REVIEW: ‘Bull’

Alex Ross, Jeremy Schwartz with Natalie Young, Ian Ferguson (Photo by Karen Almond)

Alex Ross, Jeremy Schwartz with Natalie Young, Ian Ferguson (Photo by Karen Almond)

Thomas (Ian Ferguson), a schlubby British salesman, fidgets nervously in a stark room. Across from him, Isobel (Natalie Young) sits coolly, dressed elegantly and moving with the stealth of a panther. “Why didn’t you wear your good suit?” she asks Thomas. He thought this was his good suit. Maybe she’s screwing with him. Then Tony (Alex Ross) walks in. “Why didn’t you wear your good suit?” he asks. And from there, the dominoes fall.

Bull, a play by Cock playwright Mike Bartlett, takes its name in equal measure from the bullshit that yuppie business types toss around each other and the bullying that takes place of Thomas, unrelentingly, for an hour. These aren’t playground taunts and gimme-your-milk-money strong-arm tactics; they are acts of outright warfare where words are weapons and victory requires scorching the earth of your adversary. It’s medieval, primal … and completely contemporary.

It’s also gimmicky, though not necessarily in a bad way. It’s easy to make people squirm uncomfortably while watching someone, if not self-destruct, then at least contribute to his own demise through poor decision-making. Just have the characters be unrelenting, the protagonist (? — Thomas is hardly a hero) do the exact wrong thing at each moment. It’s patent audience manipulation, but it does serve a purpose: Just how far will human nature take us? Does compassion ever kick in?

But an even better point raised by this production, directed by Christie Vela and performed through the weekend at the Wyly courtesy Second Thought Theatre, is whether Thomas deserves our sympathies. Awful as it is to say, Thomas projects his weaknesses and allows himself to be victimized by them. You wanna slap him and yell, “Stop being a doormat!” But maybe he can’t help it — maybe he is destined to be forever walked upon. After a while, his whiny lack of survival techniques begins to make you see the point advanced Isobel, Tony and later their bloviating boss Carter (Jeremy Schwartz): If you can’t swim with the sharks, you’d better get out of the water or relent to a life as chum.

Of course, as much of a weakling as Thomas is, the cruel mindgames Tony and Isobel relentlessly inflict upon him — from a homoerotic exercise calculated to emasculate him to bitchy snipes that burrow under his skin — take them to the point where they reject their own humanity. You begin to see this as some elaborate twist on the TV show The Apprentice (Bartlett even mentions the show, which, I wouldn’t be surprised, was his inspiration for writing the play). What they do becomes a form of torture. They are cold-blooded.

Still, the play is better than Mamet’s equally divisive and outrageous Oleanna, in part because the issues seem more present. And the fact the cast delivers all the animus with such steely-eyed makes it all the more shocking. It’s not the kind on play to see on a date, but do it. What, are you afraid you little pussy? Huh … punk?!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING: DTC announces 2015-16 season lineup

rsDTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty_Photo by Tadd MyersThe Dallas Theater Center will offer up three world premieres, partner with Houston’s famed Alley Theatre and return to Shakespeare in their next season, Kevin Moriarty, the DTC’s artistic director, just announced.

The season will also take place almost entirely at the Wyly Theatre downtown; this season, every show has ping-ponged between the Wyly and Uptown’s Kalita Humphreys Theater. Only Romeo & Juliet, the company’s first stab at Shakespeare since King Lear several seasons ago, will be at the Kalita.

Also, for the first time since the Wyly opened, there will be no summer musical. After Sense & Sensibility closes in late May, the DTC will be dark until the Sept. 2 debut of Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical, one of the world premieres announced by Moriarty. Based on the cornpone TV show, it will launch the 2015–16 season, running Sept. 2–Oct. 11 in the Potter Rose Hall at the Wyly.

Concurrently upstairs at the Wyly will be the area premiere of The Mountaintop, the Tony-nominated play about the last night of Martin Luther King Jr. It will run Sept. 11–Nov. 15 in the 99-seat Studio Theatre.

The season will then pick up with the traditional holiday show, A Christmas Carol. Brierley Resident Acting Company member Christina Vela will direct the adaptation by Moriarty, which the DTC has performed for the past two seasons. It will play Nov. 25–Dec. 26.

In a rare double bill during Dickens, the world premiere play Clarkston will run Dec. 3–Jan. 31 in the Studio Theatre. The play is about two men — a descendant of the explorer William Clark and a grad student in gender studies — who explore issues of faith and doubt in modern society. The author is MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipient Samuel Hunter.

In January 2016, the action moves to the Kalita for Romeo & Juliet, directed by Joel Ferrell. It runs Jan. 27–Feb. 28. Then it’s back to the Wyly for the area premiere of All the Way, the Tony Award winner from last Broadway season about LBJ. Moriarty will direct the show, which runs March 3–27.

Deferred Action, the final world premiere, will open from local playwrights David Lozano (Oedipus el Rey) and Lee Trull (A Christmas Carol). It deals with a Dreamer — a young immigrant taking advantage of the Dream Act (April 20–May 15). Finally, DTC returns to the summer musical format with a new presentation of Dreamgirls, the Tony-, Grammy- and Oscar-winning fictionalized telling of Motown and the rise of the Supremes (June 10–July 24).

Season subscriptions go on sale Feb. 9 and are available for as low as $126 (A Christmas Carol is a “bonus” show).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Rocky Horror’ casting call changes

Two weeks ago, I posted a notice about an open casting call for Dallas Theater Center‘s upcoming production of The Rocky Horror Show (they are looking for engaging side-show-like acts). Well, some of the information has changed. Due to a schedule conflict with director/choreographer Joel Ferrell, the event will now be held at the Wyly Theatre (instead of the Rose Room) and the time has been compressed. The correct information is below:

Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St.

Saturday, July 26

Check-in at 2:45 p.m., call from 3–4 p.m.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DTC announces 2014-15 season

DTC-DTE Kurt Rhoads and June Squibb - by Brandon Thibodeaux

Oscar nominee June Squibb, last seen at the DTC in Horton Foote’s ‘Surviving the Estate,’ will return to play the lead in ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’

Dracula won’t be swooping into the Wyly Theatre any time soon, but Bruce Wood will make his debut with the Dallas Theater Center, and a recent Oscar nominee will make her return along with a Speedo-clad muscle man, the company’s artistic director, Kevin Moriarty, revealed this morning. The formal announcement will take place later today.

To kick off the season, audiences will get a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania taking a jump to the left in the season opening, The Rocky Horror Show. Joel Ferrell will direct the gender-bending musical at the Wyly.

Ferrell steps immediately into the next production, which will take over the Kalita Humphreys space. Driving Miss Daisy will star June Squibb — who was just nominated for an Oscar for Nebraska — as a prickly Southern lady and her relationship with her African-American chauffeur.

Bruce Wood, the choreographer and occasional stage director, will make his DTC debut with Colossal, a world premiere play-with-dancing about football. It continues the DTC’s preoccupation with sports onstage (baseball with Back Back Back, basketball with Give It Up aka Lysistra Jones, pro wrestling with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity).

“Consistent with [DTC's mission of producing shows that reflect the community], this show is about people with disabilities — the man character is in a wheelchair,” Moriarty says. “The play will feature full-contact drills, with music provided by a drumline.” And the Wyly will be transformed into a football stadium, complete with bleachers and popcorn.

The musical Stagger Lee, written by DTC writer-in-residence Will Power and developed at DTC for several years, will have its main-stage debut.

“My first year here, I was approached by SMU, who wanted to present the Meadows Prize to a theater artist,” Moriarty says. “I gave them a list of about 10 names to discuss, and [when we decided on Will Power], SMU commissioned him to write a play as part of DTC’s season. The play is a mythical investigation of the African-American experience in the 20th century.

Also scheduled in a regional premiere, The Book Club Play, a romantic comedy about, naturally, a book club.

“Christie Vela runs the perfect book club, but then a documentary film crew comes to shoot it just as a new member joins, and mayhem ensues,” Moriarty says. It will be directed by Meredith McDonough — one of three women directing shows at the DTC this season.

rsDTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty_Photo by Tadd Myers

Kevin Moriarty

There are several significant developments this season. In addition to producing a record nine shows (the current season was only seven shows), Moriarty is launching a five-year “classical theater” initiative, which will mount at least two plays each season written before 1900. The two presented this year couldn’t be more different — at least on the surface: The 17th century farce School for Wives and the ancient Greek tragedy Medea. But Moriarty sees a theme.

“Both are plays about women denied power or justice, who eventually are victorious,” Moriarty says. The plays will be presented in repertory at the Kalita, with the Moliere comedy performed upstairs and Euripides’ masterpiece in the long-overlooked basement space, once known as Down Center Stage. Sally Vahle will play Medea, but will also take a role in School.

“It will be true rep — we’ll rehearse eight hours a day, the first four of one show, then lunch, then the next four with the other,”says Moriarty, who will direct both.

A Christmas Carol — this season performed at the Wyly for the first time, and included as part of the regular season subscription — becomes a bonus show again. The version performed this past December, written and directed by Moriarty, will be revived, though Lee Trull will direct and Jeremy Dumont will serve as choreographer.

Another development is that the traditional family-friendly summer won’t take place — or rather, hasn’t been programmed yet. The final show of the season will be a stage version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. But that production will conclude before Memorial Day of 2015, meaning the summer of 2015 may still have a musical in it … but it’ll be part of the 2015-16 season instead.

The Dracula Cycle,  set to open last year, was delayed when the playwright, gay scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, become entrenched in commitments in theater (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), television (Glee) and film (the Carrie remake). It was expected to return next season but has officially be taken off the books.

Here’s the complete schedule of shows and production dates:

The Rocky Horror Show at the Wyly, Sept. 11–Oct. 19.

Driving Miss Daisy at the Kalita, Oct. 16–Nov. 16.

A Christmas Carol at the Wyly, Nov. 25–Dec. 27.

The Book Club Play at the Kalita, Jan. 1, 2015 –Feb. 1.

Stagger Lee at the Wyly, Jan. 21–Feb. 15.

School for Wives and Medea at the Kalita, Feb. 19–March 29

Collosal at Wyly, April 2–May 3.

Sense and Sensibility at the Kalita, April 23–May 24.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DTC donates nearly $60K to NTFB

ACC NTFB Check Presentation - Kris Martin, Kieran Connolly - by Dana Driensky

Former Dallas Voice staffer Kris Martin, as representative for the NTFB, collects a check from Scrooge (actor Kieran Connolly) at the final performance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Wyly Theatre. Additional donations at that performance raised the total donation to nearly $58,000.

For six Christmases, the Dallas Theater Center has collected canned food and cash from patrons at its annual production of A Christmas Carol, and this year was an especially good one. For its first time since returning to the Arts District — and its first time in the Wyly Theatre — the DTC managed 934 pounds of nonperishable goods (nearly twice the amount taken in last year at the Kalita Humphreys) and raised $57,993.81 in cash donations (above the average for prior years). That brings the total monetary donations — donated to the North Texas Food Bank — to $297,912.16 since 2008. Each dollar accounts for about three meals donated to the hungry across the Metroplex.

We’re big fans of the NTFB here at the Voice — I decorate a cake every year for charity, and the NTFB is a feeder donator the Resource Center’s food pantry — so we’re happy to see how generous people are. But the need continues beyond Christmas; you can donate time, food or money here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

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Crow Sculpture Garden

Downtown Dallas is the center of culture this week — in a big way.

Just like every month, the First Saturday tours of ATTPAC will be taking place, and there will be a street fair with lots of art from One Arts Plaza to Klyde Warren Park. But on the stages and galleries is where the real action is.

First, Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s 8th annual DanceAfrica will be performed Friday and Saturday at Annette Strauss Square. Inside the Wyly Theatre starting Friday is DTC’s preview week for Clybourne Park, the sequel to A Raisin in the Sun, both of which will be performed in repertory throughout October.

The Crow Collection of Asian Art, which is always free to the public, officially debuts its long-in-development Sculpture Garden, which encircles the Trammell Crow Center above the museum. The huge fu dogs (really lions) and the beautiful “sweepers” are among the draws outside, as well as the exquisite landscaping. Among the impressive items currently on exhibit inside the Crow are brass Chinese zodiac heads from famed artist Ai Weiwei, as well as a hand-painted Porsche that looks like a Chinese tapestry on wheels.

The new exhibit by gay artist Jim Hodges officially opens inside the Dallas Museum of Art on Sunday, but really, you can catch a sneak peek during the fair on Saturday. Hodges is a multimedia artist of such remarkable breadth, you mind will be blown.

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View from the Reunion Tower GeO Deck.

Also on Saturday, you can divert south of the Arts District down to Reunion Tower to enjoy the GeO Deck, the observation level of the tower below the revolving Five Sixty restaurant. In addition to Halo, a system of table-sized iPads that allow you to explore the city (both visually from live cameras and its history), you can actually walk outside and get a 360-view of Dallas, from the Omni to the Trinity to Uptown. A level up from the GeO Deck is a cafe (also manned by Wolfgang Puck staff) that, live the formal dining room, revolves while you eat.

Then head back to the AT&T plaza on Monday for A Gathering 2013, the second performance of music, dance and the spoken word that serves as a commemoration and benefit for Dallas-area HIV/AIDS charities. (Check out a slide show of rehearsal photos below.)

That’s all in addition to LifeWalk in Uptown on Sunday, Dallas Black Pride and Tarrant Pride going on all weekend and the release of the most anticipated film of the season, Gravity. So, if you say you’re bored, it’s your own damn fault.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DBDT founder Ann Williams to retire

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Ann Williams

Ann Williams, the founder and creative director of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre — one of the resident companies that moved into the Wyly Theatre when the Arts District was relaunched four years ago — is stepping down at the end of this upcoming season, her 37th with the troupe.

Williams began her vision 40 years ago when she founded the Dallas Black Dance Academy as a training ground for young African-American dancers. The company followed several years later.

DBDT — one of whose members recently performed with Bruce Wood Dance Project — is in the middle of its summer intensive session. It’s 2013-14 season starts in October and runs through next May.

A national search committee is being organized to find a replacement for Williams.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Diavolo tonight at the Wyly

Diavolo made him do it

When Jacques Heim founded Diavolo Dance Theater in 1992, he probably wasn’t expecting it to become an officially recognized cultural treasureby the city of Los Angeles. And now, for two performances only, Dallas gets to discover this legendary jewel in all its brilliance.

Diavolo deftly combines a company of dancers, gymnasts, athletes and actors to form a team that has a reputation for putting on elaborate shows that transcend the simple notion of what modern dance is all about. The Dallas show is entitled Fearful Symmetries, the second installment of a trilogy commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It premiered in 2010 and features music by John Adams.

Read the entire article here.

DEETS:

—  Rich Lopez

TITAS presents DanceBrazil tonight at the Wyly

Get the Brazilian

Think your butch boyfriend or girlfriend won’t like the DanceBrazil show by TITAS because it’s all arty? Just explain to them that this troupe not only moves gracefully with its Afro-Brazilian fusion of dance, but they mix it with the martial art of Capoeira used in the video game Street Fighter and the movie The Protector. Trust. They’ll change their minds and you win.

DEETS: Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St. 8 p.m. $19–$65. ATTPAC.org.

—  Rich Lopez

LSR starts season with record number of riders

Jerry Calumn at the LSR kick-off party on Sunday.

Lone Star Ride kicked off its new season with a party on the ninth floor of the Wyly Theatre in the Arts District in Downtown Dallas on Sunday afternoon. More people are registered for LSR’s 11th annual ride Sept. 24-25 than ever before at this point in the season.

Previous riders were offered half-off registration fees if they brought a new rider who registered for this year’s event.

At the kickoff party, about 115 people registered to ride, bringing the total to 134. In addition, 48 people have committed to serve as volunteer crew members.

Jerry Calumn, the new ride director, said that he expects cumulative donations to beneficiaries this year to surpass the $2 million mark since LSR was founded in 2001.

Calumn said he thinks a number of crew members from previous years signed up this week to be riders.

“There was a great energy,” he said.

He plans to continue that energy with a number of events in addition to the training rides. Several events are planned for Fort Worth as well. On June 1, they will have happy hour and sign up riders at The Garage at The Pour House, 2725 W. 7th St.

Calumn worked at Resource Center Dallas during the 1990s. RCD is one of the event beneficiaries along with AIDS Services of Dallas and AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County. More pics from the kickoff party below.

—  David Taffet