3 for the road: Kitchen Dog’s entry in the Foote Festival is a trio of sweet short stories

THREE-PEAT | Five actors play all the parts in Kitchen Dog’s three one-acts.

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

One thing I have learned from sitting through most of the entries in the Foote Festival is this: Horton Foote is a better storyteller than playwright. He sharply observes the way people talk and the atmosphere of Texas (rural life especially), with good dialogue that evokes bygone eras. What he doesn’t do well is action.

That ends up benefiting Kitchen Dog Theater for 3 Foote, its collection of three one-act plays by the author. More like staged versions of short stories, they are brief and varied enough that for the most part they don’t grow stale or stodgy despite the supreme absence of things going on.

The first, Blind Date, is probably the best. A sour girl (Lisa Marie Gonzalez), living with her aunt and uncle (Shelley Tharp-Payton, Chris Hury), scowls so much she’s deemed unmarriagable, despite auntie’s best efforts to teach her social graces. A set-up with the town dullard (Joey Folsom) proves to be a last-ditch attempt destined to go astray. Only maybe not.

Tharp-Payton chews up the scenery with hilarious enthusiasm as the fading socialite, but it’s really Folsom — jaw locked in a Skoal-dipping underbite, eyes as vacant as church on Tuesday — who steals the show. He’s effortlessly hysterical.

Tharp-Payton is even better in the third act, The Man Who Climbed Pecan Trees, although the play itself is the weakest of the three. Her transformation between acts is perhaps most startling.

Between them, the 15-minute The One-Armed Man is a tour-de-force for Hury, who plays a self-made businessman whose cavalier dismissal of a man injured on the job (Folsom again) leads to unexpected consequences. The play itself is a masterful rondo that divides your emotional loyalties — a bit of Poe in Texas.

—  John Wright