‘La Bete:’ Gorged on stanzas

Le-Bete
Rhyming couplets and curly fright wigs and lots of facial mugging are the kind of conceits more beloved by theater-folk than theatergoers. Actors are trained on classics like Moliere; hamming it up onstage as a fop is a rite of passage.

If you like that kind of thing, I suppose La Bete at Theatre 3 is about as good as you’re likely to get. The conundrum is: Why would you like that kind of thing?

La Bete is a structural nightmare, a play about actors who hate other actors … and playwrights and critics and, to an extent, audiences. Elomire (Jakie Cabe, pictured left) is the lead actor-writer of his royal troupe and resents having the blowhard actor Valere (Bradley Campbell, pictured right) forced on him by his patron, Princess Conti (Georgia Clinton, pictured top).

You don’t get much more of a plot than that in Act 1, which is dedicated to highlighting the vocal skill of Valere — he has an uninterrupted 20-minute monologue that Campbell modulates masterfully. His Valere is a flouncy boor — imagine Zach Galifianakis in pantaloons — both insufferable and the saving grace of the show. Campbell and Clinton seem to be the only ones who don’t get cornered by the couplets, turning dialogue into the sing-songy patter of reading Dr. Seuss to children at bedtime, a sin especially committed by Cabe (It’s not a pretty show, either, with the cast swathed in costumes that look like Carol Burnett’s hand-me-downs from her Went with the Wind sketch.)

The playwright, David Hirson, has some modestly interesting observations about the tension between art and popular entertainment and the need to strike a balance between them. But he slathers on so much extraneous nonsense (a maid who only speaks in one-syllable words rhyming in “Oooh” is the most inane) that the message is lost. Maybe he’s challenging us to see La Bete as the compromise between art and commerce; instead, it seems more like showcase for Campbell, ranting in the comic wilderness.

— A.W.J.

Theatre 3,
2800 Routh St. in the Quadrangle.
Through Jan 14.
Theatre3Dallas.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The wonderful thing about Tig is….

She wasn’t actually the last comic standing, but dry-witted lesbian standup Tig Notaro has scored legions of fans

TIG NOTARO
With Mark Agee. The Kessler, 1230 W. Davis St. Aug. 30. 7:30 p.m. $15. TheKessler.org

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With a sense of humor so dry, you want to offer her a glass of water, out comedian Tig Notaro knows exactly what to say and how to say it to get a laugh. On her new and aptly named debut comedy disc Good One (Secretly Canadian), she touches on a variety of topics, ranging from Chastity Bono and Taylor Dayne to artificial insemination and babies taking showers. We spoke with Notaro just prior to the release this month of her album.

— Gregg Shapiro

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Dallas Voice: What was the best part of your Last Comic Standing experience?  Notaro: I wasn’t on for very long, maybe two or three episodes. To me it was kind of a ridiculous thing. There were so many comedians who took it very seriously. I guess it’s a good opportunity for people to burst onto the scene out of nowhere. For me, I was kind of glad I didn’t get into the final round — I enjoyed that I just made it to the semi-final round. When you get to that level, you’re just on for three minutes, just doing a set. It’s kind of like doing a late-night talk-show set. That was the best thing. And I made some good friends out of it. I’m doing this Podcast now with David Huntsberger, who I met on Last Comic Standing. In general, it’s kind of a blur to me. It happened so quickly in such a short amount of time that it wasn’t this monumental thing that happened. I kind of forget that I was on it.

Who are your comedy inspirations? Before I got into standup, I was really into Richard Pryor and Joan Rivers and Paula Poundstone and Steve Martin, people like that. It changed when I got into standup. I really started to be inspired by my peers that I was coming up with — Maria Bamford, Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Silverman. That’s who started influencing and inspiring me after I got started. Your tastes get so refined. Not that I don’t think the others were great still, but I would rather listen to my friends these days.
How does it feel to be the first comedian to release a comedy album on uber-hipster indie label Secretly Canadian? I’m thrilled. I feel so honored and lucky. I’d been offered deals with different comedy labels, but it just didn’t appeal to me. I know I’m not the biggest comedian ever [though] if people are into comedy, they probably know who I am. When Secretly Canadian offered me a deal, my manager said, “We’ll look at [the deal] and I’ll talk to the label.” I said, “You can talk all you want, but I know in my gut that I’m signing.” They’ve been so supportive and helpful. They’ve carried out every part of what they’ve promised. It’s just cool. It feels good.

How did you decide what material to include on something as significant as your debut album Good One? I wanted to mix in some things that I had written in the past year that was a little newer. But then I also wanted to put some less popular, older bits of mine on there. I was [recently] in Philadelphia and for my whole show, this woman kept saying “No moleste,” which I guess is my signature bit. She kept turning to her husband saying, “When is she going to do it? I can’t wait until she does ‘No moleste.’” I was like, “Lady! Shut your trap!” I feel like I had to put certain bits on there and for my own good I wanted to put in some newer stuff. There’s also some improvisational things that were more in the moment. That’s how all my shows are — new stuff, old stuff, right on the spot.

So “No moleste” is your “Free Bird.” I guess so. But I feel like my Taylor Dayne story that I wrote in the past year is creeping up on that popularity.

Do you know if Taylor Dayne is aware of being the subject of a comedy routine? Has she contacted you? Yeah, her agent contacted my manager a month or two ago. Her agent told my manager that Taylor wanted me to know that she heard through the grapevine that I was telling this story about her and that she’s a fan of mine and that she’d like to work with me one day [laughs]. I don’t know what on earth we would do together, but I know I don’t need a comedy partner. And I also know I can’t sing. But, yeah, it’s the weirdest and funniest thing that has ever come my way. The Taylor Dayne story just won’t stop giving.

The deluxe edition includes the “Have Tig at Your Party” DVD, described as the “human equivalent to the ‘burning log’ DVD.” What was the inspiration for the concept? Touring so much, I missed so many parties and get-togethers. This friend of mine, years ago, was having a party. And I was sitting in my hotel room thinking, what if I videotaped myself in my hotel room and I just mailed that to her and she could just play it at her party. I didn’t do it, but it inspired the idea of me making that DVD. And every time I mentioned it to people, they would laugh and say, “You have to do that!” So I did and hopefully people will enjoy it. It’s me standing there and I say very little every now and then.

You are going to be on tour for the next several months. What are you looking forward to about being on the road? When I’m doing my college tour, I’m bringing my old friend Tom Sharp as my opener. He’s such a funny guy. We came up in comedy together. He used to write for Zach Galifianakis. With the regular tour dates, I’m hitting a lot of major cities and I have so many friends in those cities. I’m going to be doing venues that I’ve never done, even though I’ve been to those cities before. I’m anxious to see some old friends, hit some new venues. I think it’s going to be a good time.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Hairiography

Rock-of-Ages-happy-shot-Joan-Marcus

Disney-fied metalrock meets ‘Xanadu’ camp in the oddly gay-friendly ‘Rock of Ages’

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

Broadway has become so terrified of becoming irrelevant, it has spent much of the last decade trotting out jukebox musicals that approximate other, more popular forms of entertainment. The latest result: The ear-splitting hair rock musical Rock of Ages, now at the Winspear.

For the first hour or more, Rock of Ages comes off as little more than an annoying, loud concert with trite set-ups and stereotypical characters interspersed to give it some small amount of structure upon which to hang ‘80s metal anthems like “Cum on Feel the Noize” and “Sister Christian.” By intermission, I was ready to write it off completely.

Then something unexpected happened: It got better.

Audiences have become used to campy, self-mocking musicals that poke fun at their catalogue of songs, from Mamma Mia! to Xanadu. Perhaps I was resistant to the idea that non-disco rockers would have as good a sense of humor about themselves to notice it, but Rock of Ages couldn’t be gayer if it had a score of only ABBA songs. When you can finally see the comedy for what it is (a Disney-fied version of rock, about as threatening as the Rock-N-Rollercoaster at Walt Disney World), and give it cred for welcoming a gay sensibility to a genre known for its homophobia, it becomes a hoot: Call it Rock of Fagulas. (It makes sense, too — metal rock is just drag of another kind.)

American Idol’s Constantine Maroulis is the headliner (playing a bar-back who dreams of rock superstardom), but the show is basically stolen by Patrick Lewallen as a hip-swishing, mullet-headed narrator (part Frank-N-Furter, part Zach Galifianakis) and three musical numbers: Peter Deiwick, pantingly sexy as a David Lee Roth clone, sets hearts racing with his rendition of “Wanted Dead or Alive;” two losers standing up for themselves to “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” and the campy twist in “I Can’t Fight This Feeling.” By the time the finale rolls around with the now-over-used rallying anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’,” much of the bad blood from Act 1 has been washed away. It almost makes you yearn for a resurgence in Spandex and wine coolers.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 20, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas