Applause: Stage pink

Queer highlights from the upcoming theater season

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Anticipation should be strong for the upcoming theater season in general. Ambitious shows like Giant, The Tempest, West Side Story and Hairspray all dot the stage horizon.
But we also like to see some of our own up there. As we look over the upcoming offerings from local theater companies, we always ask, “Where’s the gay?”  In addition to Uptown Players’ first  Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival, here are some of the others.

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Fall

Although the Dallas Opera canceled the opera she was set to star in, lesbian soprano Patricia Racette will still perform at a TDO gala. (Photo Devon Cass)

Singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik gave an indie music flair to the musical adaptation of the 1891 play Spring Awakening. Set in 19th century Germany, Awakening follows a group of youths as they discover more about themselves and their rapidly developing sexuality.

The original Frank Wedekind play was controversial in its day, depicting abortion, homosexuality, rape and suicide. Now the show just has an added rock ‘n’ roll score. Along with Sheik’s musical perspective, Steven Slater wrote the book and lyrics in this updated version which debuted in 2006 on Broadway and won the Tony for Best Musical. Terry Martin directs.

WaterTower Theater, 15650 Addison Road., Addison. Sept. 30–Oct. 23. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

It’s almost un-Texan if you’re gay and not familiar with Del Shores’ tales of Southern discomfort.  Southern Baptist Sissies and Sordid Lives are pretty much part of the queer vernacular in these parts, but Shores got his start way back in 1987.

How will those northern folks take to Shores work (And by north, we mean past Central Expressway past LBJ)? Jeni Helms directs Daddy’s Dyin’: Who’s Got the Will for McKinney Repertory Theatre this fall. As the family patriarch suffers a stroke, the Turnover family gathers as they wait for his death. This family may just put the fun in dysfunctional.

McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee St., McKinney. Sept. 30–Oct. 7. McKinneyRep.org.

WingSpan Theatre Co. will produce one of the greater comedies of theater-dom this fall: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with Nancy Sherrard sparring over the gay wit’s price bon mots as Lady Bracknell.

Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Oct. 6–22. WingSpanTheatre.com.

Although A Catered Affair might sound a bit like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it has the added flair of Harvey Fierstein’s wit. That’s because he wrote the book for the show alongside John Bucchino’s music and lyrics. The play is based on the Gore Vidal-penned 1956 film The Catered Affair starring Bette Davis.

When Jane and Ralph decide to get married, Jane’s mom Agnes wants to put on an elaborate spectacle of a wedding. The truth is, she can’t afford it and Jane isn’t all too thrilled about a huge affair. As in most cases, the wedding planning is more about the mom than the daughter and Agnes soon realizes the fact. Jane’s Uncle Winston — the proverbial gay uncle — is left off the guest list and is rightfully pissed. But as most gay characters, he rallies to be the voice of reason and support.

Theatre Three, 2800 Routh Street, Ste.168. Oct. 13–Nov. 12. Theatre3Dallas.com.

Lesbian soprano Patricia Racette was going to be featured in the production of Katya Kabanová but unfortunately the show was canceled by the Dallas Opera. But fear not. Dallas will still get to bask in the greatness that is her voice as Racette will perform An Evening with Patricia Racette, a cabaret show with classics from the Great American Songbook for a patron recital.

Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Nov. 9. DallasOpera.org

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Spring

Nancy Sherrard will star as Lady Bracknell in WIngSpan Theater Co.’s fall production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ perhaps the greatest comedy ever written by theaterdom’s gayest wit.

Kevin Moriarty directs Next Fall for the Dallas Theater Center next spring. Written by Geoffrey Nauffts, the play centers on Luke and Adam, a couple with some unusual issues. What’s new about that in gay couplehood? Not much, but when Adam’s an absolute atheist and Luke’s a devout Christian, the two have been doing their best to make it work.
The comedy played on Broadway in 2010, garnering Tony and Drama Desk nominations. And now Dallas gets to see how, as DTC puts it, “relationships can be a beautiful mess.”
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. April 13–May 6. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

Perhaps the most surprising queer offering this next season is Theatre Arlington’s production of The Laramie Project. The show usually creates quite a stir — at least it did in Tyler, thanks to Trinity Wheeler — so how will this suburban audience handle it? Doesn’t matter. Props to T.A. for taking Moises Kaufman’s play about the tragic bashing and death of Matthew Shepard to its community.

Theatre Arlington, 305 W. Main St., Arlington. May 18–June 3. TheatreArlington.org.

Usually the question with MBS Productions is “what’s not gay?” Founder Mark-Brian Sonna has consistently delivered tales of gay woe and love that are sometimes silly and sometimes sweet, but always a laugh.

This season is no different. Playwright Alejandro de la Costa brings back drag queen Lovely Uranus in The Importance of Being Lovely. The last time we saw Uranus, Sonna wore the stilettos and pink wig in last season’s Outrageous, Sexy, (nekkid) Romp.  This time around, Uranus graduates to leading lady status as the show is all about her as audiences follow her through the changes she makes in her make-up, wigs and men.

