Sizzling Summer Theater
Banana man and shady dames headline summer theater in Dallas
June may as well be renamed "theater month" in Dallas, because it seems like every company in town is opening a show in the next 30 days. Luckily for audiences, that means plenty of amazing theater to choose from. Below are 10 exciting picks, plus two bonus events just because we like you.
4.48 Psychosis, Davis Street Collective
May 31-June 7
It's a heavy way to head into summer, but controversial British playwright Sarah Kane's final work also offers the chance for a unique experience with each production — there are no specific characters, stage directions or narrative.
The newly formed Davis Street Collective, a group of artists located in the Bishop Arts District, is courageously mounting this play, the first in what will be a series of works performed in the extremely intimate David Foundry space. The production promises to be "compelling" and "immersive," and given that the play deals with Kane's eventually fatal depression, that's an intriguing — albeit apprehensive — hook.
One: Man. Show, Kitchen Dog Theater
May 29-June 15
I honestly don't know why anyone hasn’t tried this before: There's no better way to get an audience to pay attention than to put your leading player in a banana suit.
Tim Johnson, the guy who's manly enough to don the costume, wrote and stars in this (mostly) solo cabaret that's both a world premiere and part of Kitchen Dog's annual New Works Festival. He's joined by Martha Harms, one of Dallas' busiest actresses, who was just seen at Kitchen Dog as a maniacally upbeat pharm exec in RX.
The Civil War, Artisan Center Theater
May 31-July 13
As of press time, the first four performances of this Frank Wildhorn-penned musical are sold out. It's a sweeping, gut-wrenching glance at the four years in American history when brother fought brother, and Wildhorn's typically grandiose musical style feels oddly appropriate for this subject matter.
Real letters, diaries and other writings of the time provide the basis for characters and lyrics, giving the show a hauntingly authentic touch.
Black Tie, WaterTower Theatre
Stan Graner is one of those Dallas actors who consistently contributes incredible work practically everywhere, yet he never seems to get the recognition he deserves. Following up small but strong roles in The Grapes of Wrath and August: Osage County, Graner is returning to WaterTower as patriarch Curtis in Black Tie.
Playing the father of the groom who's caught between maintaining old traditions and building new ones, Graner seems poised to deliver yet another strong turn. Hopefully this time that also means more credit.
Sister Act, Dallas Summer Musicals
Considering its theme is about finding your voice through song, it was only a matter of time before someone put Sister Act onstage. Whoopi Goldberg, who created lounge-singer-on-the-run Dolores Van Cartier on film, is one of the musical's lead producers, and she even donned Mother Superior's habit for a bit during the show's London run.
If you miss the show on its trip through Dallas, it's also stopping at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth later in the month.
Daffodil Girls, Inspired by David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, Fun House Theatre and Film
From the mouths of babes … The signature cadence known as "Mamet speak" is translated to a cast of young girls ranging in age from 7 to 14. They are the Daffodil Girls, adorable scamps who lie, cheat, and steal in order to sell the most baked goods. This homage to the original play and iconic movie was such a hit earlier in May that Fun House is bringing it back for four performances only. No cookies for you if you can’t close the deal on this one.
The Taming of the Shrew and Julius Caesar, Trinity Shakespeare Festival
Now entering its fifth anniversary season, Trinity Shakes seems to be getting better and better with each year. Last year’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor broke box office records and received critical love letters, and this summer’s repertory lineup looks just as promising.
Jenny Ledel and Alex Organ, husband and wife who have recently been burning up the local stages, show up in both productions, while perennial TSF favorites Trisha Miller and Chuck Huber spar wittily in The Taming of the Shrew.
Two plots play out simultaneously: A writer tries to turn his book into a screenplay while we see that prospective film’s narrative come to life. The creative kicker is that the “real” world happens in color while the “reel” world appears in black and white.
It’s a murder mystery, a behind-the-scenes Hollywood comedy, a hard-boiled detective tale and a technical feat all in one.
The Music Man, Lyric Stage
Broadway has a long history of basing shows around adorable cheats and scamps, and The Music Man is no exception. Watching Harold Hill roll into the quaintest small town ever and willingly deceive children is somehow charming when set to Meredith Wilson’s sweet score, here conducted by the outstanding Jay Dias and Lyric’s customary full orchestra.
With Cheryl Denson directing and Ann Nieman providing choreography, here’s hoping this production follows in the footsteps of Lyric’s previous classic Americana hits like Oklahoma!and Gypsy.
Songs for a New World, Uptown Players
June 21-July 7
Jason Robert Brown’s sort-of song cycle is neither a revue nor a plotted show; it’s more like a mash-up of songs that explore the theme of transition.
Uptown Players has already proven its excellence with concert-like shows such as its annual Broadway Our Way, and having a cast that includes such top-notch local talent as John Campione (part of the universally strong Putting It Together at WaterTower Theatre) and Walter Lee and Feleceia Benton (who were behind some of the best performances of Smokey Joe’s Café, also at WaterTower) just ups the ante.
Bonus No. 1
This House, National Theatre Live
May 30-June 19
Political dramas are always compelling, but British political dramas seem to possess a extra layer of sophistication and exoticism. Maybe it’s the storied history of the United Kingdom’s government — or the upper-crust accents.
Either way, this sold-out production of James Graham’s acclaimed play peels back the curtain at 1974 Westminster, a time when Parliament was in complete upheaval. The live-filmed version is playing at the Angelika in both Dallas and Plano, as well as the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, courtesy of Amphibian Productions.
Bonus No. 2
Festival of Independent Theatres
May 31-June 22
Besides acting as a launching pad for local playwrights, actors, directors and designers, FIT allows Dallas audiences a low-pressure way to explore new works by pairing two one-act plays together in what’s dubbed a “terrific two-fer.”
This year, eight new shows are on the docket, among them one about a time-traveling robot and dinosaur (from Audacity Theatre Lab), the festival’s first-ever dance performance (courtesy of Rhythmic Souls), and a solo show by local monologist extraordinaire John Michael Colgin exploring the personal ramifications of life in the share-all digital world.