REVIEW: ‘Angels Fall’ at CTD

Angels 3When Angels Fall opened on Broadway in 1983, it wasn’t meant be a period piece, but in the 30 years since, that’s sort of what it has become: Nuclear energy, Native American rights, religion, mental illness — all were buzzworthy topics back then.

Wait a minute … aren’t they still?

That’s sometimes the magic of theater: A story that seems rooted in its time continues to resonate for decades later, even when the iconography seems different: Athletes wearing socks up to the knee, people using pay phones, hairdos that haven’t been fashionable since the Reagan Administration. The playwright, Lanford Wilson, speaks about the human condition so simply and honestly, the look matters less than the feeling.

There’s plenty of feeling in this production at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, directed forthrightly by Rene Moreno. Six folks — college prof Niles (James Crawford) and his young wife Vita (Allison Pistorius), art collector Marion (Sue Loncar) and her boy-toy tennis pro Zappy (Jake Buchanan), and squirrelly genius Don (Ivan Jasso) and his foster parent, Father Doherty (H. Francis Fuselier) — spend an afternoon together in a remote New Mexico mission. The roads are impassable due to a problem at the nearby nuclear reactor. Are these the end times? Or just a reminded that we’re always on the brink?

Angels Fall is the old-school “comedy-drama” in the best sense. Interpersonal relationships fuel the exposition, not vice-versa: We learn about Niles’ mental breakdown and Don’s ambivalence about his future organically, without contrivance or melodrama. (The most theatrical bit is the coincidence that brings them all to church, a completely forgivable conceit.) There’s a richness and authenticity undergirding the lives of these people.

A lot of that is Moreno’s legendary skills at storytelling, but much rests with the cast. The strained marriage between Niles and Vita is brittly parsed by Crawford and Pistorius, and Buchanan gets in man comic riffs; his May-December romance with Loncar feels real. And Fuselier’s whimsical, leprechaunish befuddlement scores over and over.

Rodney Dobbs’ set is amazing, too, but it’s what’s inside that works. Wilson was a prolific playwright who’s seldom talked about in reverential tones; with productions like this (and the recent The Madness of Lady Bright), he may receive the critical reevaluation he deserves.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: Leslie Jordan’s “Fruit Fly”

Throughout the opening night performance of Leslie Jordan’s one-man show Fruit Fly, which runs through tomorrow at the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, the flamboyant actor and comedian referred to his standup act; that’s not what this is. In fact, while hysterically funny in ways that print cannot do justice, Fruit Fly is, first and foremost, a performance: In the course of 90 minutes (it was only suppose to be about 70, but he was on a roll), Jordan spoke not only in his own voice but that of his still-living mother, a hard-drinking Southern lady, an antique drag queen, an obese speakeasy proprietress and too many more to count.

“I’ve always been a good mimic,” Jordan notes almost off-handedly.

No shit.

The show — basically a living room slide presentation tracing Jordan throughout his life of debauchery (“this is just the tip of the iceberg” he says after explaining how he contracted gonorrhea at age 13), his coming out (“Mama would laugh, then say, ‘Don’t tell daddy’”) and his relationship with his mother, father (who died tragically young) and his twin sisters — is surprisingly thin on Hollywood gossip. It barely even mentions his career, except to frame certain issues (going on a gay cruise as the entertainment, how London cabbies recognize him from Sordid Lives, etc.). But it doesn’t need any name-dropping: His life is so endlessly fascinating, you could sit and listen to him, in that squeaky Tennessee drawl, wax for hours more. (It’s amazing he survived this long.)

“You can’t make this shit up!” Jordan says, only half joking. He’s got that right. It’s an unmissibly dishy and touching performance, a real intimate night of theater that feels more like a dinner party with the best host you could imagine.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Leslie Jordan’s “Fruit Fly” tonight at Contemporary Theatre

Me and Mrs. Jordan

The last year, Jordan got booked in Los Angeles on the condition he perform all-new material. “I started thinking about my mother and how she had this box of slides. My mom was the last of nine and my dad was the baby of his family, too, so when the babies had a baby, I was photographed relentlessly.”

That became the basis for Fruit Fly, in which Jordan finally answers the age-old question: Do gay men become their mothers?

Read the entire article here.

