Review: Kitchen Dog’s ‘The Arsonists’ becomes a farce of the mind

Posted on 13 Nov 2014 at 9:04am

ARSON6Gottlieb (Max Hartmann) is an unscrupulous businessman in such denial, he doesn’t worry a bit that a key employe he cheated out of a future committed suicide because of the betrayal. He’s happily removed from the realities of how hard life is for the 99 percenters, clucking his tongue that a group of arsonists appear to be targeting the wealthy. How do his peers allow themselves to be so deceived by criminals?

Until one day, Joseph (Jason Kane), a brutish thug, shows up on his doorstep with a ludicrous sob story and, via intimidation and guilt, wheedles his way into Gottlieb’s life to plan yet another act of terrorism … just for the hell of it, apparently.

The late Swiss intellectual Max Frisch made his rep as a playwright 60 years ago with The Arsonists, but this newish translation — getting its regional premiere from Kitchen Dog Theater — gives ample legroom for theater companies to make of it as they wish. In KDT’s case, they’ve turned it into a vaudeville — a farce of the mind that relies on stabs of original music, word play and subtle psychology to burrow under your skin about the nature of society and man’s capacity for self-deception: “They can’t be arsonists — they don’t have matches,” Gottlieb reasons before turning over his Zippo to a scary crew of villains (which now also includes Michael Fererico, who has perfected the art of turning whiny nebbishes into intense comic foils).

This is prime real estate for director Tim Johnson to trod over, combining his affection for absurdism with dark insights into the psyche that can be arresting between blurts of laughter. The cast is top-notch, including Jenny Ledel as a passive-aggressive maid whose frustration with her employer mirrors the audience’s … and her inability to show him the light reminds us that sometimes, mankind is simply beyond helping itself.

Now playing through Dec. 13. KitchenDogTheater.org.

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We’re the Best! Vote for Oak Lawn as Best Gayborhood

Posted on 12 Nov 2014 at 11:18am

Best gayborhoods

So, here’s your chance to show your Texas Pride. OutTraveler.com, the online travel site that caters to the LGBT community, is in the midst of its annual Out Traveler Awards. The category up for votes right now is “Best Gayborhood,” and Dallas’ Oak Lawn is one of 10 contenders for the title.

OutTraveler.com calls the “Best Gayborhood” content “the most contentious” and “the most controversial” category in the Out Traveler Awards:

“We have ownership in the neighborhoods we consider our own; those places we can let our hair down and be ourselves. But what really makes the best LGBT neighborhood? Is it restaurants, bars, walkability, clean streets, public transit, or safety? Think long and hard before you vote, because the top queer area may not be the one down the street, but the enclave we discovered while on vacation or during a work trip.”

The site explains that Out Traveler editors chose the 10 nominees on the list, but “we’re amenable to write in candidates in the comments section.” Other nominees are Boystown in Chicago, Boystown in West Hollywood/Los Angeles, Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan/NYC, Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., the Castro in San Francisco, Wilton Manors in Ft. Lauderdale, Washington Square West in Philadelphia, Midtown in Atlanta and Capitol Hill in Seattle.

Dallas Tavern Guild, the association of LGBT nightclubs that puts on Dallas’ LGBT Pride events each year, is rooting for Oak Lawn to win the award, and Executive Director Michael Doughman urged everyone to go to the site to vote.

“We have some good competition but I know if we make an effort we can win this award,” Doughman said. We may not have won much in the midterm elections, but we have a chance for national recognition for our community. Let’s do this!”

The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau is also urging everyone to vote for Oak Lawn.

But do it quickly. The polls close two weeks from yesterday (Tuesday, Nov. 11), and winners will be announced the first week in December.

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Lisa Kudrow: The gay interview

Posted on 11 Nov 2014 at 1:33pm

LisaKudrow3By Chris Azzopardi

Ten years without our favorite cupcake-wearing gonzo, Valerie Cherish, is 10 years too long. But the wait’s over. You were heard.

