REVIEW: ‘Finishing School’ at the Bath House

Elaine Liner author Sweater Curse photo by Daylon Walton 700dpi

Elaine Liner, by Daylon Walton

Some props to my friend, Elaine Liner. Elaine made her acting debut (at least since college!) last year in her one-woman show Sweater Curse (one of my favorite productions of 2013), and barely two months later, she’s represented on the boards again — not as an actor, but as a playwright. (She also penned Sweater.)

Finishing School, which finishes up at the Bath House Cultural Center Saturday, had a troubled launch. She wrote it with the wonderful Larry Randolph in mind, but he fell ill on opening eve, and the producer, One-Thirty Productions (which produces only matinees that begin, natch, at 1:30 p.m.), decided to forge ahead with a replacement in Larry’s role (Gordon Fox). I was finally able to catch it this week, with only two performances to go (today and tomorrow), but I’m glad I took the time. Even if I didn’t like Elaine already, I’d like this play: It’s smart, observant (about the hazards of growing old, and how entering one’s twilight years doesn’t mean abandoning love) and rat-a-tat hilarious, with zingers that a punnier critic might call one-Liners. Ahem. Who’m I kidding, I am a punny critic.

Fox is actually doing fine in the role of a 94-year-old who befriends a younger resident of a retirement home (John S. Davies), who’s not sure what life hold. Catherine DuBord and Ellen Locy provide some vibrancy in smaller roles, and even B.J. Cleveland manages a cameo (unseen) as the home’s activities director on the public address center. Seems like watching plays professionally has given Liner insight on how to write them, too.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Theater Critics Forum bestows honors

The DFW Theater Critics Forum met last week over friend chicken and sweet tea to bestow its annual awards for local theater excellence, as as usual, the gay community was well-represented.

Of the eight best director winners, five locals were gay: Regan Adair for Red Light Winter, Rene Moreno for three shows (The Trip to Bountiful, No Child… and Creditors), Michael Serrecchia for two shows (Uptown Players’ Next to Normal and ICT MainStage’s How to Succeed…), Joel Ferrell for two shows at DTC (Cabaret and Dividing the Estate), and Len Pfluger for My Fair Lady at Lyric Stage. Pfluger’s partner, Jay Dias, was also singled out for his season of music direction with Lyric.

Larry Randolph, as a tragic drag queen in One-Thirdy Productions’ FIT entry, The Madness of Lady Bright, was a popular choose for acting, as were two New York actors who sizzled at the Wyly (and whom we interviewed): Wade McCollum as the M.C. in Cabaret, pictured, and Sydney James Harcourt as the Tin Man in The Wiz. Whitney Hennen, the ditzy blonde in Uptown’s Victor/Victoria, was also singled out.

Justin Locklear received the second Emerging Artist Award for his acting and costume work this season with Balanced Almond, which actually won him two other individual awards.

In addition to yours truly, participating critics in Martha Heimberg (Turtle Creek News); Elaine Liner (Dallas Observer); Mark Lowry (TheaterJones and Fort Worth Star-Telegram); M. Lance Lusk (D Magazine); David Novinski (TheaterJones); Punch Shaw (Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Perry Stewart (TheaterJones); Lawson Taitte (Dallas Morning News); and Lindsey Wilson (D Magazine).

Full list below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

B.J. Cleveland: Tragedy to triumph in 24 hours

If you ever wondered whether the theatrical cliche “the show must go on!” was anything more than that — a cliche — you’d know for sure it isn’t if you were at the Kalita Humphreys on Sunday. Our friends at TheaterJones post this amazing story about B.J. Cleveland stepping in for an injured actor in Uptown Players’ production of Victor/Victoria (which I reviewed in this week’s edition). You can also read about it from Elaine Liner at the Dallas Observer blog. Facebook was flooded with comments and admiration for Cleveland, one of North Texas’ most notable and popular entertainers for more than 20 years.

I texted B.J. Sunday night to offer my condolences and congratulate him on his triumph just a few hours after his curtain call. He was in the middle of writing his father’s obituary.

That’s one dedicated theater queen, I’ll tell ya.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Observer honors TCC, Uptown Players, Station 4, Gary Fitzsimmons, Kevin Moriarty

This week’s Observer goes jumbo size with its annual Best of Dallas issue. These are the best issues because it’ll give the obvious kudos to best club, restaurant, actor, etc., but then also goes out of the box for awards like “Best Shiny Happy People” (The Dallas Family Band) and “Best Two-Fisted Drinking” (The Dirty Dusty at City Tavern (Ed. note: agreed!)). We were happily surprised to see the space they gave to some LGBT faves.

Right at the front of the first section in Culture, we see the award for Glee Club given to the Turtle Creek Chorale with a feature written by Elaine Liner. She continues her gay ways with a second feature, “Homecoming Queens” about Israel Luna’s travails as a controversial indie filmmaker. If you caught the live video stream of his radio show today on Rational Broadcasting, he flashed the page for the camera.

Other LGBT awards went to Kevin Moriarty, Dallas Theater Center (best theater director), “Broadway Our Way” by Uptown Players (best theater fundraiser), Gay List Daily (best blast of gay), District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons (best bureaucrat)and Station 4 (best dance club).

There are some others, but you’ll have to snag your own copy to read further on. But don’t try the boxes down here on Fitzhugh. They are cleaned out.

Congrats to all the winners.

—  Rich Lopez

New druggies picked for ‘Celeb Rehab’

Someone needs to create a series called Non-Celebrity Obsessive Rehab with Dr. Drew so my friend Elaine Liner can be on it — she hearts the silver fox shrink. A lot. Instead, she’ll have to make do watching the latest installment of the Celebrity Rehab series. VH1 announced today those who will be appearing on this fourth cycle, which includes Jeremy London (he who claims to have been kidnapped and forced drugs), Janice Dickinson (the crazy, bisexual, self-descibed “first supermodel” — she apparently never heard of Suzy Parker — or, for that matter, Cheryl Tiegs or Twiggy), and former teen idol Leif Garrett. Can’t wait to see those train wrecks.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

'Corpus Christi' to be performed in Fort Worth

John Otte

John Otte

The controversial class production of the Terrence McNally play “Corpus Christi” will be performed in Fort Worth.

John Jordan Otte, the student who chose the play as a project for his advanced directing class, said that a date has not been set but he wants to finish the semester first. He said the date will probably be sometime in late May.

He is working with Elaine Liner and Mark Lowry of Theater Jones to bring the production to the Metroplex and the production will be held at the Rose Marine Theater west of downtown. The Fort Worth theater is more than 2 1/2 times larger than the space it would have been presented in at Tarleton State University.

—  David Taffet