Five Course Love – Houston Press Review

Dylan C. Godwin and Chelsea Ryan McCurdy in Stages Repertory Theatre’s production of Five Course Love.

Dylan C. Godwin and Chelsea Ryan McCurdy in Stages Repertory Theatre’s production of Five Course Love. Photo by Os Galindo.

 

Five Course Love

Written by: Gregg Coffin

Directed by: Mitchell Greco

Company: Stages Repertory Theatre

Run dates: Through April 6, 2017

http://www.stagestheatre.com

 

Read my review of Five Course Love for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/five-course-love-review-9266289

Syncing Ink – Houston Press Review

Playwright and lead performer NSangou Njikam as Gordon in Syncing Ink.

Playwright and lead performer NSangou Njikam as Gordon in Syncing Ink. Photo by Christopher Diaz.

 

Synching Ink

Written by: NSangou Njikam

Directed by: Niegel Smith

Company: Alley Theatre

Run dates: March 5, 2017

http://www.alleytheatre.org

 

Read my review of Syncing Ink for Houston Press at:

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/a-story-of-hip-hop-and-searching-in-syncing-ink-9193364

 

Joshua Kyle Hoppe, Colin Brock, Jonathan Gonzalez and Rachel Dickinson in Small Jokes About Monsters.

Joshua Kyle Hoppe, Colin Brock, Jonathan Gonzalez and Rachel Dickinson in Small Jokes About Monsters. Photo by Clinton Hopper.

 

Small Jokes About Monsters

Written by: Steven Strafford

Directed by: Clinton Hopper

Company: The Landing Theatre Company

Run dates: Through Feb 18, 2017

http://www.landingtheatre.org

 

Read my review of Small Jokes About Monsters for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/small-jokes-about-monsters-is-a-successful-stab-at-an-overworked-genre-9154089

 

Who Am I This Time? (& Other Conundrums of Love) – Houston Press Review

Jason Duga, Deborah Hope, Philip Lehl, Bree Welch, Blake Jackson and Emily Neves in Stages Repertory Theatre’s production of Who Am I This Time? (& Other Conundrums of Love).

Jason Duga, Deborah Hope, Philip Lehl, Bree Welch, Blake Jackson and Emily Neves in Stages Repertory Theatre’s production of Who Am I This Time? (& Other Conundrums of Love). Photo by Jon Shapley.

 

Who Am I This Time?

Written by: Aaron Posner

Adapted from: Stories by Kurt Vonnegut

Directed by: Sally Edmundson

Company: Stages Repertory Theatre

Run dates: Through Feb 12, 2017

http://www.stagestheatre.com

 

Read my review of Who Am I This Time for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/who-am-i-this-time-should-really-ask-why-this-play-at-this-time-9149431

Dry Powder – Houston Press Review

Elizabeth Bunch as Jenny, John Feltch as Rick and Jay Sullivan as Seth in Dry Powder.

Elizabeth Bunch as Jenny, John Feltch as Rick and Jay Sullivan as Seth in Dry Powder. Photo by Lynn Lane.

 

Dry Powder

Written by: Sarah Burgess

Directed by: Taibi Magar

Company: Alley Theatre

Run dates: Through Feb 12, 2017

http://www.alleytheatre.org

 

Read my review of Dry Powder for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/dry-powder-at-the-alley-who-knew-high-finance-could-be-so-funny-9146659

 

 

The Johns – Houston Press Review

Shelby Blocker and Miranda Herbert in The Johns

Shelby Blocker and Miranda Herbert in The Johns. Photo by Pin Lim.

 

The Johns

Written by: Mary Bonnett

Directed by: Jennifer Decker

Company: Mildred’s Umbrella in partnership with  National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Houston Section, and United Against Human Trafficking

Run dates: Through February 4, 2017

http://www.mildredsumbrella.com

 

Read my review of The John’s for Houston Press at 

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/the-johns-tackles-sex-slavery-with-unfortunate-cliche-9116384

 

Insomnia Cafe & Matt and Ben – Houston Press Review

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Travis Ammons, Brian Chambers and Jenna Morris in Insomnia Cafe. Photo by Christine Weems.

 

Insomnia Cafe

Written by: Breanna Bietz

Directed by: Lex Las

Company: Cone Man Running Productions

Run dates: Through Jan 28, 2017

http://www.conemanrunning.com

 

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Chelsea Ryan McCurdy and Rachael Logue in Matt and Ben. Photo by Claire Logue.

 

Matt and Ben

Written by Mindy Kaline and Brenda Withers

Directed by: Julie Traber

Company: Rogue Productions

Run dates: Through January 29, 2017

http://www.rogueproductionshtx.com

 

Read my double review of Insomnia Cafe & Matt and Ben for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/big-screen-and-small-screen-friends-from-the-90s-find-themselves-on-houston-stages-9111452

 

The Designated Mourner – Not really a review

Greg Dean (Jack), Patricia Duran (Judy) and Paul Menze (Howard) in Designated Mourner

Greg Dean (Jack), Patricia Duran (Judy) and Paul Menze (Howard) in Designated Mourner. Photo by Anthony Rathbun.

 

This isn’t a review of Catastrophic Theatre’s excellent production of Wallace Shawn’s The Designated Mourner. If it were, I’d praise Shawn’s timely play that skewers the entitled arrogance of the intellectually elite while at the same time decrying the dumbing down of society. Written in 1996, but painfully hitting us where we presently live, Mourner cleverly takes swipes at the highbrow/lowbrow underbelly and warns us that things won’t end well for anyone.

