The Tiger Lillies at Wortham Center

The Tiger Lillies

The Tiger Lillies

London-based band The Tiger Lillies are one of those groups it’s impossible to describe to someone who’s never experienced them. Their unique brand of concert/performance art takes elements of Wiemar Republic caberet, Bertolt Brecht, opera, Jacques Brel and your worst childhood nightmares and mixes them a soupcon of postmodern absurdism to cook up the kind of theater that Sally Bowles and the Kit Kat girls would be making, were they still around, all with a decidedly queer twist.

The Tiger Lillies bring their uniquely anarchistic sights and sounds to Wortham Center’s Cullen Theater, (501 Texas Avenue) Friday, November 4, at 8 pm. The show is co-presented by Society for the Performing Arts and DiverseWorks. This American Leg of their “Gutter’s and Stars Tour” features fan favorites and some new material.

Founded in 1989, the Tiger Lillies worked their way up from London pubs to the Piccadilly Theatre, finally achieving cult status with their masterpiece, the musical “Shockheaded Peter,” a series of grisly fairy tales adapted from the 19th century German book “Struwwelpeter,” in which all of the children die at the end.

—  admin

What to see at FIT: ‘Lady Bright,’ Tennessee

The offerings at this year’s Festival of Independent Theatres are making it one of the best yet.

The fest opened with the double bill of Upstart’s Wasp and Second Thought’s Bob Birdnow, the former an absurdist charmer and the latter a one-man tour-de-force from actor Barry Nash.  Two more plays this weekend have similar credentials.

WingSpan mounts a double bill of short-short plays. One, Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot by Tennessee Williams, is like Streeetcar Lite: Two ageing Southern ladies (Nancy Sherrard and Cindee Mayfield, pictured) who dress like they were trained in fashion at RuPaul’s Drag U, troll the bars of Chicago looking for conventioneers they can bed. In typically Williams style, they mask their lack of morals behind a veneer of moral indignation and ethical relativism, bathed in film of self-delusion and exaggerated gentility. It’s a bitter, catty pas-de-deux with laughs — more laughs, at least, than its companion piece, John Guare’s The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year. A sort of romantic take on Albee’s Zoo Story, it follows a couple who meet in a park under less-than-ideal circumstances and come to a halting understanding about their relationship. There’s not much there there, as you might say — neither funny nor poignant, but just quirky.

So goes the absurdism; the one performance that rival’s Nash’s is surely Larry Randolph’s in ONe Thirty Productions’  The Madness of Lady Bright. Randolph plays an ageing drag queen, surrounded by the memories of his once-glorious romances and catalogue of friends. Now old and alone, he’s dressing up like Bernadette in Priscilla: Haggard, defeated, still craving affection.

This early play in the gay culture movement is a prickly, tender and sad, but also phenomenally realistic and well-realized portrait of growing old and alone, whether gay or straight. And Randolph’s resourceful, exquisitely wrought performance, full of tarnished dignity, sells it. This is a show — a performance — not to be missed.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Pain’ in the asking

A curmudgeonly man, bespectacled in a plain black suit and bare feet like Yves St. Laurent at the beach, thumbs through a dictionary in the dark, telling stories that go nowhere. He’s a contrarian, obviously the survivor of a troubled past, but not really equipped to explain it. This is us, he tells the audience directly, interacting “face to face with the modern mind.” God, I hope not.

The absurdism that is Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) is smart (almost too smart), and it challenges you in assaultive but funny ways, with lots of word play amid the fatalistic rants. I’m not sure where it’s headed — absurdist plays are often unfathomable that way — but I do know that Steven Walters is the actor to lead us there.

His modulation of energy as he relates stories — about a dead dog, about anger and fear and relationships — it what can sustain you for 70 minutes of one voice talking to you on a mostly black stage. This show marks Second Thought Theatre’s artistic reboot; it’s a good way to begin.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Through Jan. 29 at Addison Theatre Centre. SecondThoughtTheatre.org.

—  John Wright

Well, Albee

Two absurdist one-acts delve into the American pysche with humor and sex appeal

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

YOGA?BEARABLE  |  A young man (Austin Tindle) performs yoga while an old lady (Elly?Lindsay) is left to die in ‘The Sandbox,’ one of two absurdist romps. (Photo Lowell Sargeant)
YOGA BEARABLE | A young man (Austin Tindle) performs yoga while an old lady (Elly?Lindsay) is left to die in ‘The Sandbox,’ one of two absurdist romps. (Photo Lowell Sargeant)

ALBEE: TWO ON THE AISLE
Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Through Oct. 23. Thursdays–Saturdays at 8 p.m., select 2 p.m. matinees. $17–$20. WingSpanTheatre.com

…………………………..

Most comedies — especially those written nowadays, for stage, film and TV — don’t really make much sense. Characters do stupid things because stupid leads to funny consequences. They rely on their audiences not paying too much attention. (I can’t count how many times I have been accused of “over-thinking” a comedy by people happy to be lost in the inanity of it all.)

It’s refreshing, then, to encounter a comedy that tries not to make sense … but does so smartly — so smartly, that you cease paying attention at your peril. That is the world of absurdism.

Considering that Edward Albee’s rep is based largely on his hyper-realistic masterpiece Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, it’s easy to forget he’s also America’s foremost absurdist, especially in his one-acts like The American Dream and The Sandbox, which are being revived right now by WingSpan Theatre.

WingSpan does absurdism well — Albee especially. His Marriage Play, The Play About the Baby and Tennessee Williams’ The Gnadiges Fraulein were highlights of recent theater seasons. This duet isn’t quite as strong as those, but deliciously entertaining nonsense.

Only they’re not nonsense. Albee — gay, adopted, bitter — has issues. Both plays feature basically nameless characters: Mommy (Lulu Ward), Daddy (Barry Nash), Grandma (Elly Lindsay), Young Man (Austin Tindle). This is a view of the nuclear family in meltdown.

Rhythms more than plot (plot?) provide the fodder for a couple’s obsession with materialism (their house is a hodgepodge of American flag colors, deconstructed and turned subversively critical). With annoyingly inconsequential small talk, they chatter away about the color of a hat and the content of mysterious boxes and what to do with the old lady. As with David Lynch, the logic, if any, is dreamlike — or, more accurately, nightmarish, with laughs.

Ward is ideal at conveying genteel villainy: Behind a smile cracking with anger, she exudes threatening volatility. Nash, perfectly impassive, represents a dire view of manhood.

Tindle, in contrast, captures the hearty beauty of the male form. With placid sex appeal — especially in The Sandbox, where he spends 15 minutes performing yoga in tight-fitting ‘50s-era swim trunks — he’s unattainable desire incarnate.

At least I think so. Part of the attraction of absurdism is the attraction of poetry: You can read into it what resonates with you. Director Susan Sargeant lets her solid cast loose on the material, toying with it and the audience. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it all. If it doesn’t make you laugh, it may scare the hell out of you. And feel free to over-think it. That’s what art is supposed to be about.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

WingSpan tackles 2 early Albees

Being gay figures less concretely in playwright Edward Albee’s work than do his skewed ideas about the nuclear family (owing, in part, to his chilly adoptive parents). But his plays almost always deal with people on the outside of society.

Two on the Aisle: The American Dream and The Sandbox is a festival of two early one-acters from Albee, which WingSpan Theatre Co. is reviving at the Bath House Cultural Center, starting this week. In The Sandbox, an elderly relation’s (Elly Lindsay, pictured) usefulness is minimized as her materialistic family plot to get rid of her; The American Dream continues that family’s story with deep stabs at middle class values.  In true Albee fashion, the absurdism is girded by a dark sense of humor and an ample dose of satire.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Presented by WingSpan Theatre Co. Through Oct. 23. Thursdays–Saturdays at 8 p.m., select weekend matinees at 2 p.m. $17–$20. 214-675-6573. WingSpanTheatre.com.

—  Kevin Thomas