A decade after The Comeback —the hilariously cringe-y HBO trailblazer that lasted just one season in 2005, starring Lisa Kudrow as Val, a D-lister reaching for (everything underneath) the stars — was axed, it has returned to the network this week … with the Friends actress back as our beloved hot mess.

We chatted with Kudrow — who also has her fourth season on Showtime’s Web Therapy under her belt — about “superhuman” gays, her own comeback and the future of Romy & Michele.

Dallas Voice: Lisa, you don’t know how tempting it is to say “hello” three times to you right now. How often do people quote Valerie in your presence? And how often are they gay men?  Lisa Kudrow: Frequently and frequently. You know who the next group is after gay men? College students.

Are you surprised by that?  I was surprised … until I got used to it! But it’s fantastic. That’s really thrilling, and then it struck me: Well, of course! They grew up with Housewives of everywhere, and people humiliating themselves on reality TV. When The Comeback first came out, I think that gay men were the only ones who were like, “Yes. I understand. I get it. It’s great, and I understand.”

You know, those are the people I care about the most — the people who really loved the show. That was my only fear after it was all done. Doing it, writing it, shooting it, it was, “Yeah, this is right, this is right.” Then afterwards, “Uh oh, what if it’s not?”

When it comes to Valerie Cherish, what is it about her exactly that we gay men are so drawn to?  I’ve been asking myself that too — not ’cause it’s a mystery, but I wonder why. I was watching Will & Grace once and there was this hilarious episode where Karen’s at a theater and she throws her flask and it hits someone in the head, and there’s this joke that gay men wouldn’t care because, “Eh, all in a day.” Getting, like, smacked with something is “all in a day.” So I wonder if that’s what it is — because Valerie gets, you know, humiliated, or humiliates herself, all the time. And it’s like, “Yeah, well, that’s the world.”

The other thing that I love about Valerie is, “All right, someone said something not nice, but you know what? Can’t use that. Got this other thing I gotta do.” She just ignores that that happened and keeps going.

That’s what it is too: She perseveres.  Completely perseveres! You can agree with her goal or not, but she’s got it and nothing is getting in her way. There’s something admirable about that; there just is. Except, you know, she’s willing to put up with a lot.

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‘Time Lords’ Mundell-Patterson tie the knot!

Posted on 10 Nov 2014 at 11:36am

Timmy and TJ Mundell-Patterson

Earlier this summer, we did a story and photospread about Timmy Patterson and TJ Mundell, two Dallasites and Doctor Who fans whose engagement photos of them posing with a TARDIS (the time-traveling 1950s police box of the series) went viral. Well, engagement photos are, of necessity, followed by a wedding — and now that’s a reality. The couple got hitched legally on Saturday. (They will now be know as Timmy and TJ Mundell-Patterson.) We assume no Silurians interrupted the proceedings, but we haven’t see any official photos yet. It’s nice, though, that The Doctor will now forever have the same companion. Congrats, guys!

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Patty Griffin: The gay interview

Posted on 10 Nov 2014 at 8:19am

Patty1Editor’s note: Patty Griffin, the Texas-based singer-songwriter, will perform in Dallas on Thursday at the Majestic with blues legend Mavis Staples. We sat down with the artist to talk about her two albums released in 2014, and her gay fans.

By Chris Azzopardi

There are singers, there are songwriters … and then there’s Patty Griffin. Not only has the celebrated songstress been praised for her versatility, Griffin’s untouchable talent has earned her a Grammy and landed her material on releases from some of the industry’s biggest names. For artists seeking poetic musings (and really sad songs), Griffin is a go-to. And besides, the Dixie Chicks, Kelly Clarkson, Bette Midler and Emmylou Harris have all given a second life to the writer’s rootsy tunes.

Griffin’s own catalogue, though, is immense, and just this last year she added two more gems to her repertoire: American Kid, a work of staggering genius that, not surprisingly, topped many best-of lists, and Silver Bell, her “lost” LP, shelved by her then-label, that was released 13 years after she recorded it. She’ll perform (probably from both albums) alongside Mavis Staples at the Majestic on Nov. 13.