If I were reviewing, I’d also have to gush about Shawn’s delicious language delivered by its three characters in monologue as they sit at a table facing the audience. What they describe are their lives leading up to and in the era of a totalitarian takeover. A takeover that violently culls the elites and the culturally elevated from society. Sure there is Shawn’s famous moralizing and yes he serves up more post show topics of conversation than is possible for any one human being to tackle. But he also gifts us with wildly funny and imaginative lines such as, “My dick lay limply inside my trousers, like a little lunch packed by Mother.”

But like I said, this isn’t a review of the play.

Instead, I’d like to address the notion of favorites.

Upon learning I’m a theater critic, it usually doesn’t take long for a certain kind of folk to ask me what my favorite company is or who my favorite actors are. This has been the case no matter what city I’ve worked in. Who do I think is the best in town X – they want to know.

Over the years I’ve found polite ways to non-answer this question. Not because I’m afraid of showing bias, although that would be good reason enough. But because I truly don’t have these kinds of favorites when it comes to theater. I may love a certain play or performance, but to then say that the company producing the work or the actor performing it is my favorite is, to my mind, ludicrous. It would imply that I’ve loved everything they’ve done and that simply is never the case in my experience. No talent is infallible. It would also suggest that I would like in future anything they would do, and that’s not only unprofessional but crystal ball hooey.

Instead, I like to discuss artists that intrigue me. Those talents who, while I may ardently dislike some (or even much) of their efforts, find ways to wow me in manners that stick. Seeing as much theater as I do, it’s not the consistently good that tingles my nerves over time, it’s the occasionally terrific I remember and thrill about long after the show is gone.

As it turns out, three artists I feel fall into this category were featured in The Designated Mourner – cast members Greg Dean, Patricia Duran and director Jason Nodler. (The show also featured a terrific Paul Menzel, but as this was the first time I’d seen him on stage, I’ll leave him out of this discussion) So three talents that have at one point or another immensely impressed me. Dangerous ground I worried. Could all three make magic together or would this be another case of better luck next time for one or more of them? Happily for me, and I believe the rest of the audience, this was a distinct case of intriguing artists doing killer work. More specifically, doing killer work because they were all in it together.

No matter the production, it’s always apparent Nodler (also the artistic director of Catastrophic) is enraptured with his script. You can feel the love in his productions. There is passion and energy and an undercurrent of fanboying that desperately wants us to see what he sees in the work. When Nodler gets it right, it’s very very right. I saw this most recently with his direction of Mickle Maher’s Song About Myself – a show I would have enjoyed far less had the direction not been as beautifully elegant as it was. And here, with Designated Mourner, he does it again. There’s no doubt that Director Nodler revels in Shawn’s script. The love of the ideas and words ooze out of every pore in this production. But unlike some of Nodler’s other efforts I’ve seen, here he doesn’t let his reverence get in the way of making sure the production itself thrills. Breathing room, energy, drawing out palpable action from sedentary characters, humor and suspense – these are all elements that Nodler expertly stirs into and teases out of this fine production.

With such care and attention, it’s no wonder that Dean and Duran both rise to the challenge and deliver their particular brand of wow.

So many of Greg Dean’s performances have rocked my world. This makes it all the more frustrating when I simply can’t pick up what he’s putting down. A physically tic-y performer, I’ve watched his motor skills overshadow his grasp of character. I’ve also seen him shockingly perform from script, not yet having his lines down. No such trouble here. Not only does Dean carry the two-act aggressively verbose script on his very well prepared shoulders with perfect fluidity, he does so with an effortless physical ballet, punctuating all that is said or thought. To watch his hands flutter to his face – perhaps to tap at his mouth in contemplation or to nervously groom his mustache is like watching another fascinating and fully formed character on stage. In fact, his physical prowess as a man who is anything but powerful in this show is so absorbing that often I caught myself staring at him even when it wasn’t his turn to speak. This is Dean at his finest.

Patricia Duran is one of those intriguing performers who, as of yet, has not taken any distinctly wrong turns in the time I’ve watched her. While not necessarily always afterglow memorable in all her roles, it’s fair to say that to date I’ve found her to be a strong and often remarkable actor. And while this season it’s hard to top her barn burning performance as Victoria in Motherfucker with the Hat (Obsidian Theatre), this effort might be a good second. Calm and haughty with a soupçon of vulnerability, Duran’s eyes blaze at us from the stage and we hang on her every word. That she is utterly unlikable as a character matters none, Duran’s compelling portrayal ensures that we welcome every syllable.

So what was the point in my saying all this? Why give a non-review that simply singles out talents doing exceptional jobs in a show? Well dear Houston theater goers, whether you make it to The Designated Mourner or not, these are artists I want you to keep on your radar. To actively look for their productions and then attend. Sure, you could be disappointed. Not every effort is going to shine brightly. But on the chance that you catch them in brilliance, that kind of end of rainbow pot of gold is what every theater lover is hoping for.

My advice is simple – take a chance to be wowed.

 

The Designated Mourner runs through January 15 at  The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit catastrophictheatre.com or matchouston.org. 

The Rocky Horror Show – Houston Press Review

Scott Harrison as Brad and Connor Lyon as Janet in The Rocky Horror Show

Scott Harrison as Brad and Connor Lyon as Janet in The Rocky Horror Show. Photo by Os Galindo.

 

The Rocky Horror Show

Music, Book and Lyrics by: Richard O’Brien

Directed by: Mitchell Greco

Choreographed by: Kristen Warren

Musical Direction by: Stephen W. Jones

Company: Theatre Under the Stars

Run date: Through November 20, 2016

http://www.tuts.com

 

Read my review of The Rocky Horror Show for Houston Press at

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/the-rocky-horror-show-is-freaky-and-dirty-done-right-8935160