished by sheer theatrical prowess. Coop De Ville: Time-Travelin' Brother, the sequel to Jubilee's oft-revived Negroes in Space, took musical inspiration from Parliament/Funkadelic and the Stax/Volt label as Robert Rouse saved an order of nuns who worship James Brown and wear Prince's erstwhile name-symbol on their gowns; Fat Freddy's was another rollicking original musical with one showstopper after another, in which Carolyn Hatcher and Sheran Goodspeed-Keyton fend off suitors in a mythical after-hours dive. Jubilee proved it could turn the volume down for equally impressive dramatic forays. Lonne Elder III's seminal 1965 Ceremonies in Dark Old Men vividly explained the easy lure and easier rationalizations of crime in an urban neighborhood saturated with it, prophesying troubles that plagued the black community for the next 35 years. But the modest stunner that carried emotional resonance far beyond its tiny "Christian" apartment setting in Philadelphia--and beyond Jubilee itself--was A Love Song For Miss Lydia. Director Rudy Eastman saw to it that Mary Catherine Keaton Jordan, younger than her aged role but brilliantly believable, was heartbreaking as the title character who gets new hope from an aggressive, flattering boarder (Lloyd W.L. Barnes Jr.) just as she thought her life was winding down.
It's been quite a year for Pat Watson, the technical director over set construction at Dallas Children's Theater who's emerged as one of the city's most versatile performers on the basis of a very short résumé--four roles at Pegasus and two with Theatre Quorum. He displays a strangely serene authority that travels well from futuristic political satires to intentionally silly musicals to tense psychological dramas. Sound-Biting had him reproducing Dubya's myopic squint and smugly ingratiating smile as a gubernatorial candidate who changes positions in mid-televised debate as the poll numbers change based on viewers' mercurial tastes. He played the villain Black Bart in Cowboys!, a musical about gay cowpokes trying to save the ranch, and turned a manipulative seduction into a personal revelation for his character--Bart really does like kissing guys--with one body-melting pratfall. In One Good Beating at the Festival of Independent Theatres, he was the timid kid brother trapped between his cruel father and coercive sister, between a desire for revenge and a fear of his own impotence. It may not be possible for Watson to surprise us with another facet of his range, but we look forward to finding out.

Ironically, one of the ultimate compliments to any actor is not recognizing her--that is, not realizing that you've seen one performer play two different roles, because she's utterly consumed inside each character. Holly Hickman fooled and startled us with two performances at Fort Worth's Stage West. They required shifts in technique and tone--from profane street hood to grieving Irish mother--that Hickman achieved with the delicate mastery that comes not from acting, but from being. In Conor McPherson's deeply sad collection of ghost stories, The Weir, she was a single professional woman from Dublin invited into a pub full of lonely men swapping tales. A tearful Hickman recounted her brush with the supernatural--her drowned daughter making a telephone call asking her mother to please help her--and it was an extraordinary expression of the agony of surviving a loved one's death. Jane Martin's Criminal Hearts cast her as a trash-talking burglar and con artist who conspires with a repressed society matron (an equally captivating Emily Scott Banks) to roll the latter's husband (Gray Palmer). This highly implausible comedy--even by the elastic standards of theatrical farce--ensnared us thanks to Hickman's tomboy sexiness and volatile temper.
Adelina Anthony studied under Cora Cardona at Teatro Dallas and founded Cara Mia Theatre before moving to Los Angeles to dedicate herself to cultivating the lesbian Latina presence in American theater. Lest you think this fiercely intelligent artist double-bound herself artistically with partisan minority perspectives--a charge that's rarely leveled at the countless folks who are happy to exclusively explore the hetero, Anglo life--she brought to Dallas the world premiere of Cherrie Moraga's surprisingly universal The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea. As both director and star, Anthony had the rarefied vision and ability to reveal myriad places where sexuality and ethnicity overlap, tangle and strangle us in our pursuit to make contact with one another. Set in a dystopian world where the races have balkanized themselves, and homosexuals are the lepers common to each tribe, The Hungry Woman rejected finger-pointing and victimization thanks to Anthony's guidance; it was far more concerned with the common illusions that afflict us all than with unilateral blame. She also turned in a bravely unsympathetic lead performance as a woman warrior overcome as much by her own angry pride as the cultural forces that try to make her choose between narrow identities.
Veteran supporters of small, envelope-pushing theater companies get used to all kinds of onstage extremes: full nudity, sweaty sex, rampant profanity, murder, even blasphemous shots aimed at organized religion. But anyone who attended this year's Festival of Independent Theatres and caught Cara Mia's entry, a miniproduction of California playwright Rick Najera's Latinologues, got an earful of vicious racial stereotypes redeemed with a vaudevillian sense of taking control through laughter. Director Marisela Barrera guided her two performers, Marco Rodriguez and Otis Gray, into a series of skits involving a lustful Martin Luther King Jr., fried chicken and "I Have a Dream"; a Japanese-American thanking the U.S. government for being sent to an internment camp during World War II; and a Mexican Moses who tries to save his people while wheeling around a janitor's mop and bucket. Gray and Rodriguez boasted crack timing, nobody was spared, and the evening ended with the feeling of a successful exorcism. Interesting (but unscientific) observation: White ticketbuyers appeared more nervous about laughing than either blacks or Hispanics.

The Dallas powers that be have long felt the sting of one of the biggest criticisms hurled against us--that a city of this size has no efficient method of mass transportation. Last December came the $50 million, eight-years-in-the-making CityPlace Light Rail Stop, the region's first--and very short--taste of what living in a city with a subway is like. It allows patrons to travel from our still-dormant downtown to a Central Expressway location around which is clustered a movie theater, a Target and the corporate headquarters of 7-Eleven. But as with the American Airlines Center, city planners assured us that businesses will flock to CityPlace at an as-yet-undetermined point in the recession.

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