Theater Critic Picks
We get it: December is busy. There are parties upon parties, not to mention holiday travel and traditional outings. But there's still room for theater, especially if you need a holiday palate cleanser. Dallas is serving up a variety of shows this month, and not all of them are coated in syrupy seasonal sentiment.
Here are the 10 shows to see, in order by start date:
Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold
WaterTower Theatre, December 2-23
WaterTower newcomer Nonie Newton Riley is on the hunt for the Magi's gold in this holiday mystery, which also mysteriously hints at including the vocal talents of Sarah Elizabeth Price. It's from one of the playwrights of Late Night Catechism, the popular solo show that's part catechism class, part stand-up routine, so expect lots of laughs.
Dead White Zombies, December 1-January 1 (perhaps)
To try to explain this experimental troupe's latest project is to still not fully understand it. Founder Thomas Riccio promises this to be DWZ's "most ambitious and adventurous performance project" in the company's five-year history, and it's set to play out over the next several months. Where? Well, everywhere. Doing what? Well, everything. The immersive project is co-created with the City of Dallas, and scenes could take place just about anywhere, at any time. The promise is that the project "will grow and be shaped by community responses, interactions, and suggestions. Where it goes, what it will say, and what effect it will have will be shaped by the community."
Broadway Christmas Wonderland
Dallas Summer Musicals, December 6-18
A glittering, high-kicking extravaganza, this holiday revue is a mish-mash of classic tunes ("White Christmas," "Silent Night," "Jingle Bells") and production numbers from a chorus of 24 lithe and leggy dancers. Expect sparkle, expect snow, even expect ice skating.
Dallas Theater Center, December 7-January 22
This new play from 2016 MacArthur Fellow Branden Jacobs-Jenkins does what so many other movies, plays, and books love to focus on — the "cutthroat world of magazine publishing." But we're still holding out hope that there's more to this work than a cliché. A small cast of six, lead by Leah Spillman, plays multiple roles in the intimate studio space at the Wyly Theatre, under Christie Vela's direction.
Bishop Arts Theatre Center, December 8-18
Langston Hughes' poetic and soulful take on the birth of Christ returns, as told through gospel, spirituals, and dance. Written in 1961, the play was one of the first penned by an African American to be performed Off-Broadway and has become a tradition at theaters around the country ever since.
It's a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play
Firehouse Theatre, December 9-18
It wouldn't be Christmas without that bell ringing, but there are plenty more aural joys to be found in this innovative take on George Bailey's holiday crisis. A troupe of actors gathers in a 1940s radio studio to bring the well-known story to life, using vocal effects and an original score by Scott A. Eckert. There are a couple of musical cameos too, making it really feel as though you've traveled back in time.
In a Dark Dark House
Proper Hijinx Productions, December 9-18
To round out its first full season, this new company is presenting the regional premiere of Neil LaBute's dark tale of a dysfunctional family. LaBute is hardly warm and fuzzy holiday fare, which is what makes this show so refreshing. Amphibian Stage Productions is lending its stage, and Jeff Burleson, Aaron White, and Madeleine Morris star.
Nearly Naked Nutcracker
Broads and Panties Burlesque, December 16-17
To see a different kind of stocking this season, head to Viva's in the Design District for this sixth annual burlesque take on the holiday ballet. The show — which mixes dance with traditional vaudeville humor — is for mature audiences only, of course, but it's something you should put on your calendar if you want to hang out on the naughty list for a while.
The Book of Mormon
AT&T Performing Arts Center, December 20-31
When the doorbell rings this time, it's not carolers. Instead it's a return engagement of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's award-winning and utterly inappropriate musical about Mormon missionaries. If you somehow missed the blockbuster the other two times it's been here, now's your chance. There are even a limited number of $25 tickets up for grabs with the lottery, which is held an hour-and-a-half before each performance.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
Theatre Three, December 29-February 12
A new cast has been tapped for the musical romp through male-female relationships, now in its 17th year. Janelle Lutz, Calvin Scott Roberts, Trey West, and Allison Bret will embody young lovers, mature marrieds, and everyone in between as this favorite plays the basement space at Theatre Three.