Prancing Puppies and Flying Pizza!
Like every theater critic, I have already filed my year-end, best-of list. There was certainly some incredible theater in 2013, with productions, performances and designs that challenged and delighted audiences.
This list, while it may include some of those best-of’s, is meant instead to celebrate the memorable moments — good, weird and/or amazing — that stuck with me long after the curtain dropped.
Best Photo Op: XSR: Die!, Pegasus Theatre
It’s time for Rehearsal for Murder!, the 2014 installment of Pegasus Theatre’s yearly Living Black & White production. Do yourself a favor and get what might be the best profile picture ever, as I did following last year’s production.
After each performance, the actors from Kurt Kleinmann’s comic murder mystery plays pose for snaps in the Eisemann Center lobby. Go see their amazing black, white and gray makeup up close (yes, it’s even in their ears and on their gums!) and then try to convince your friends the picture wasn’t Photoshopped.
Best Lip Synching: The Lucky Chance, Echo Theatre
This play, from one of the earliest known female playwrights, boasts the kind of whirlwind romances and mistaken identities we often associate with Shakespeare. What we may not often associate with a play written in 1686 is Dusty Springfield.
Director Rene Moreno and choreographer Sara Romersberger sprinkled ’60s-era pop tunes into their groovy production, which was updated from 17th-century Restoration to swinging London, giving the actors — and the audience — a hilarious outlet from the flowery language and earnest declarations of love.
Best Office Romance: RX, Kitchen Dog Theater
Which one, you might ask? Kate Fodor’s sharply satiric take on our increasing chemical dependence centered around the deeply unfulfilled Meena, an editor of a cattle and swine magazine who enrolls in a Wonder Drug trial. The pills are meant to up her life satisfaction, but as a bonus she also ends up falling for the nebbishly cute doctor who’s monitoring her progress.
As adorable as it was to watch Tina Parker and Max Hartman timidly dance around their characters’ attraction, it was downright awesome to watch Parker (who won our hearts with one of the year's best performances) get it on with her magazine colleague (Christopher Curtis) in a blouse-ripping, shove-everything-off-the-desk moment of workday passion.
Best Opera Tie-In: Fly By Night, Dallas Theater Center
There was much to love about this new musical, currently prepping for its May premiere Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. The score felt fresh, the intricate plot boasted some truly satisfying connections and the performances were endearing (and, in the case of Asa Somer’s multifaceted narrator, probably exhausting).
But it was DFW favorite David Coffee who shone the brightest during this play about the 1965 New York City blackout, playing a lonely widower who remains connected to his late wife through a recording of La Traviata. There were precious few moments when Coffee’s character wasn’t steeped in a deep depression, yet his performance still managed to be touching, inspiring and nothing short of illuminating.
Best Excuse for a Thin Mint: Daffodil Girls, Inspired by David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, Fun House Theatre and Film
I’m not the only one who heaped praise on this clever adaptation of Mamet’s famously ruthless tale of greed and underhandedness, told here by adorable little girls selling cookies. It totally deserves all the happy words we critics had to give it, and even picking a favorite moment is d*%! near impossible.
Was it when an overly confident Lizzy Green declares that she will be the top seller and win the pony party? Or was it when Lynley Glickler consistently cut down the impossibly cute Zoe Smithey (who definitely knows how to work a protruding bottom lip)? Or perhaps when Kennedy Waterman stoically phones her divorced parents, swallowing back tears and displaying emotions that most adult actors could never dream of eliciting? Impossible to choose, I tell you.
Best Puppy: So Help Me God!, Theatre Three
We’re all suckers for cute animals onstage, and Terry Dobson knows it. The director of So Help Me God! may not have ultimately been able to give this backstage farce much bite, but he did cast Skye, a rescued Chihuahua mix, in the oh-so-important role of diva Lily Darnley’s pampered pup, Frou-Frou.
Skye was also up for adoption through Take Me Home Pet Rescue. Her foster family offered meet-and-greets with her in the lobby after the show.
Best Reason to Ask for ID: Jailbait, Dallas Actors Lab
Deidre O’Connor’s intimate and provocative play toyed with its audience, presenting two high school girls (Mikaela Krantz and Katherine Bourne) who go out clubbing disguised as coeds. When Bourne’s character meets and connects with a much older man (who’s none the wiser to her true age), the assumption is that you as the audience should be repulsed.
Instead, Bourne and Kyle Lemieux delivered performances nuanced with nerves and vulnerability. When Lemieux’s character finally learned who was in his bed, the range of emotions — from loathing to fear to hurt — made the scenario much more than cut and dried.
Most Erotic Reading: Cock, Second Thought Theatre
Second Thought Theatre gave audiences a tantalizing preview of its upcoming full production of Mike Bartlett’s play with a staged reading during Uptown Players Pride Festival. Even with clunky scripts and binders in their hands, things got hot and heavy as Joey Folsom and Danielle Pickard, um, became intimate — all without ever touching each other. The power of words, y’all.
Best Use of Pizza: Matt & Ben, Echo Theatre
Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers’ slight comedy about Hollywood’s favorite bromance worked because of actresses Catherine DuBord and Miller Pyke, who weren’t afraid to get physical in order to convey their dudeness. A balls-to-the-wall food fight — replete with Doritos, Coke bottles, real pizza and baked goods — showed just how committed these two were.
Best Joke: Clybourne Park, Dallas Theater Center
I’m not going to ruin it for you, but Tiffany Hobbs’ delivery of the crude yet laugh-out-loud funny joke in Act II of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning sequel to A Raisin in the Sun stopped the show. Everyone who has seen the play wonders what you thought of “the joke,” and everyone who hasn’t should be sad they’re not in on it.