From her hometown down the road in Austin, Griffin — who also draws inspiration from her spouse, Led Zeppelin legend Robert Plant — chatted about feeling like a “weirdo,” which song of hers helped a kid come out to his parents and getting over her religious prejudices to record a gospel album. — Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: American Kid is obviously very connected to your late father, who was dying as you were writing it. What is the most difficult song for you to get through live? Patty Griffin: I don’t think I have a great deal of difficulty getting through them. My emotional response varies from night to night, and there are times when that can make it hard to sing, but there hasn’t been one in particular that’s gotten me too emotional to sing. It’s all emotional.

It’s been really great to have songs in my own life that speak about him. I didn’t think about it at the time, about honoring him; I was just trying to get myself through him passing away. I didn’t think about how great it would be later to tell his story, at least from my point of view. I don’t know how thrilled he’d be about some of these things!

How is creating and performing music a catharsis for you? To me, it’s just my nature. It’s how I’m built. I feel like I have to do it, you know? I think anybody who’s a musician who gets to be 50 and is still a musician, that’s really how they’re built. They really have to do it. So it’s very second nature to me. It’s really, really not hard for me to express myself that way.

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Cocktail Friday: Big Ginger

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 1:09pm

2 GINGERS_BIG GINGER 2014With fall upon us, a liquor I begin to enjoy more and more as the weather chills is whiskey. Here’s a simple colder-clime drink to swig with a dog in your lap and a sweater on your back.

2 parts 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey

Ginger ale

Lemon and lime wedges

Making it: Simplicity is key here — add the whiskey to a pint glass with ice, top with ginger ale (to taste), garnish with a squeeze of lime and lemon.

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Advocate names Putin its Person of the Year

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 11:02am

December 2014 - Vladimir Putin LOIt’s just the first week in November, but The Advocate magazine — the long-standing publication about gay issues — has just released its December/January edition, in which it picks its Person of the Year, and this time out, it’s Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

Not exactly a powerhouse in favor of gay rights, but that’s not the point.

Like Time magazine, The Advocate selects its winner based on his or her influence in gay life and newsworthiness … for good or bad. Time famously selected Adolf Hitler its Man of the Year in 1938, to great controversy. This fact isn’t lost on The Advocate, which placed its title over Putin’s face … in a way intentionally reminiscent of a Hitler moustache. (You can read the story here.)

While I respect the boldness of the choice, Dallas Voice tends to be more positive (and more local). We will select our LGBT Texan of the Year based on the out Texan who has made a positive impact on gay issues. The winner will be revealed on Dec. 12.

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Movie review: ‘Interstellar’

Posted on 06 Nov 2014 at 7:55am

In Christopher Nolan’s newest sci-fi extravaganza, Interstellar, Einstein’s general theory of relativity is carefully explained: The closer you approach the speed of light, the slower you age relative to humans on earth. Well, I have a corophoto 1llary to this quantum hypothesis: The closer you come to Interstellar, the more likely it will seem that all activity slows … to … a … grinding … halt.

That’s surprising, considering how jam-packed with noisy activity this three-hour (yes!) adventure film is. There are rocket launches, beautiful trips through wormholes, breathtaking by-the-seat-of-your-pants landings and countless other mind-bending trips through Nolan’s inventive and VFX-fueled brain. Truth be told, though, Nolan has never been much of a storyteller. He’ll spend lots of time acclimating us to characters, then rush headlong through complicated technical points essential to the plot. (Does anyone but him really understand Inception?) Interstellar eases us into its story. We’re never told exactly when it takes place (though apparently later in this century), but eventually we learn that the earth is becoming a desert and mankind will die off unless other habitable worlds are colonized. Matthew McConaughey, a widower with a clingy daughter (played as an adult by Jessica Chastain), is chosen to lead the search alongside Anne Hathaway.Much of the mechanics of the mission are disregarded, though it’s altogether possible they were stated plainly but the editors deemed it far less important than Hans Zimmer’s intrusive score and pulsating sound effects that effectively drown out even the internal dialogue in your head. It’s a sonic assault.