DEETS:

—  Rich Lopez

Leslie Jordan finally gives me credit — sort of

I have a history with Leslie Jordan.

Back in September of 2006, I had a pre-arranged interview with him on the Monday between two big events: On the previous Saturday, he would be attending the “technical” Emmy Awards — what Kathy Griffin so derisively calls “The Schmemmys” — as a nominee for best guest actor in a comedy series for Will & Grace; the following Sunday would be the actual broadcast prime time ceremony.

The latter wouldn’t matter much if Jordan didn’t win; but if he won, it would be big: It meant that Jordan would personally present an award the following Sunday.

And he won.

So, it’s now Monday morning, and Jordan has been an Emmy winner all of 36 hours when we talk. I of course congratulate him. He’s ecstatic. “It hasn’t been out of my hand since I won!” he gushed. “I even take it to be with me.” “Is that the first woman you’ve ever slept with?” I asked. He laughed.

Imagine my surprise six days later, watching Jordan present with Cloris Leachman … and use my very line.

Jordan is an inveterate thief of other people’s material, which he owns up to in my interview, in the paper Friday. But I was most gratified by this exchange we had earlier this week:

One of the producers on Will & Grace — I’m not saying which one — was never quite a fan of Beverly Leslie [the character he played on the show]/ He didn’t think it was funny and was too effeminate — he’d always say “Butch it up!” but the direct said, “Less butch!” So after I won the Emmy, he was the only on the show who didn’t congratulate me. Instead, he said, “You stole my line.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Years ago, when I won my Emmy, I said ‘She’s the only woman who’ll even be in my bedroom.’ I got mad. I said, “I did not steal that line from you! I stole it from Arnold Wayne Jones of Dallas, Texas!

I guess we all have to take our credit where we can get it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Cheaters’ plays tonight at CTD

Always getting caught

The Contemporary Theatre of Dallas presents Cheaters written by Michael Jacobs and directed by Michael Serrecchia. No, this isn’t a stage version of that horrible reality show putting cheating boyfriends and girflriends on the spot. The couples here intertwine dangerously before a young couple’s wedding. It’s both funny and oh-so wrong. Did he really sleep with her?

The cast includes Sue Loncar, Ted Wold, Jim Johnson, Marcia Carroll, Danielle Pickard & Andrews Cope.

DEETS: CTD, 5601 Sears St. 8 p.m. $22–$32. ContemporaryTheatreOfDallas.com

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000149 EndHTML:0000000416 StartFragment:0000000199 EndFragment:0000000382 StartSelection:0000000199 EndSelection:0000000382 Sue Loncar, Ted Wold, Jim Johnson, Marcia Carroll, Danielle Pickard & Andrews Cope

—  Rich Lopez

Arts notes … and some things to do this weekend

5 Women extends run at CTD

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, a catty Southern-fried (and queerish) comedy about bridesmaids that’s in a fun production at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, has extended its run. Rather than closing this Sunday, you get an extra weekend to see the show (which I reviewed here). The additional performances will be Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16 at 8 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, July 17.

Ease on Down the Road to Wyly tonight

The Dallas Theater Center holds a pay-what-you-can performance of the new show, The Wiz, tonight at 8, but before that you can come to a street party in the Arts District, starting at 5 p.m.

Tiff’s Treats opens this weekend in Plano

I don’t mind admitting that I am addicted to Tiff’s Treats, the local company that delivers warm, delicious, fat-, calorie- and cholesterol-free (OK, I make up those last ones) cookies. They come in a metal lined box — how can you not love these? There are now three Tiff’s Treats stores in the Metroplex, and the fourth opens this weekend. You can come the pre-opening event on Saturday, where sales will benefit the Make-A-Wish foundation, with the grand opening on Sunday. The locale is 5750 State Highway 121.

Dish holds Drag Brunch Sunday

Dish Restaurant in the ilume continues its monthly drag brunch on Sunday, with hosts Krystal Summers and Erica Andrews. There are two seatings, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., with a flat $25 including bottomless mimosas.

Page One opens July 15

In today’s print edition, we reviewed the documentary Page One, but the movie is not opening today but rather next Friday, July 15, at the Angeilka Fil Centers in Plano and Mokingbird Station.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones