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

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.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Big Ginger

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.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Advocate names Putin its Person of the Year

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.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Movie review: ‘Interstellar’

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.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas fashion label BLKLN launches streetwear line called blk-tee

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.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WaterTower announces lineup for Discovery Series

A gay Macy’s elf, an artist who seems to paint vaginas and a married couple on the rocks are featured in the three shows making up WaterTower Theatre‘s upcoming Discovery Series, which debuts in December.

Garret Storms reprises his role as a Christmastime employe Crumpet in the stage adaptation of David Sedaris’ amusing The Santaland Diaries. This is the sixth time the show has been performed at WTT, and the second with Storms.

That will be followed in January with Sexy Laundry, directed by WTT’s artistic director, Terry Martin. It’s an adult comedy about a couple who seek to spice up their stale marriage.

The final show of the series will be O’Keeffe, a one-woman show about Georgia O’Keeffe, whose flowery painting have made her a favorite artist in the LGBT community for decades, owing to their suggestive, erotic nature. The show features local actress Carolyn Wickwire, who has traveled extensively with the show in recent years. It opens in April.

Tickets for all the shows will be on sale by Dec. 9.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Election Day edition

BH_Election Day_BottleIf you’re gay, or just progressive, and you follow Texas politics, Election Day fills you with a sense of hope and dread. It’s enough to make you start drinkin’. Or just continue doing so. In recognition of that, we added an extra Cocktail Friday edition this week with a bourbon drink called the Swing Vote. Because we can use a good swing to the left today.

1.5 oz. Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

3/4 oz. Madeira

3/4 oz. honey syrup

1/2 oz. lemon juice

Grapefruit bitters, grapefruit slice, mint.

Making it: Combine all the liquid ingredients in a shaker and add ice. Add one dash of bitters. SHake. Strain into an old fashioned glass with ice. Garnish with a wheel of grapefruit and mint sprig.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Sparkling Blood

Solerno and SparklingA few weeks ago, I gave a recipe for a cosmo made with Solerno, an Italian liqueur distilled from blood oranges. Well, now that it’s Halloween, it’s only fitting I introduce any bloody recipe with the same potable. It’s ghoulishly delicious, and would make a unique imbibable for your Halloween-themed get-together.

1 part Solerno blood orange liqueur

2 parts prosecco

2 parts Italian soda or San Pellegrino flavored soda (your choice)

Selection of berries

Making it: Combine all ingredients; muddle berries (or other fruits) as you desire. Stir. Pour over ice (strain if desired). Add fruit as a garnish.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Preview: ‘Project Runway All Stars’

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Gunner Deatherage

As cheesy as “all-star” seasons of reality shows are, I totally get why they are addictive — and easy for producers: Lure back proven drama queens, bitches, egomaniacs and know already know the fur with fly.

So it’s no surprise the new version of Project Runway All Stars — which debuts tonight on Lifetime — stacks the deck with 14 returning contestants … and all but two of which (Season 4 drag queen costumer Chris March and Season 7 bitchy gay Jay Sario) are from the past three seasons (10, 11 and 12). Catty competitors Helen and Alexandria (Season 12) join sweet gay deaf boy Justin LeBlanc, but they can cast looks he doesn’t need a sign language interpreter to figure out.

Season 11′s Kate Pankoke (she also was on Season 12), Samantha Black, Benjamin Mach, finale runner-up Patricia Michaels and eventual winner Michelle Lesniak are a clique, as are Season 10′s uber-gay Fabio Costa and Gunner Deatherage, Sonja Williams and winner Dimitri Sholokhov. (They aren’t the only returning faces: So is host Alyssa Milano, judges Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman, and mentor Zanna Roberts Rossi.)

Because they all are returning faves, many of whom made it to late in the game, there aren’t any obviously outclassed contestants … but neither are they all likable. That’s OK. Still, such familiarity reduces the surprise factor, but for the most part if you’ve been a fan of recent seasons, you’ll continue to enjoy it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: ‘The Daily Show’ in Austin

The Daily Show always gets to the heart of a matter, and there’s probably no better coverage of Ebola — and of the frenzy over covering it — than what aired last night on the show, which originated from Austin. The entire episode, though, was awesome … especially the opening credits and the rivalry between Austin and Dallas and an interview with Wendy Davis. To watch the whole episode, you can go here, but the excerpt below is a great look at Ebola.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones