STAGE BRIEFS

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The Night of the Iguana. As if we need further evidence that Rene Moreno is Dallas’ best director, we have this remarkable production as Exhibit A, pictured right. Tennessee Williams’ last great play is set in tropical Acapulco, so most productions emphasize its steam sexuality. But Moreno — at least in Act 1 — discovers Williams’ biting humor, staging the action with the pacing of a farce. He saves the sultry stuff for Act 2, allowing the melodrama to sneak up on it.

Set at a run-down motel in the off-season, it features a hurricane, a failed clergyman (Ashley Wood, appropriately manic) tied to a hammock, a slutty proprietress (Cindee Mayfield, who could unleash a whole new career as a bad girl) and an underaged nymphomaniac. Hey, it is Williams.

It clicks along so spritely, with the cast (including Elizabeth Van Winkle, and Terry Vandivort delivering his best performance in years) capturing the exaggerated Southern melody or Tennessee’s over-wrought dialogue, you get easily lost. Imbuing a classic with fresh energy is one fine feat.
Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Through Mar. 4.

Pluck the Day. It’s been almost 10 years since Second Thought Theatre produced Pluck the Day, a comedy about quirky Texans set entirely on a ramshackled porch littered with beer cans and forgotten dreams. The original was a longish two-acter about lost 20somethings.

The revisions by STT’s co-artistic director, Steven Walters, of his rambling play tighten a lot of the action, but the major accomplishment is one that the calendar gets the most credit for: The maturing of the characters. Now they are in their 30s, when the malaise of realizing your best years were more than a decade back really sets in.

The men at the center are an unusual trio, despite their similar upbringings. Duck (Clay Yokum) is a dumb, married redneck and proud of it; Fred (Mike Shrader) is his bachelor counterpart, about to pop the question; and Bill (Chris LaBove) the smart gay one who has hung around this one-stoplight town for far too long. But just how gay is Bill?

The plot revolved around a did-they-or-didn’t-they plot you might have caught on Three’s Company, but there’s a sweetness to it all and a full share of laughs, especially when Duck — who wouldn’t know a metrosexual if he gay-bashed him — wonders why Bill isn’t attracted to him. Been there.
Second Thought Theatre. Through Feb. 26.

stage-2-2Bring It On: The Musical. Talk about the power of the pyramid: Cheerleading onstage kicks ass. Oh, say what you will about it being a cheesy faux-sport practiced by mean girls (there’s a lot of that here, no question) — when you see a man in a tank-top and shorts do a running back-flip across the stage, it’s hard not to fall in love.

Or at least in serious, serious like, which is the reaction you’ll have to Bring It On, pictured left. While based on the teen rom-com, the touring production now at Fair Park creates its own story about Campbell (Taylor Louderman), a flighty senior cheer goddess and team captain gerrymandered into an inner city school district. In predictable fashion, she rallies the hip-hop girls (including one sassy black trans, given an overdose of spunk by Gregory Haney) into turning their dance crew into a cheer squad.

Like Legally Blonde, or even Hairspray, it’s a sunny, silly story about the redemption of a teen queen through the power of (fill in the blank: Law, cheerleading, dancing). But like Wicked, it’s also underhandedly smart, with a catchy, contemporary score and clever lyrics.

The tour hasn’t made it to Broadway; it probably doesn’t need to go there. New York audiences probably imagine themselves too sophisticated to appreciate a musical about cheering; here in the hinterlands, we’re not ashamed to stand up and rah-rah at impressive displays of athleticism that come with singing as well. Go, team!
Dallas Summer Musicals. Through Feb. 26.

The Secret Life of Girls. Thank God I don’t have kids — and am not one anymore. Dallas Children’s Theater tackles teen bullying in its studio production, but not in a way you might expect. There are no hate crimes here, nor even an obvious hero or villain, just continually readjusting cliques among teen girls. It’s the darker side of Bring It On, where sniping doesn’t warrant a “snap!” but leads to cutting and bulimia. Though gay issues are not directly addressed, it’s an instructive and shockingly timely show (followed by a therapist-led talk-back) that all families can walk away from with new insights into how hard it can be to grow up.
Dallas Children’s Theater. Through Feb. 26. Suitable for teens and adults.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s Brewing: Craigslist congressman sought trans women; Maryland marriage bill in jeopardy

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Republican Congressman Chris Lee, who abruptly resigned Feb. 9 after Gawker published his shirtless Craigslist photos, wasn’t only looking for cisgender women with whom to have adulterous sex. Gawker now reports that Lee had also posted an ad (above) seeking “passable” transsexual or cross-dressing women, which could explain why he resigned so quickly. It could also seriously complicate Lee’s efforts to smooth things over with his wife.

2. A marriage equality bill that passed the Maryland Senate last week is suddenly in jeopardy in the House, where it was once thought to be assured of passage. The Washington Blade reports that the bill is short of the 71 votes it needs, with at least one former co-sponsor having caved under enormous pressure from the religious right.

3. The King’s Speech was the big winner Sunday night at the Oscars, taking home five awards including best picture, best director and best actor. For a complete list of results from the 83rd annual Academy Awards, go here.

—  John Wright

Could the Emmys have been any gayer?

Jane Lynch

The first half hour of the Emmy Awards on Sunday night were gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. And lesbian.

Ryan Murphy, winner of best director of a comedy, kissed his boyfriend before running up on stage to accept his award.

Jane Lynch, who won best supporting actress in a comedy, kissed her wife and then thanked her on stage.

The controversy about ABC’s gay-friendly comedy “Modern Family” has been when will Cam and Mitchell kiss? They answered that question last night. Erik Stonestreet won best supporting actor in a comedy. He kissed his wife and then kissed his TV husband, Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Neil Patrick Harris won best guest appearance in a comedy by an actor. Golden Girl Betty White won best guest appearance by an actress. Harris thanked the Academy for allowing a gay man to host the show two years in a row. (Harris, who hosted last year, is gay. No one would be surprised if Jimmy Fallon, who hosted this year, came out.)

The show straightened up after the first awards, with a few more gay Emmys through the night. Aaron Paul, who won best supporting actor in a drama for his role in “Breaking Bad,” kissed his partner. The writers for the Tony Awards won best writing for a special and “Modern Family” won best comedy.

—  David Taffet