REVIEWS: ‘Enron,’ ‘Too Many Girls’

enron_6aIf you haven’t said or heard the names associated with the Enron scandal in the decade since it was in the news — Jeff Skilling, Ken Lay, Andy Fastow — the first time they are spoken in Lucy Prebble’s play Enron, now playing at Theatre 3, you react viscerally, the way you might to Goebbles, Himmler or Mengele: The architects of a financial holocaust that popped the American economy in ways that continue to reverberate. It’s a feeling of disgust and curiosity.

It’s odd, that gut muscle memory that causes you to heave ever-so-slightly when you see the dramatization of such boondoggle buzzwords as credit-default swap, derivatives, energy trading, deregulation and even “irrational exuberance.” (The show uses a lot of multi-media elements, including Dow Jones ticker scrolls and audio-visual echoes from the 1990s.) You sense pangs of guilt by association for being in the room with Fastow (David Goodwin) as he shares with Skilling (Chris Hury) his plan to prop up Enron’s stock with a corporate shell game of shell corporations. The audience has the benefit of 20/20 hindsight to know where the plan in headed, but you can’t help but feel contempt for those in the room with them who didn’t say, “What the fuck are you talking about?” It’s as if everyone was too stupid — or too greedy — to call foul on the emperor’s new clothes.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lyric revives Loesser’s ‘Pleasures & Palaces,’ a musical unseen in 47 years

Continuing our Music Issue week here at Dallas Voice, we have some insights into the rarest of auditory experiences: The lost Broadway musical. No, really — it was all but forgotten … and technically, never on Broadway.

In 1965, composer Frank Loesser and director/choreographer Bob Fosse were hot off their collaboration on the Pulitzer Prize-winning How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, so they teamed up for another musical. Pleasures and Palaces, based on a flop play (already a bad start) set during the court of Catherine the Great, was booked for a Broadway opening, but during a troubled spring tryout in Detroit — the city’s Free Press called it “lesser Loesser” — the composer pulled the plug. No cast recording. No New York run. Not really even much legend around it.

But Irving’s Lyric Stage, which in recent years has specialized in big productions of Broadway classics, had an “in.” Their musical director, Jay Dias, is pals with Jo Sullivan Loesser, the composer’s widow (Lyric recent produced his great American opera The Most Happy Fella), and got the chance to produce a concert version of this forgotten piece of Americana.

I got a sneak peak at a full, 40-piece orchestral rehearsal with vocals this week, and what an unusual experience it is to hear music played and lyrics sung that have, quite literally, not been heard in my lifetime. It’s a rare treat, featuring one of Lyric’s reigning stars (hunky Bryant Martin) as American naval hero John Paul Jones.

Unlike most other Lyric shows, this production runs a single weekend: Thursday through a Sunday matinee. It is, quite possibly, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear forgotten songs of a golden age of Broadway composing.

Fot tickets, visit Lyric Stage.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

It’s not Pride Weekend, so why is so much going on this week?

Oh, wait — it kind of is Pride Weekend. It’s Gay Christmas — aka Halloween! That accounts for a lot of the goings-on: The Street Party on Saturday, the rugby tournament HellFest (timed, as its name suggests, to coincide with All Hallow’s Eve), the drag dinner and brunch at Dish with Candis Cayne. (Hotel Zaza’s monthly Sunday School brunch, with a costume theme, is also on Sunday.) And you can kinda see why Dallas Theater Center would open its dress-up play about pro wrestling when folks are all into costumes as well. (It also explains OhLook’s Evil Dead musical and MBS Productions’ annual classics of the macabre, Theatre of Death.)

But what accounts for Blues for Willadean being booked for a week-long stay at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station, with writer-director Del Shores and producer Emerson Collins in attendance for some Q&A screenings? And with Cloud Atlas — co-directed by trans woman Lana Wachowski — laying claim to being probably the highest profile movie ever with a prominent (and frank) gay storyline, it’s an embarrassment of riches for moviegoers. And why are so many non-spooky themed stage productions opening, from Dallas Opera’s Aida to Lyric Stage’s 1776?

There’s also a chance to enjoy to new $100 million Klyde Warren Deck Park, pictured, which has its festivities all weekend.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Pride Edition

Usually I wait until Friday to run down all that’s going on in gaydom this week that you need to catch up on, but since it’s Pride Weekend, I figured I’d get a jump-start on all the events.

First up: Tonight is the first night of Miss Coco Peru Is Present at the Rose Room. She’s hilarious. And if you order using the discount code VOICE, you get up to 40 percent off your tickets. Amanda Lepore and Cazwell also appear at It’ll Do Dancing Club tonight starting about 11 — so you can see Coco and still catch their show.

Today is also the kickoff for two very different weekend long events. First, the Southwest RV Supershow starts Thursday and runs through Sunday at Dallas Market Hall. If you like camping — and let’s face it, gays really do — you’ll find a phenomenal selection of recreational vehicles here. On the other side of the spectrum is the opening of the City Performance Hall. If you find yourself in the Arts District anyway, you might wanna stop by and see The Second City Does Dallas at the Wyly or War Horse at the Winspear. (Psst! The horse is gay.)

Friday night might require some hopping to catch all that’s going on, from the launch of the new Dick’s Night Out gay men’s party the Red Party (a big fundraiser for Legacy Counseling Center) to Suzanne Westenhoefer cracking wise in the Vixin Lounge at Sue Ellen’s.

There are also three more days to catch both Uptown Players‘ The Producers and shows in their Second Annual Dallas Pride Performing Arts Festival. But there’s also tons of other good theater around the area, including Rent at Theatre Arlington and a few more performances of The Most Happy Fella at Lyric Stage in Irving. Also out in the Mid Cities this weekend: Gay Day at Six Flags will be in Arlington on Saturday. You can get half-off tickets courtesy of Dallas Voice here. And Patti LuPone teams with her old friend Mandy Patinkin for An Evening With at Richardson’s Eisemann Center for Performing Arts on Saturday night. (Read an interview with Mandy in Friday’s Voice.)

Of course, by now you know about the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade along Cedar Springs on Sunday, concurrent with the Festival at Lee Park, but there are lots of other Pride-related parties that day (and all weekend), including DJ Tony Moran spinning at BearDance at TMC on Sunday, Chi Chi LaRue at BJ’s NXS! on Sunday, DJ Michael Tank at the Brick (also Sunday).

And we haven’t even started on all the events from Monday on, whether it be Gary Lynn Floyd inaugurating the new Cabaret Series at the Sammons Arts Center or yours truly giving his regular Gay Broadway Series lecture at War Horse on Tuesday night. So if you can’t keep track of it all, trust us — we get it.

Still, that’s all the more reason to pick up the Voice on Friday. We have a rundown of many of the events, plus interviews with celebs, pictures of hot guys in underwear and our first “hetero life partners” edition of Dynamic Duo. Pick it up, you’ll love it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Column Award theater nominations announced

Uptown Players' 'Next to Normal' is a major nominee in the Column Awards.

The Dallas Theater Center and Uptown Players are head-to-head with the most Column Award nominations for Equity theater companies with 39 and 28 respectively. But that’s nothing compared to the Non-Equity winner, Artisan Center Theatre, with 52 nods. (As always, tons of gay folks are nominated.)

Now that the Dallas Theater League’s Leon Rabin Awards don’t exist, the Columns are the only non-critic awards in town for local theater. Eligible theater professionals (and, actually, me) will now vote in the final round. The  winners will be announced at the Column Awards gala on Feb. 27 at the Patty Granville Performing Arts Center in Garland.

The complete list after the jump.

—  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

An afternoon with ‘Night of the Hunter’ at Lyric Stage

From creepy book to noirish film to a musical?

If you need to know how a story about an ex-convict murders his wife,  stalks two children who happen to have a whole lotta loot and pretends to be a minster can turn into a musical, we have an answer. Or rather, Lyric Stage does. Stephen Cole and Claibe Richardson have turned the Davis Grubb’s novel into just that. We’re curious how they will pull it off, because there’s  not a whole lotta happy going on in the story. And aren’t musicals all about the happy?

DEETS: Irving Arts Center’s Carpenter Hall, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd. 2:30 p.m. $25–$50. LyricStage.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Ladies: fair, well or other

Lyric brilliantly does Shaw; KDT feels ‘Betrayal;’ Echo wants us to get ‘Well’

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

LOVERLY  |  Kimberly Whalen and J. Brent Alford give soaring performances in Lyric Stage’s masterful version of ‘My Fair Lady,’ with a 38-piece orchestra.
LOVERLY | Kimberly Whalen and J. Brent Alford give soaring performances in Lyric Stage’s masterful version of ‘My Fair Lady,’ with a 38-piece orchestra.

ON THE BOARDS
MY FAIR LADY at the Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving. Through Sunday.

BETRAYAL at the MAC, 3120 McKinney Ave. Through Oct. 10.
WELL at the Bathhouse Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Through Sept. 25.

The opening overture to My Fair Lady was, to every gay boy with a turntable between 1956 and about 1986, the soundtrack that began the coming out process. Hearing the clipped joy of “You Did It,” followed by the romantic strains of “On The Street Where You Live” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” while staring at the Al Hirschfeld drawing on the LP, started many a musical theater queen’s career.

And I’m sorry, but modern musical productions, with their synthesizers and five-piece combos, just can’t compare to hearing a full 38 musician orchestra in a pit recreate what opening night must have been like in the heyday of Broadway.

I know this for a fact, because Lyric Stage has tackled My Fair Lady like no one anywhere has, probably in a generation. A painted curtain; a dancing and singing ensemble well into double-digits. And actors who really know what they’re doing. The cost is so prohibitive that even with arts grant checks in hand, it can run only two weekends; this is the second; and you must see it.

The familiar tale of ‘enry ‘iggins (J. Brent Alford, all but channeling the ghost of Rex Harrison) who turns common guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Whalen, who should have a few Tony Awards by now if talent had anything to do with it) is perhaps the best musical ever. It’s about two gay men (Higgins and Pickering — what, no one told you?) who play dress-up with a teenager who becomes their living doll.

CHEATERS  |  A romantic triangle gets its post-mortem in Nobel Prizewinner Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’ at Kitchen Dog. (Photo by Matt Mrozek)
CHEATERS | A romantic triangle gets its post-mortem in Nobel Prizewinner Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’ at Kitchen Dog. (Photo by Matt Mrozek)

There’s no real romance — barely even a kiss. The closest it comes to big production numbers are the sidewalk busking of Cockneys, led by Alfie (Sonny Franks, who’s electrifying). The costumes are frivolous and extravagant, the scene changes numerous and necessary. It shouldn’t work at all. And it works completely.

Director-choreographer Len Pfluger doesn’t fuss much with the original, down to the exquisitely dressed “Ascot Gavotte” number — a high point of Act 1 in which none of the stars appear. You simply don’t find a musical so led by plot more than personality, by character more than conceit, anymore. The Carpenter Performance Hall transmogrifies from a stage to a time machine before our eyes: We’re back when Broadway shaped pop culture. Half a century later, My Fair Lady is again the can’t-miss production of the year.

The first act of My Fair Lady is longer than the entirety of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, now at Kitchen Dog Theater; it doesn’t feel that way. Pinter plays tend to be so… so… Pinteresque: Long pauses, awkward silences, not too much humor.

And there’s the plotting, often labyrinthine, moody and obscure. But when it clicks — even if just for moments — it can be exhilarating. This production has too few of those moments.

Betrayal is one of Pinter’s most celebrated plays, telling the story of a romantic triangle in reverse chronological order: We start with the adulterers (Leah Spillman, Max Hartman) after their affair has ended and work our way back to its inception.

The conceit sounds gimmicky, but it’s actually quite astute. We all experience relationships, especially failed ones, retrospectively. “How did we get here?” we ask. What signs did I miss?” It’s the post-mortem we all want to do with clarity.

Only it’s Pinter, so clarity is a secondary, even tertiary concern. What is the bigger betrayal: cheating on your husband or on your lover with your husband? Or is it really the men (Hartman and Cameron Cobb), best friends, who are cheating on each other with a woman? (Pinter often deals in the subtext of repressed homosexuality.) Can you consent to be being betrayed, or is tacit betrayal called something else entirely — like “life?”

This production, directed by Tina Parker, raised these questions but, like Bryan Wofford’s expressionistic set, doesn’t answer them or even come close. Without much energy to sustain it, it gets its dramatic oomph from tension. And I just didn’t feel much. Passive-aggression is infuriating in real life; it’s not much better on stage.

If I correctly interpreted the message to Well, presented by Echo Theatre at the Bathhouse Cultural Center — and there’s a good chance I didn’t — it’s that lesbianism cures allergies. Yeah, I probably got that wrong.

This quasi-autobiographical tale is about how playwright and actress Lisa Kron (Kristin McCollum) grew up in a family, and a community, where sickness was presumed. It’s not quite hypochondria, but it’s not healthy, either. Lisa herself was intensely studied for severe allergies, which (and the play never makes this clear) may have been all in her head, planted there by her mother Ann (Sylvia Luedtke).

Well is more akin to performance art than play; it interacts with the audience directly, but preciously so (when things go wrong, they are meant to seem like they are going wrong in real time, even though they are scripted). It’s part and parcel with a whole slew of po-mo theater pieces, including The Road to Qatar! and [title of show], where the shows are about the making of themselves. It’s a funhouse mirror room that has begun to wear thin.

This show is a little too loosey-goosey (and, at 90 minutes, too long), though the performances by McCollum, Luedtke and Molly Milligan as uber-sick patient Joy are engaging. I might like to see it on a double-bill with Sick; we could choose a winner and the other would close the next night. That would be Darwinian theater at its finest.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas