Going It Alone

Dallas Solo Fest is worth watching the misses to see the theatrical hits

Dallas Solo Fest is worth watching the misses to see the hits

Jill Vice in Tipped & Tipsy at Dallas Solo Fest
Jill Vice plays multiple characters in Tipped & Tipsy at Dallas Solo Fest. Photo by Christina McNeill

Did you know that Dallas has a festival devoted entirely to solo performance? This is kind of a big deal, because in addition to WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop fringe festival, Dallas Solo Fest opens up the city to artists from all across the country to present their works.

Founded by Audacity Theatre Lab, the second annual showcase started June 4 at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park, and it continues through Sunday, June 14. As we pointed out before, each show is roughly an hour and costs only $12. There are ridiculously cheap snacks and drinks for sale by donation in the lobby, but BYOB is acceptable too.

Of the six shows I saw this past weekend, three exemplified the magic that can come from watching a single person inhabit so many different personas. Those with future performances are noted.

Brigham Mosley's Mo[u]rnin' After opened the festival and set a high bar. As high as an elephant's eye, you might say, because this reflection of his deceased grandfather, Native American heritage and Midwestern upbringing cheekily uses the musical Oklahoma to punctuate ideas and moments.

In between clips from the 1995 film, Mosley relies on his energetic stage presence and unflinching honesty to talk about his struggle for identity and acceptance. "There was no glitter," he says of his Okie hometown. "Only dirt and dust and absolutely no gay people."

Mosley, an SMU alum, proves so instantly charming and at-ease he calls to mind another Dallas son, Michael Urie. You have two more chances to catch this excellent piece, on June 11 at 10:30 pm and June 13 at 9 pm.

Two Dallas writers disappointed not because of performance, but because of saggy scripts. Critic Kris Noteboom (in ...And Then I Woke Up, about his troubled relationship with sleep and dreams) and playwright/actor/director Jeff Swearingen (in the nightmare vacation An American Asshole in France) each rambled, stumbling over their stories and causing the audience get lost in their ideas.

Both are excellent wordsmiths, so it's frustrating to see their minds go in so many directions. Noteboom only played the first weekend, but Swearingen has one more performance on June 12 at 10:30 pm.

I swear Jill Vice is her real name, but it doesn't get more appropriate than that when your standout one-woman show is about American bar culture. Vice relies on astonishing physical and vocal transformations to inhabit eight or so different characters during Tipped & Tipsy — and only two of them are female.

Though the storyline gets a big trite at the end, it was a great joy to watch Vice use every tool in her arsenal to create these instantly memorable characters.

On the other end of the spectrum is Carla Cackowski's The Seriously Neurotic Dream of Mary Shelley. It's an interesting, history-based premise: Mary Shelley is vacationing with her boyfriend and his impressive friends when they all decide it would be fun for each to write a scary story. Poor Mary is so wrapped up in her own head that she can't focus on anything besides her boy troubles, mean-girl acquaintances and ambivalence about her children.

But Cackowski goes so far into turning this proper lady into a hip, technology-using, selfish ditz that she's thoroughly unlikable. And by the time she's inspired to create Frankenstein's monster, we're snoozing.

Van Quattro performed his play Standing Eight Count at WaterTower's fringe festival, and here he's tightened and streamlined the riveting retelling of his year as a semi-pro boxer in the 1970s. Quattro is mesmerizing as he recounts the messed-up childhood that led him to the punching bag, the power he felt when winning bouts, and the pain he fought when both his girlfriend and his father distance themselves from him.

Nimbly bouncing around the stage, issuing commands in a rapid Spanish accent when embodying his trainer, and re-creating the suspense and violence of his last big fight make this a show that's impossible to look away from. You can catch Standing Eight Count on June 12 at 7:30 pm and June 14 at 5 pm.

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You can buy tickets to Dallas Solo Fest shows in advance or at the door. In addition to the performances noted above, two more are on the lineup for this weekend: '33: A Kabarett and Lord of the Files.