Stage review: Keeping up with ‘The Joneses’

Diana-Sheehan-and-James-Crawford-in-The-Realistic-Joneses-at-WaterTower-Theatre-photo-by-Karen-Almond-photo-3

Edward Albee’s seminal drama Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? pits two couples — one older and embattled, the other young and corruptible — in a game of psychological and sexual oneupmanship, contained in the rarefied world of intellectual academia. Will Eno’s play The Realistic Joneses — one of the Discovery Series productions in WaterTower Theatre’s black box studio — is like the prosaic, middle-class companion piece to Albee’s masterpiece. While Woolf steers toward allegory, Joneses (no relation — I hope) bends toward dark absurdist comedy, a realm Albee himself would explore more directly in his career. It’s funny and strange.

Eno builds not just on Albee’s foundation, but on a subgenre of theaterworks set in suburban backyards that delve into the cookout culture of human rivalries (you often see them at Kitchen Dog, in shows like Barbecue Apocalypse and Detroit). Bob and Jennifer Jones (James Crawford and Diana Sheehan, pictured) are settled, but going through hard times as Bob has been riddled with health issues and takes out his frustration on everyone around him. They meet comparative newlyweds John and Pony (Justin Locklear and Martha Harms), younger but odd in their own way. John has had a few medical issues of his own, and his affect — non sequitur responses to inane chit-chat, a perversely unnerving bubbliness — suggest something mysterious. It’s a clash of generations, where both sides learn from the other but only in the most halting, desperate way. There’s a sadness and gloom to their lives amid all the silly humor, reality between the Dadaist moments.

Tight four-actor shows like this depend greatly on the ensemble, and these are some of the best in town at what they do. Locklear is North Texas’ most emotionally available young actor: Handsome but not intimidatingly so, with a lively energy. And this is easily Sheehan’s best performance to date. She bridges the divide between pulling of light-footed comedy and carrying the emotional heft of the show. Among all the quirkiness, she brings the most realism to these Joneses.

Arnold Wayne Jones

At the Addison Theatre Centre through April 10. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 02.19.16

Thursday 02.25— Sunday 03.06

2Natalie-Anton-of-Innovation-Through-Tradition-presented-by-Avant-Chamber-Ballet-for-the-2016-Out-of-the-Loop-Fringe-Festival-photo-by-Mark-Kitaoka

WaterTower Theatre opens 14th Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, dedicated to alt-theater

There’s a lot more going on in the world of theater than what Broadway, off-Broadway and even well-funded regional companies are producing. That’s why a fringe fest is an excellent opportunity for discovery, as WaterTower has demonstrated over more than a decade. Out of the Loop is back with a crowded lineup of performances (music, comic, dance, dramatic) over 11 days, including work from queer artists like Ebony Stewart to WTT’s first-ever 24 HR Play Fest, a quasi competition where playwrights, directors and actors write, rehearse and mount all-new works on a common theme with only one day’s prep. Get a season pass and discover what’s really going on in theater.

DEETS:
Addison Theatre Centre
15650 Addison Road
Visit WaterTowerTheatre.org for a full schedule.

Friday 02.26

10154231_10153570878872562_6938424616782508269_n

Lesbian rockers Hunter Valentine bids (sort of) adieu with So Long for Now Tour appearance at Trees

The queer all-girl rock group Hunter Valentine has been touring and recording (and making appearances on programs like Showtime’s The Real L Word) for more than a decade; just last Sunday, the group released its latest EP (on, appropriately enough, Valentine’s Day). But all good things must come to an end … or at least go on hiatus. The members are coming to Trees Feb. 26 as part of their So Long for Now Tour, so this could be your last chance (at least for a while) to catch them. (Also appearing on the bill are Faded Grace, Hush Money and Cruella.)

DEETS:
Trees, 2709 Elm St.
Doors at 7 p.m.
Show at 8 p.m.
$11
TreesDallas.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’

It’s a Wonderful Life is a heartwarming Christmas classic: A tender movie that avoids being cloying most of the time on its way to causing your heart to sink. It’s hard to go wrong with it.

But also hard to improve upon, as playwright Joe Landry proves in his “Live Radio Play” version, now at WaterTower Theatre. All the elements are there: An aw-shucks dumpling of a George Bailey (Matthew Laurence-Moore), a slimy Mr. Potter (B.J. Cleveland, in one of many impersonations), ZuZu remarking that an angel got its wings. We recognize them all from the movie.

And that’s exactly what’s wrong with this play — it’s not a play. Nor is it the movie. It’s little more than a staged reading, and it begs you to ask: How come?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

GIVEAWAY: Win tickets to see WTT’s “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” Thursday

WaterTower Theatre’s new production of the jukebox musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe officially opens tonight, and you can see it this week … for free! We have two pairs of tickets to give away for Thursday’s performance. It starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Addison Theatre Centre, and we have the tickets here for ya. Simply email Lifestyle@dallasvoice.com by 11 a.m. tomorrow, and on Tuesday around noon, I’ll randomly pick the winners. Then all you have to do is stop by the Voice offices before Thursday and enjoy a night of the music of Leiber and Stoler.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: “Fortune” from MBS

I’ll have a review of WaterTower Theatre’s new production of the Pulitzer-winning August: Osage County later this week, but in the meantime, our friends at TheaterJones have checked out another show playing at the Addison Theatre Centre, MBS Productions’ Fortune, now at the Stone Cottage Theatre and running through April 14. Check out the review here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones