Kristy McNichol comes out

There must have been something in the craft services table on the set of the ’70s drama Family. First Meredith Baxter, now co-star Kristy McNichol has come out as lesbian.

In an interview with People magazine, the 49-year-old actress — who won Emmys for Family at ages 14 and 16 and later starred on the sitcom Empty Nest — said it was about time. About two years ago, Baxter, who played McNichol’s sister on the show, also came out.

On Family, McNichol played Buddy, the tomboy youngest sibling. She was always something of a lesbian icon for her rough, no-nonsense persona; on Empty Nest, she played a cop.

Dare we ask… Can Jo from The Facts of Life be far behind?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sitcomy and shrill, ‘Cheaters’ revives the ’80s with failed farce

stage-2

As someone over 40 myself, my suspicions are raised when a 22-year-old writes a play that purports to parse the mindsets and pecadilloes of middle-aged couples. But Michael Jacobs — who has since created such execrable sitcom dreck as My Two Dads and Charles in Charge — couldn’t even rent a car when his play Cheaters had a justifiably brief run on Broadway in 1978. It’s about two sets of bickering, faithless 50-somethings and a young couple (Danielle Pickard and Andrews Cope, above) who are trying to decide whether to marry. The plot probably says more about Jacobs’ issues with commitment than it does the titular marrieds.

For its current production, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas has updated the timeline to the mid-’80s — the height of miserable sitcomania and intrusive laugh-tracks —as if to justify how shrill and unpleasant all the characters are: It’s the Reagan Era, after all, you can’t expect people to behave civilly. Aside from that, all this change means is that we have to endure stylized scene changes where chambermaids re-set the hotel room while listening to Love Connection and The Facts of Life drone on the TV. It was impossible to stomach that detritus on its first run; who wants to endure it as a captive?

There are more coincidences — and non-coincidences — than even the most forgiving of audiences will likely accede to willingly. Each cheating pair is the parent to one of the young lovers; even though they have lived together for two years, none of their folks have ever met before the awkward family dinner where all secret infidelities are revealed. It’s meant to be a French farce, though it replaces nuance and wordplay with mugging and shouting: Call it La Cage aux Fail.

It might be tolerable if anyone onstage were remotely likable; alas, the women are all shrill, the men controlling and angry. And they are all clad in ugly costumes, the worst of which is Marcia Carroll saddled with wearing a flight suit that makes her look like something that would get you booted off Project Runway. Ted Wold at least has his signature snarky attitude, which allows him to spit out the contrived dialogue with an inherent sense of humor, though that’s just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Greenville Center for the Arts,
5601 Sears St. Through Sept. 24.
ContemporaryTheatreofDallas .com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Golden opportunity

MENOPAUSE MAYHEM | Men in drag tackle the classic TV character from ‘The Golden Girls’ in a show almost too racy to produce. (Photo by Mike Morgan)

Director B.J. Cleveland goes from kids to kink with trashy parody

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

B.J. Cleveland is gay, and in the theater, so spending every waking hour at Station 4 for the past week shouldn’t seem out of the ordinary. Only he’s having a different kind of fun from what you might expect.

“Very, very odd to be in a bar that’s deserted — it’s like being a kid in a candy store with no money,” he says with a wink. “It’s an empty bar but fully stocked, and you can’t touch a thing.”

By night for the past three weeks, Cleveland has met his cast and crew in the off-hours of the Rose Room, readying the latest camp spectacle from Uptown Players, Thank You for Being a Friend. Like the company’s two past shows in the same space — The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode and Mommie Queerest — it’s a parody of a gay fave, performed by men in drag: The Golden Girls.

Because it’s an unofficial send-up of the classic sitcom, the names have been tweaked: Rose becomes Roz, Sophia becomes Sophie, etc. But, Cleveland insists, you’ll recognize all the characters and set-ups from the series.

“It takes place in the kitchen just like on the show, until the end where it moves to Shady Pines retirement center where the girls compete against Lance Bass to win a talent contest,” Cleveland says. “It’s basically a goofy 90-minute episode: Lance Bass has moved in next door and is having wild gay orgies. The girls take him a basket of dusty muffins to convince him to keep the noise down,” but things escalate.

Uh-huh.

You won’t just recognize the Golden moments, either — this is a musical, with some original songs and alterations of Broadway standards: There’s some Dreamgirls, Chicago, Gypsy and 9 to 5 thrown in for good measure — even a spoof of Madonna’s “Vogue” video. And all played by men in dresses.

Cleveland almost didn’t do the show. He was asked by producers Jeff Rane and Craig Lynch to read the original script and offer his insights.

“It was a lot raunchier,” he says. “It went just a little too far over the line, and some stuff that really would not work,” especially in a space where TABC has strict rules about what can happen in the presence of alcohol. But a few rewrites later, Cleveland had signed on.

It’s a far cry from his current day job. In addition to his teaching gig, Cleveland is huffing and puffing his way through a Three Little Pigs play at the Dallas Children’s Theater; when he’s done there, he high-tails it to Cedar Springs and the nastiest old ladies this side of Wasilla.

“It’s a chance to blow off steam and be show-trash,” he says. “It’s like uncorking the cheap champagne at night after the children have gone to bed. This is definitely a have-a-cocktail, come-see-a-show-in-a-different-environment theater. The show doesn’t end when the curtain comes down. You’re still at a bar.”

And maybe when the show opens, he’ll get that drink after all.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright