What’s gay at the Fort Worth Opera Festival

It’s not just Michael Chioldi, whom we profiled this week playing Scarpia in Tosca, who brings queer sensibilities to the Fort Worth Opera Festival (which started last weekend). There are some other gay connections you might wanna know about:

• The only two living composers to have their work performed this season — Jake Heggie (Three Decembers) and Mark Adamo (Lysistrata) — are gay. Three Decembers runs tonight.

• The director of Lysistrata, FWO regular David Gately, is also gay.

• Charles Allen Klein, who designed the costumes for The Marriage of Figaro, is the partner of opera director Bliss Hebert. We profiled the two of them earlier this year for their Traviata production at the Dallas Opera.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

“Lysistrata Jones,” which started at DTC, closes on Broadway this Sunday

It got great reviews from the likes of Ben Brantley (and me, for that matter), and Dallas-based star Liz Mikel seemed destined for award nominations, but that didn’t translate into box office for Lysistrata Jones during its run on Broadway. After fewer than 30 regular performances and about as many previews, the show will close on Sunday. For some reason, it never caught on, despite a catchy score and saucy story about sex among college-aged hotties. It rarely exceeded more than about 20 percent of its revenue capacity and hovered about 60 percent occupancy since opening last month.

We’re sad it wasn’t a tentpole, but hopefully this means Liz will be coming back to Dallas soon.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

And the winner is…

… Actually, the winners are. In a few different ways.

First, there are the nominees for the Golden Globe awards, which came out this morning. Among those in contention: Glenn Close and Janet McTeer for playing trans men in Albert Nobbs (look for a feature in Dallas Voice next week on that film), Leo DiCaprio for playing the gay FBI chief in J. Edgar, Kenneth Branagh for playing the bisexual Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn, Christopher Plummer for playing a gay man who comes out late in life in Beginners, Rooney Mara for playing the bisexual investigator in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jodie Foster as a mom in Carnage and Michael Fassbender as a sex addict in Shame. That’s a lot of gay for the Oscars… A lot of them are also winners of other awards from the National Board of Review, New York Film Critics and the Screen Actors Guild.

The other winner this week: Liz Mikel. I have to say, I take a little credit for being about the only local critic actually to like the world premiere of Lysistrata Jones (back when it was called Give It Up). Mikel was the only original cast member to move to the Broadway version, and the New York Times raved about the premiere last night, singling out Mikel for praise. Good for Liz, good for the Dallas Theater Center, good for everyone.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Liz Mikel actually isn’t the only Dallas cast member to make it to New York — Patti Murin, Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Katie Boren are also in the show.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Caste of thousands

A sorta-funny thing happened on the way to the ashram in world premiere ‘Bollywood Lysistrata’

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

‘A Bollywood Lysistrata’
AIN’T NO TAJ MAHAL-ABACK GIRLS | Women withhold sex to get what they want in ‘A Bollywood Lysistrata.’

BOLLYWOOD LYSISTRATA
KD Studios Theater, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway, Suite 180. Through Sep. 5.
Fridays–Saturdays at 8:15 p.m.
LevelGroundArts.com

…………………………………

I’m not sure why so many playwrights feel compelled to adapt a 2,400-year-old Greek comedy and call it new art. I can think of half a dozen variations of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata in the last decade alone, the most recent being the musical Give It Up that the Dallas Theater Center premiered earlier this year. Well, the most recent until the current version, Level Ground Arts’ A Bollywood Lysistrata, now at the KD Studios Theater. Women withholding sex to get what they want? Isn’t that called marriage?

Anyhoo, LGA’s take moves the plot from ancient Greek to Raj-era India, where cricket has become an obsession for British men and their native counterparts — so much so that one sports-widow, Lakshmi (Rhonda Durant), convinces the women, Indian and English, to close their legs until the men give up the game. Talk about a sticky wicket.

And see? That’s one of the problems with the show. The jokes are so obvious — lots of double entendres about men and their bats, what they can do with their balls, etc. — that you tend to make up many of your own during the slow parts.

The adaptation by Andi Allen — who co-directed and co-stars as one of the British wives — is a hodgepodge of styles: The language is formalistic, even academic, sounding like a literal translation from the Greek. Even setting it in the 1890s, why not update it with modern vernacular? It’s also a Wilde-esque comedy of manners and, of course, a Bollywood musical extravaganza with silly acting, pointless dancing and beautiful costumes.

I actually liked the pointless dancing (with the word “Bollywood” in the title, you should know going in what you’re in for), and Jill Hall’s costumes are colorful — I’d enjoy more of both. But the acting? That’s as varied as the play itself.

Allen is one of the best at making her dialogue sound natural, and as the local ranee, Lorna Woodford commands her scenes. Even Camille Monae — who, as the horny Hindu Chandini, gets many of the best ribald lines — and Durant (a dead ringer for Catherine Zeta-Jones) holds the thread of the show together well.

Beyond that, it’s a free-for-all: Inconsistent accents; wildly goofy melodrama from Robert Shores and a low-budget Robert Morley impersonation from the marshmallowy R. Bradford Smith; and the raja is played by Jon Morehouse as a cross between Johnny Carson’s Carnac and Jafar from Aladdin. It’s impossible to stay in the moment who you aren’t sure whether it will be Mumbai or Marx Brothers from minute to minute.

There’s an exuberance, especially during the dancing sequences, that captures what’s fun about the Bollywood format, but I’ll just say thank you, I won’t come again.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens