In the Heights – Houston Press Review

Rayanne Gonzales as Abuela Claudia and Anthony Lee Medina as Usnavi in In The Heights.

Rayanne Gonzales as Abuela Claudia and Anthony Lee Medina as Usnavi in In The Heights. Photo by Os Galindo.

 

In the Heights

Music and Lyrics by: Lin Manuel Miranda

Book by: Quiara Alegeria Hudes

Directed by: Nick DeGruccio

Company: TUTS

Run dates: Through September 25, 2016

http://www.tuts.com

 

Read my review of In The Heights for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/in-the-heights-is-as-important-as-it-is-entertaining-8768601

Hand to God – Houston Press Review

Steve Pacek as Jason in the Alley Theatre’s production of Hand to God.

Steve Pacek as Jason in the Alley Theatre’s production of Hand to God. Photo by Lynn Lane.

 

Hand to God

Written by: Robert Askins

Directed by: Mark Shanahan

Company: Alley Theatre

Run dates: Through September 18, 2016

http://www.alleytheatre.org

 

Read my review of Hand to God for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/hand-to-god-proves-puppet-sex-is-still-funny-8715548

Buried Child and True West – Houston Press Review

(L-r) Candice D’Meza, Rutherford Cravens, Charlie Scott, Kyle Sturdivant and Carolyn Houston Boone in Buried Child

(L-R) Candice D’Meza, Rutherford Cravens, Charlie Scott, Kyle Sturdivant and Carolyn Houston Boone in Buried Child. Photo by Anthony Rathbun.

Nick Farco and Drake Simpson in True West

Nick Farco and Drake Simpson in True West. Photo by Gabriella Nissen.

 

Buried Child

Written by: Sam Shepard

Directed by: Jeff Miller

Company: Catastrophic Theatre

Run Dates: Through October 1, 2016

www.catastrophictheatre.com

 

True West

Written by: Sam Shepard

Directed by: Kim Tobin-Lehl

Company: 4th Wall Theatre

Run Dates: Through September 30, 2016

 

Read my Shepard twofer review at Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/sam-shepard-s-buried-child-and-true-west-explore-and-explode-theamerican-dream-8762208

The 2016 Houston Theater Awards

Herman Gambhir was stunning in The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.

Herman Gambhir was stunning in The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. Photo courtesy of Stages Repertory Theatre.

 

It was a terrific crop of shows and artists we had to choose from for this year’s awards. No, me and my Houston Press colleagues didn’t always agree on things, but then what fun is it discussing theater when everyone likes the same things? What we could agree on though, is how truly pleased we are with this year’s award winners and finalists. Some old faces and some new. Some large companies and some that fit into a small living room. But what all these talented artists share, is their talent and courage to put it all out there on the stage and wow us. Bravo to each and every one and thank you for all your hard work.

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/presenting-the-2016-houston-theater-awards-8693759

Gambrels of the Sky – Houston Press Review

Cindy Lou Parker, Cheramie Hopper and Shelby Marie in Gambrels of the Sky.

Cindy Lou Parker, Cheramie Hopper and Shelby Marie in Gambrels of the Sky. Photo by Paige Kiliany.

 

Gambrels of the Sky

Written by: A.M. Keel

Directed by: Leighza Walker

Company: The Landing Theatre Company

Run dates: Through August 20, 2016

http://www.landingtheatre.org

 

Read my review of Gambrels of the Sky for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/gambrels-of-the-sky-pushes-our-imagination-of-eve-post-eden-8638653

El Nogalar – Houston Press Review

Eli Solis, Adriana Dominguez and Melissa Milano

Eli Solis, Adriana Dominguez and Melissa Molano. Photo by Kelsey McMillan.

 

El Nogalar

Written by: Tanya Saracho

Directed by: Kelsey McMillan

Company: Obsidian Theater

Run dates: Through August 20, 2016

http://www.obsidiantheater.org

 

Read my review of El Nogalar for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/el-nogalar-is-both-inspired-by-and-constrained-by-chekhov-s-the-cherry-orchard-8624807

The Maids – Houston Press Review

Patricia Duran and Courtney Lomelo in The Maids

Patricia Duran and Courtney Lomelo in The Maids. Photo by Aaron Asher.

 

The Maids

Written by: Jean Genet

Directed by: Jon Harvey

Company: Mildred’s Umbrella

Run dates: Through August 13, 2016

http://www.mildredsumbrella.com

 

Read my review of The Maids for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/a-neutered-production-turns-the-maids-into-something-less-than-stellar-8619374

 

Shear Madness – Houston Press Review

Deborah Hope in Stages Repertory Theatre's production of Shear Madness.

Deborah Hope in Stages Repertory Theatre’s production of Shear Madness. Photo by Jon Shapley.

 

Shear Madness

Adapted by: Bruce Jordan and Marilyn Abrams

Directed by: Josh Morrison and Mitchell Greco

Company: Stages Theatre

Run dates: Through August 21, 2016

http://www.stagestheatre.com

 

Read my review of Shear Madness for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/talents-shine-bright-in-the-interactive-shear-madness-at-stages-8574881

 

 

Spider’s Web – Houston Press Review

Jeffrey Bean, Josie de Guzman and John Tyson in Agatha Christie's Spider's Web

Jeffrey Bean, Josie de Guzman and John Tyson in Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web. Photo by Lynn Lane.

 

Spider’s Web

Written by: Agatha Christie

Directed by: Gregory Boyd

Company: Alley Theatre

Run dates: Through August 11, 2016

http://www.alleytheatre.org

 

Read my review of Spider’s Web for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/alley-theatres-production-of-agatha-christies-spiders-web-is-a-delight-8577172

 

Born Yesterday – An angry rant

Alley Theatre-BornYesterday-_096-web

Stephen Pelinski as Harry Brock and Melissa Pritchett as Billie Dawn
in the Alley Theatre’s production of Born Yesterday. Photography By Lynn Lane.

 

“I haven’t left the theatre this spitting mad in a long time.”

That was the Tweet from me just minutes after seeing the Alley Theatre’s production of Garson Kanin’s 1946 play, Born Yesterday. I’ve taken a couple days to simmer down, collect my thoughts and most importantly see if my ire would abate. Perhaps I was just having one of those days when I saw the show. Maybe I was overly irritated. Possibly I wouldn’t be angry any longer.

No dice, I’m still pretty miffed. Here’s why:

Born Yesterday is the IKEA of stage comedies. It’s flimsy and utilitarian and sure it fills the room, but it’s the kind of show that you desperately want to replace with a better, more substantial and witty production once you have the time and money to do so. I say this not because the Alley, in their usual splendid design fashion, didn’t make the show look good. The upscale two story hotel room set looks plushly glorious. I say this because the plot itself is remarkably shallow and lacking.

Harry Brock is a bully, a boor and a billionaire who made his money in the scrap metal business. He and his ditsy girlfriend Billie arrive in Washington D.C so Brock can grease a Senator to help him arrange favorable circumstances for his junkyard business empire. Brock is concerned that Billie’s stupidity will make him look bad in front of the D.C. crowd, so he hires journalist Paul Verall to educate her. The teacher and student fall for each other and Billie gets half a brain outta the deal. With her new found smarts, she realizes how crooked and abusive Brock is and thwarts his shady business plans.

That’s it. That’s the whole show. No backstory. No insight. No twists or turns or tension or anything that would make this a remotely interesting comedy to partake in. Worst still, like the uber obvious plot, we see the low hanging fruit jokes coming a mile away. But this alone, while frustratingly disappointing, wouldn’t have been enough to tip me over to the rage side of town. That happened when I realized just how disrespectful those low handing fruit jokes are to a modern audience.

Born Yesterday is a show that asks us to laugh at how dumb a woman is. Over and over again. Billie is a floozy and happy to be that way. She doesn’t read the paper, or know anything about how the country runs and is quite sure that London and England are two different places on the map. With her squeaky baby voice that turns loud and raunchy when she’s pissed, Billie faux pas her way through most of the show and it’s our job to laugh AT her for it.

As for her acquired smarts by the end of the play, well she doesn’t start to get “learned” until she realizes she has a crush on Paul, her teacher. She herself even admits that the only reason she agreed to study is that she figured it was the one way to seduce him.

So yeah. She does it to bag a guy.

I have no doubt that this was hilarious in the 40’s when it hit the stage. But just like Canada’s new Prime Minister said when explaining why he made sure 50% of his Cabinet were females, it’s 2016. A year where rape culture and female victim blaming is front and centre in our news and minds. A year where Hollywood is being called to task on inequitable pay for woman artists. A year where the United States has its first female Presidential nominee.

And yet THIS is what the Alley Theatre thought would be a good programming choice? Look I know these decisions are made way in advance, but c’mon…who didn’t read the tea leaves over there? I don’t care if it was ten years ago, this type of misogyny without irony, substance or anything important to say to us has no business being produced. I don’t say it often, but I was offended. Worst still, I was offended that the Alley, who call themselves “one of America’s leading not-for-profit theatres” thought so little of their audience, male and female, that they would offer this up as a good time comedy.

Shame on them. They know better. We deserve better.