Stage: Year In Review 2010

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | jones@dallasvoice.com

1-GE6_81212010 proved to be an oddly uninvolving season at the theater.

The tours, even the good ones, were often retreads of past shows (I love Avenue Q and Wicked, but have seen them already — a lot) or dreadfully overproduced, crap (the unwatchable Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the appalling Shrek).

Local companies tried to be creative, with mixed results. There were high points — and when they were high, they were spectacular — but mostly it was middle-of-the-road stuff and disappointing, unfulfilled promise. And when things were bad, as they were with the disastrously under-realized reinvention of It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Superman! at the Dallas Theater Center, they almost made me red-faced with rage. But there was still enough to warrant a “best of” list, and here they are.

10. August: Osage County and 9. Spring Awakening (Lexus Broadway Series). The two best tours of the year were both part of the new series at the Winspear. Neither was quite as good as the New York productions, but August, with its epic take on the family dynamic, and Awakening, with its frank, modern spin on sexual yearning, made the hassles of going to the Arts District worth the effort.

2-GE1_9612
WINNER’S CIRCLE | Fort Worth’s Circle Theatre managed two of the best shows of the year: ‘Opus,,’ left, and ‘Bach at Leipzig,’ both of which made classical music exciting.

8. The Beauty Plays (Dallas Theater Center). Give credit to the DTC for tackling three Neil LaBute plays often relegated to more “alternative” theater companies by putting them in rep in the 99-seat Wyly black box. These are uncomfortable plays to watch, with the versions of Fat Pig and Reasons to Be Pretty outlapping The Shape of Things, but the series itself was a welcome bit of daring programming.

7. SubUrbia (Upstart Productions). Taking on its second Eric Bogosian play in a year, and on the heels of This Is Our Youth, Upstart showed an admirable facility with modern plays about aimlessness.

6. Boom and 5. Charm (Kitchen Dog Theater). Two vastly different comedies — Boom, a futurist tale about a gay guy wanting to repopulate the world, and Charm, a period piece about a feminist icon — turned basically unfunny ideas into beautiful, almost surrealist bits of whimsy.

4. Our Town (WaterTower Theatre). After a few disappointing seasons, WaterTower got back on track with this American classic. Defying conventional wisdom that it’s an “easy” piece of sentimental tripe, director Terry Martin fathomed its iconic, homespun realism. It’s a more peculiar piece than it gets credit for, and the realization here was exquisite.

5-Charm-PR-George-&-Margaret-copy
FEMINISM GONE WILD! | Tina Parker, right, played an independent woman in 19th century America in Kitchen Dog’s aptly named ‘Charm.’

3. My Fair Lady (Lyric Stage). The best musical on the list was Lyric Stage’s gussied-up, NEA-granted, original orchestrated mounting of one of theaterdom’s crowning glories. (It’s probably the best book of a musical ever written … which you can attribute to Shaw.) Magnificently costumed and designed, and directed with panache by Cheryl Denson, it was like a time machine to 1954, and proved why Steven Jones is North Texas’ finest theater producer.

2. Bach at Leipzig and 1. Opus (Circle Theatre). Fort Worth had it all over Dallas (and Irving!) with the two best shows on the year. In Bach, playwright Itamar Moses conceived of his play — a comedy about Baroque composers — as a theatrical fugue, and director Robin Armstrong made it happen with gorgeous sets and a cast that understands that farce is more than pie-throwing, but the melding of wordplay and swordplay in equal doses. But Circle Theatre also claimed the best show of the year, also about music, with Opus, in which a gay couple’s breakup nearly ruins a famed string quartet. If all classical music were this enchanting, Mozart will still be on the pop charts.

…………………………………….

ACTOR OF THE YEAR

The stage — especially local theater — is a great medium for actors to stretch themselves. There were some strong ensembles this year, in both of the top plays, Bach at Leipzig (especially Steven Pounders and Andy Baldwin — and excluding the actor who played Bach himself, who missed his only cue) and Opus, as well as the three leads in the No. 3 show, J. Brent Alford, Kimberley Whalen and Sonny Franks in My Fair Lady. Terry Martin made a good Stage Manager in Our Town, but it was the performances he elicited as the director from Joey Folsom, Maxey Whitehead and Ted Wold that stood out most. Folsom was strong, too, in SubUrbia. Tina Parker led a great cast in Charm with her patented wide-eyed energy.

DTC_031010_FATPIG_dress_078Sometimes what most impresses you, though, is someone good in a show that doesn’t deserve it. Morgana Shaw made Closer to Heaven a hoot (despite a deeply problematic script), and Gregory Lush’s flamboyant turn in Sherlock Holmes in the Crucifer of Blood gave the show a jolt. Wendy Welch transformed the likeable revue Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits into the comic highlight of the fall. And the up-and-down revision of Henry IV was made hilarious with the return to the DTC of Randy Moore. R Bruce Elliot’s interpretation of Beethoven in 33 Variations almost saved that rambling show. Almost.

But the actor who I will judge 2010 by will always be Regan Adair. He took on two roles in DTC’s Beauty Plays  — Fat Pig, where he played a conflicted yuppie (pictured above with Christina Vela), and Reasons to Be Pretty, as a working class lech — so vastly different you could hardly recognize him from show to show. His way with Shakespearean dialogue in Henry IV and his harried but touching take on Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol showed how effortlessly he can assault a variety of genres.

Adair is moving away from Dallas in 2011 — a terrible loss to our artistic community; he’s been a frequent finalist on my year-end list. But even if he weren’t leaving, he deserves to be recognized as the actor of the year.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Moriarty’s contract with DTC extended to 2014

Kevin Moriarty

Kevin Moriarty, the gay artistic director of the Dallas Theater Center, will be in town a little longer.

Moriarty, who took over the post in 2007, had his contract extended this week through the end of the 2013-14 season, keeping him as head of the 52-year-old company through August 2014.

The DTC also finished its fiscal year in the black for the eighth time in 10 years, with a budget surplus, despite spending exorbitantly on the revamped musical It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman.

The DTC’s managing director, Mark Hadley, announced his departure earlier this year; this month represented his last show with the organization. He will be working with a church in Arlington. A search is currently under way for his replacement.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A curtain falls

Propmaster Rick Gilles, DTC’s butchest employee, leaves to be with his man

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Rick Gilles
GO WEST | While finishing up work at DTC’s production studio, Gilles is planning his big move to California — for love. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

Two loves separated by long distance. One left for his future. The other stayed for their future. But now, happily ever after is about to begin.

Quick, what is that? Tagline in a movie trailer for the next sappy Reese Witherspoon rom-com? No, but it is based on a true story. After 14 years in Dallas, Rick Gilles is packing up and heading west to be with his partner Shannon Swindle. Once they are reunited after a year-and-a-half separation, the plan for Gilles is to settle in, get a job and begin planning their wedding next year (initially scheduled for this year). It’s a real-world romance just in time for Prop 8 being overturned.

“I started realizing that I wasn’t going to get the wedding I wanted,” Gilles laughs. “We had been talking about it for a little while, but with the stress of moving, we postponed until next year. We want it outdoors in Napa Valley with close family and friends. And that isn’t going to come particularly cheap.”

Swindle built a sweet reputation as the pastry chef at Craft in Dallas’ W Hotel, but last year he was transferred to the Los Angeles location. He’s been living in an apartment, waiting for Gilles. But as the properties master for the Dallas Theater Center, Gilles had his own full plate — namely, moving into the new Wyly Theatre. After 14 seasons working at the DTC, he couldn’t bring himself to just leave without seeing it flourish.

“Part of the reason the move didn’t happen earlier was I had been working on getting this theater open,” he says. “I really wanted to see that to fruition and see it go through a full season.”

When Gilles wasn’t constructing sets and working on props for the stage, he was an active member of the Leather Knights (see sidebar), where he found something beyond his leather interest: He could also make an impact on the local LGBT community that he doesn’t foresee in L.A.
“When I lived there before it took a lot more effort, time and money to be involved,” he says. “With Leather Knights, I could fit into my schedule and help the community and contribute my talents.”

Perhaps the hardest part of Gilles’ move isn’t just leaving his longtime tenure at DTC, but chiefly because, he isn’t all that ready to leave Dallas. Coming here from Buffalo (though originally from California), Gilles has made his connection to the city.

“I’ll be really sad to leave here,” he admits. “Dallas has treated me exceptionally well. I love this job and I love Dallas a lot. But ultimately, I’m really excited about the future. We’ve been living apart long enough.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Casting news; B'way hunk Matt Cavenaugh will be Superman

CavenaughThe Dallas Theater Center’s updating of the ’60s-era musical It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman! gets its first major casting announcement. Matt Cavenaugh — who played Jerry and Joseph Kennedy Jr. in the Broadway production of Grey Gardens — will take on the role of Clark Kent/Man of Steel. I guess this means I need to spend even MORE time at the gym … if I want to be Jimmy Olsen.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones