‘Trip to Bountiful’ extends by 3 performances

The success of Contemporary Theatre’s The Trip to Bountiful, directed by Rene Moreno, has led the company to extend the run by a week. Three additional performances — 8 p.m. shows on Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, May 8 — have been added.

The play is part of the Metroplex-wide Foote Festival. The extension makes final performance of Bountiful the last entry in the Festival. I reviewed it here. My final review of a Foote Festival entry — Kitchen Dog Theater’s collection of one acts called 3 Foote — runs in the Voice this coming Friday.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Foote Fetish: ‘Trip,’ ‘Roads’

Characters in Horton Foote plays tend to talk. And talk and talk and talk and talk and talk. It takes a savvy director to turn such static exposition into real theater, so it’s a boon that the last two new productions in the Metroplex’s Foote Festival have top-notch men showing us how to do it.

Rene Moreno has always specialized in drawing out great performances with little over action, a skill that reaps tremendous benefits in Contemporary Theatre of Dallas’ The Trip to Bountiful. Despite the word “trip,” the play is a static affair: Set in a cramped apartment, then a cramped bus, then a tiny, moldering house. But in the small moments, Moreno teases out a profound, small tale of old age.

Carrie (Elly Lindsay) has lived with her son (the terrifically hang-dog Tom Lenaghen) and his selfish wife Jessie Mae (Sue Loncar) in Houston for years, sharing her pension check to help them through, but she longs to see her home in Bountiful, Texas, one final time.

There’s no real mystery, here: We know you can’t go home again, and Carrie does too. But Lindsay captures, especially in Act 2, her need to connect with her roots one final time. She’s not dotty, she’s simply old, and as anyone who has ever talked to their grandmother knows, old age ain’t for sissies.

The tragedy in The Roads to Home at Theatre Three (pictured) doesn’t befall the elderly, but the young. In 1920s Houston, Annie (Renee Kelly), a flapper-era housewife, has been traumatized by the murder of her father, her own post-partem depression and the staggering loneliness of her life and has started to unravel. She drops in on her neighbor, who is from her same small town but doesn’t know quite what to make of her, forgetting the names of her own children. It’s what they used to call a “nervous condition,” but what we know better as bi-polar.

Three one-acts that fit together as a single play, The Roads to Home has plenty of humor, but also a more profound and deeply sad edge than any of the other plays in the Foote Festival. There are no happy endings here, despite all the laughter.

Other than Kelly, who delicately captures the otherworldliness of Annie, there are two stars of the show. One is director Terry Dobson, whose insertion of evocative stage business (making a pie, folding laundry, a masterful touch with a brandy snifter) keeps the show from being seized in a fit of words. The other is Pam Daugherty, whose comic timing and verbal dexterity turn chattering gossip into high comedy.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Visit ContemporaryTheatreofDallas.com and Theatre3Dallas.com for tickets.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2011.

—  John Wright

More entries for your Foote fetish

We review two of the entries in the Foote Festival in the Voice this week — Uptown Players’ The Young Man from Atlanta and WaterTower Theatre’s The Traveling Lady, as well as a review several weeks back of Dallas Theater Center’s Dividing the Estate — but the fest continues with a number of productions coming soon. Some today!

WingSpan Theatre Co. and One Thirty Productions are doing four performances of their staged reading of The Carpetbagger’s Children today and Saturday, with two shows each: 1:30 p.m. matinees and 8 p.m. evening perfofoamnces. Performances take place at the Bath House Cultural Center.

Contemporary Theatre of Dallas opens The Trip to Bountiful, directed by Rene Moreno, tonight at the Greenville Center for the Arts off Lower Greenville Avenue.

Theatre 3 is in previews of its production of The Roads Home, a collection of one-acts. Official opening night is Monday.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Plan your weekend: Two plays worth seeing

There was no room in the print edition this week or last to review all the shows I saw over the past few weeks, so I wanted to give a shout-out to two that deserves to be seen during this, their closing weekends: True West at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas and Creditors at Broken Gears Theatre Project.

True West, Sam Shapard’s modern reinterpretation of the Cain and Abel myth, pits Austin (Mike Schrader), a dour, responsible, by-the-rules screenwriter, against Lee (Gregory Lush), his manipulative numbskull petty crook brother. Lee considers himself an average American, which doesn’t speak very well of our culture. Austin, though, it just as deluded, with lofty, high-brow ideas for a script he’s pitching to an independent producer (T.A. Taylor). Lee perceived Hollywood as no better than he — a hustle is a hustle. Slowly, the brothers’ roles shift, creating tension and ample amounts of comedy.

Lee is a perfectly awful character, the unbridled id with access to a car. He uses his own version of logic illogically (think all those “deep” conversations lorded over by the preachy morons on reality TV) and you feel for Austin’s plight. Lush handles that dichotomy of amiable and infuriating expertly, and brings an aggressive physicality to the part (he really destroys that typewriter with a golf club — I hate to see a classic so brutalized). If Schrader’s desperation is less engaging, it’s not due to him, but to Austin’s self-destructiveness.

Shepard isn’t performed as often as he deserves to be. His plays don’t fit in easy pigeonholes of comedy, drama, romance. He’s all things, and True West is a superior achievement.

Creditors is a  very different play in many way — 90 years older than True West — but no less relevant. This taut three-character drama is a shockingly contemporary and breathlessly intimate psychological thriller. Although it pre-dates Freud, Strindberg’s dissection of the human will is unnervingly accurate.

A frail artist (Evan Fuller) recovers at a resort with the support of a fellow traveler (Elias Taylorson), who probes the man about his unfulfilling relationship with his wife (Meredith Morton). With laser accuracy, he dissects the dynamics of their relationship and devises a ploy for making him see the pointlessness of his marriage. But things aren’t what they full appear to be.

Broken Gears, located in a rustic 30-seat theater across from the Grapevine Bar, is the perfect setting for this claustrophobic investigation into revenge and suspicion. The characters rarely talk above a hushed conversation, which creates unnerving closeness not just to the actors, but to the emotions. Director Rene Moreno keeps it clean and unfussy, with minimal movement that seems not stiff but still.

All the actors are exceptional, with Fuller seeming to undergo actual asthmatic attacks and Taylorson’s professorial demeanor wholly convincing. SO intense is the action that at a recent performance, a sudden crashing noise offstage (intentional) caused the entirety of the audience to startle. It grabs you by the short hairs. Catch it before it’s gone.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

’Tis the season

Christmastime gears up stage traditions

PANTO-MOM | Ivan Jones, right, plays Governess Amplebottom in ‘Babes in the Wood,’ a fairy tale take on Robin Hood that’s suitable for kids but full of double entendres. (Photo by Mark Trew)

With Thanksgiving now behind us, theater companies are pullout out their Christmas fare — many with more-than-holiday appeal to the gay community. Check out these shows that might jingle your bells.

A Christmas Carol (Dallas Theater Center). The classic production returns to Oak Lawn, with a few tweaks. Back in the cast are local actors Chamblee Ferguson and Liz Mikel … only this time in new roles. Ferguson has matured from Cratchit to his boss, playing Scrooge, and Mikel returns, now in the role of the ghost of Jacob Marley. Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Opens Dec. 3, runs daily (except Mondays) through Dec. 24. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

The Santaland Diaries (Contemporary Theatre of Dallas). Another tradition is back, as actor Nye Cooper and director Coy Covington add some holiday jeer with David Sedaris’ hilarious antidote to Christmas treacle, about a gay elf toiling away at Macy’s during the holiday. Ho-ho-homo! Greenville Center for the Arts, 5601 Sears St. Opens Dec. 3; runs weekends through Dec. 23. ContemporaryTheatreofDallas.com.

Babes in the Wood (Theatre Britain). Dallas’ resident Anglophile troupe has a new venue and a new show, its annual world premiere panto. A tradition in England for 200 years, this fairy tale always features a cross-dressing comic dame (played this year by Ivan Jones) who tells lots of lascivious jokes that go over the kids’ heads but keep the adults laughing. Cox Building Playhouse, 1517 Avenue H, Plano. Opens Dec. 3, runs weekends through Dec. 23. Theatre-Britain.com.

The Drowsy Chaperone (Theatre Three). It’s not a Christmas show, but this buoyant musical — about a forgotten but goofily charming Depression Era musical that comes to life in a gay man’s apartment — is loaded with good cheer and a smartness about the conventions of the form. Theatre Three, 2900 Routh St. in the Quadrangle. Currently in previews; opens Dec. 6, runs through Jan. 8 (no performances Christmas week). Theatre3Dallas.com.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

All are invited to ‘Mama’s Party’ tonight at Contemporary Theatre

Get your cabaret fix on a school night

Even if it is the beginning of the work week, Monday nights are a Dallas must thanks to Amy Stevenson, pictured, who hosts Mama’s Party. Every Monday, local musicians and actors come together for a night of song and for a mere pittance. Where else could you get an array of major stage talents performing an ample night of music for cheap? Oh, oh, we know the answer!

This week’s show will feature Morgan Swann, Andy Baldwin, Chad Perterson and Drew Kelly.

DEETS: Contemporary Theater of Dallas, 5601 Sears St.. 7 p.m. $5. MamasParty.com or look up on Facebook.

—  Rich Lopez