Nolan makes a lot of peculiar choices: There are near countless shots of the outside of the spaceship, but usually seen only from the same angle along the length of the fuselage — it’s like having a window seat on an airplane and trying to figure out what your journey looks like from the outside. He also resorts to some heavy-handed imagery (a potential savior of the species named Mann? Really?).

Ultimately, though, Nolan is less interested in the science than in the humanity. The development of McConaughey’s character — across time and space — is poignant and highly emotional. But last year Alfonso Cuaron got us there in half the time (82 minutes!) with Gravity, while Kubrick explored the position of humankind in the universe a generation ago with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Interstellar isn’t as good as either of those films, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have merit. “Good” may be the enemy of “great,” but don’t write it off entirely.

Three stars. Now in wide release.

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Opera review: ‘Salome’

Posted on 05 Nov 2014 at 1:05pm

Voigt and Grimsley in ‘Salome,’ Photos by Karen Almond, Dallas Opera.

The Dallas Opera’s second title of the season is the outrageous Salome. Perhaps the most depraved plot in all opera — and that’s saying something — this retelling of the Bible story is adapted from a German translation of Oscar Wilde’s play. Richard Strauss’ very challenging music only adds to the electrifying story. This lustful and sordid work, with a macabre conclusion, made it a good pick to open the week of Halloween.

Princess Salome (soprano Deborah Voigt) is a young woman whose powerful stepfather/uncle Herod (tenor Robert Brubaker) can’t keep his eyes and hands off her. She, in turn, is infatuated with prisoner Jokanaan aka John the Baptist (baritone Greer Grimsley) who is locked in an underground cistern. As a holy man, Jokanaan wants nothing to do with the spoiled, grasping Salome.

Voigt’s voice has a clear and pleasant tone, but unfortunately she is not well-suited for the title role. She’s more than a little too old to portray a deranged teenager, and the famous “Dance of the Seven Veils” falls flat. The choreography by Yael Levitin is fine, and the backup dancers (in flowing and beautiful dresses from costume designer Anita Yavich) are wonderful, but Voigt’s dancing is clumsy and labored.

KA2_0553AThe standout among the singers is Grimsley. His baritone powerfully reaches to the top of the Winspear, even though most of his performance comes from the underground prison. Herodias, wife of Herod and mother of Salome (mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley), was able in her limited role, while tenor Joseph Hu delivers a forceful and spirited performance as First Jew. Mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson (in a trousers role) as Herodias’ page blasts a clear and sonorant voice of caution in this dark story (though why she was dressed as a soldier remains a mystery). Tenor Scott Quinn as Narraboth is strong, if not memorable.

Stage director Francesca Zambello manages to punctuate the heaviness of the story with light-hearted moments of humor. Conductor Evan Rogister marks a successful Dallas Opera debut with this musically challenging piece. Strauss wrote for a large orchestra with particularly difficult passages for the woodwinds. The musicians played admirably, especially the oboes and bassoons in their exposed passages. Though just a compact 100 minutes, it is a tough slog in the orchestra pit.

Peter J. Davison’s modernist scene design is odd-looking, though ultimately effective. The set is divided by what appears to be a giant clear shower curtain, but it was enhanced by the excellent lighting by Mark McCullough. The costumes are colorful and detailed, except for Salome’s primary costume; her dress lacks the splendor of the others at the palace. The soldiers’ costumers are strangely reminiscent of uniforms in sci-fi films. Wig and make-up design by David Zimmerman appeared to be flawless, particularly in the gory final scene.

Check out Salome if you can. The standout performances make it a far more engaging option than other ways you could spend two hours.

— Alicia Chang

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Dallas fashion label BLKLN launches streetwear line called blk-tee

Posted on 05 Nov 2014 at 12:25pm

blktee44I’ve written in the past about Jim Duran, the Dallas-based designer and creative director of BLKLN (Black Line), his fashion-forward label of menswear. Jim has now moved from the runway to the street with his new line of fashionable T-shirts, blk-tee. The tees feature catchy phrases geared for the hip urbanite.

You can purchase the shirts, which just launched this week, on the company’s newly redone website, BlklnClothing.com.

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