Stone Cottage Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison. July 16–Aug. 11, 2012. MBSProductions.net.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Uptown Players’ ‘Broadway Our Way’ is underway

A theater queen’s heaven

Uptown Players is begging for money again, but that’s good news because it means the return of Broadway Our Way. A star-studded night of local theater peeps combine their talents to bring an evening of fab showtunes, but with some major twists. Because we all know Uptown Players isn’t gonna play it straight — and that’s a good thing.

DEETS: Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Through May 15. $40. UptownPlayers.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Some things a-Foote: Festival of Texas writer’s work continues with hits (Uptown), misses (WTT)

FAMILY SECRETS | Mom (Lucia Welch, standing center) and dad (T.A. Taylor, seated) don’t discuss the nature of their late son’s ‘roommate’ in an engaging ‘Young Man from Atlanta.’ (Photo by Mike Morgan)

As the Horton Foote Festival progresses among the local theater community, Dallas is privy to some of the Texas-born writer’s other works that might get eclipsed by his more famous works, the films The Trip to Bountiful and Tender Mercies. Despite not much that’s gay in the Foote oeuvre, Uptown Players digs out the one show with that certain touch with the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Young Man from Atlanta.

An older Houston couple has some issues to iron out when the title fella comes to visit. Will Kidder (T.A. Taylor), the patriarch of a well-to-do family in 1950s Houston, is talking to his like-a-son-associate Tom (Kevin Moore) about the death of his son Bill, who drowned. The gist of the play happens when we’ve already glimpsed the title character reaching out to the family. The Kidders first meet Bill’s “friend,” Randy Carter, at his funeral, where his constant contact unnerves Will but touches his wife, Lily Dale (Lucia A. Welch). Lily Dale even loans the man a large sum of money from her Christmas allowance, which Will later needs access to.

We’re supposed to get the impression that this young man was more than a roommate to Bill and that the Kidders just aren’t going to speak that-which-must-not-be-named. But as Lily Dale talks about the money she’s given him for his mother’s operation and sister in dire straits, we can’t pinpoint if Carter is a scammer or something more important.

Young Man gets off to a weak start with talky exposition, but we get drawn into the Kidders’ emotional evolution through Willi’s layoff and their mourning. Will has more insight to why his son would walk into a lake until the water was over his head without liking to swim; Lily Dale is in more denial. And while they have lived the high-life for such a long time, the Kidders discover they may actually have to live a life without facades.

What sounds like heavy drama is punctuated by nice bits of humor and lightheartedness, so they play is never weighed down like it could be.

The play pretty much belongs to Taylor, though the supporting cast is strong. Welch behaves with appropriate Southern housewifery, mostly smiling through the pain of their late son, who drowned. When she’s not around her husband, she longs with graceful sadness around her housekeeper Clara (an excellent Yolanda Williams).

As her stepfather Pete, Gordon Fox strikes the right balance of crotchety and tender.

Moore’s performance is a bit too much, with the overdone facial gestures and deep-voiced acting. On the opposite end, Stan Graner’s work in a brief scene as Kidder’s boss is nuanced to perfection. With subtle posturing and inflection, he delivers authority, friendliness and discomfort in having to fire Kidder. Tippi Hunter and Amanda Denton enter the show briefly as the Kidders’ former housekeeper and Will’s secretary, respectively. It felt as though Hunter’s appearance was supposed to have more meaning, but we never quite see how that scene moved much forward. Blake Blair as Pete’s nephew is a tall drink of yum and charms with lanky fashion.

We may never quite know much about The Young Man From Atlanta, but Uptown Players made a dramatic gem in helping us trying to figure him out and giving us a bit more insight into Horton Foote’s works.

— Rich Lopez


JUST STAY PUT | A young mother (Misty Vinters, left) discovers her husband is a jerk in the tedious Foote entry ‘The Traveling Lady.’ (Photo by Mark Oristano)

The actors in The Traveling Lady all suffer from a bad case of Foote-in-mouth disease: The tendency of all Southern accents to bleed together. There are Texas twangs and Tennessee drawls and a whol’ passel’uh cornpone variations in between, but wouldn’t it be nice if a cast of characters from the same small town sounded like, you know, each other?

That’s perhaps a minor point, but the pacing of this entry in the Foote Fest, courtesy of WaterTower Theatre, doesn’t leave much else to think about as it dries on stage like oil-based matte paint: slowly, and with a dull finish.

Foote’s style has been described as Chekhov-meets-Faulkner; personally, I prefer my Chekhov fighting Klingons — even when it’s bad, at least something happens. Nothing much happens in Traveling Lady, a fact emphasized by Marion Castleberry’s sluggish direction. He seems to know more about the text of the play than the texture of theater — there’s a lugubrious, academic tone to this trite 1954 story about the awkward reunion of a wife and her husband, who’s been in prison. (The demonization of alcohol makes it feel like a PSA for the Temperance League.)

As storytelling, it’s OK; as a play, it’s old-fashioned and stodgy, with too much standing around, not enough moving around (where’s the traveling promised, even if it’s just across the stage?). Why don’t the characters do anything, even if it’s just drying dishes? Clare Floyd Devries’ marvelous set is much more interesting than anything the actors are doing.

It probably wouldn’t matter much if they did bother acting. Other than Dorothy Deavers as a dotty old woman, there’s almost no comedy in this lazy stroll down Tobacco Road. The lady can travel if she wants; I’m staying put.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright