8 plays to beat the winter doldrums, from men in swimming pools to women defyinggravity
Theater in 2013 isn't wasting any time. From obscure musicals to decades-old favorites, challenging straight plays to new interpretations, Dallas stages are pulling out all the stops to make sure this year starts with a bang. Even when it is rainy and gray outside, onstage it’s sizzling.
Penelope, Undermain Theatre
Through January 26
In case you haven’t noticed, Undermain is having a lot of fun this season with different interpretations of classical texts and themes. Following An Iliad is Penelope by Enda Walsh, a riff on the ancient tale of Homer’s wife staving off unwanted suitors while he gallivants around the world fighting beasts and monsters in The Odyssey.
Here, four competitive guys of varying ages (including An Iliad’s uber-performer Bruce DuBose) camp out in what sounds like a pretty sweet man cave set at the bottom of a drained swimming pool. Walsh, the man behind the Tony Award-winning musical Once, is also the 2012-13 recipient of the SMU Meadows Prize, so maybe he knows a thing or two about this theater business.
Pleasures and Palaces, Lyric Stage
I should have scheduled my vacation better, because I’ll be gone for this four-performance run of Frank Loesser’s “lost” musical. You know Loesser as the man who wrote Guys and Dolls, but this later work flopped out of town and never made it to Broadway.
Considering it involves European political intrigue, Empress Catherine the Great and a song called “Barabanchik,” I’d say it’s at least worth a listen, especially when Lyric Stage “it boy” Bryant Martin is doing the singing. Presented in a concert format with minimal staging and costumes and no sets, this buried show will finally be heard for the first time since 1965.
The Chairs, Kitchen Dog Theater
February 8-March 9
Absurdist theater turns a lot of people off, but I find it fascinating in a car-crash-can’t-look-away kind of way. Perhaps it’s because I spent a semester in England studying French and Belgian symbolist plays (trust me, they’re all pretty absurd), or maybe it’s because the snippet of this show’s 1998 Broadway mounting that I saw on the Tony Awards still haunts me.
An old man and an old woman are preparing chairs for their invisible guests, which may or may not include everyone in the world and may or may not be happening in a post-apocalyptic setting. If you don’t always understand what’s going on, don’t worry. That’s kind of the point.
Anything Goes, Lexus Broadway Series
Elderly ravings not your thing? How about tap dancing? Everyone loves tap dancing, especially when it’s done on a boat. Musical darling Sutton Foster wowed in this fluffy Cole Porter caper when it was revived on Broadway in 2011, and now stage vet Rachel York steps in as nightclub singer Reno Sweeney for the tour.
High-seas hijinks ensue on an ocean liner traveling from New York to London, with tunes such as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” You’re the Top” and “It’s De-Lovely” getting everyone’s toes tapping, onstage and off.
My Name is Rachel Corrie, Second Thought Theatre
Dallas audiences first saw Barrett Nash in this one-woman play back in August at the Festival of Independent Theatres. (Currently she’s appearing as the unsuccessful grifter Marilyn in STT’s A Behanding in Spokane). Playing a real-life young American activist who was killed while protesting at the Gaza Strip, Nash earned solid praise for her portrayal with Rite of Passage Theatre, which audiences can catch a second time around with Second Thought Theatre.
Adapted from Rachel Corrie’s diary entries and emails and edited by Alan Rickman — yes, Professor Snape — the play is known for its incendiary political content and questioning of the circumstances of Corrie’s death.
Wicked, Dallas Summer Musicals
April 10-May 5
Time to welcome back your guilty pleasure. Even though it’s been around for nearly a decade (and still packing ’em in on Broadway), Wicked undeniably remains a hot ticket. This tour features Dee Roscioli, who has the distinction of playing the green-skinned young witch Elphaba more times than any other actress.
It also stars Patti Murin as “good” witch Glinda, and Dallas audiences might remember Murin from Give It Up, which Dallas Theater Center debuted in 2010 before it transferred to Broadway in 2011 asLysistrata Jones.
Enron, Theatre Three
April 25-May 25
The dramatization of the infamous energy giant’s 2001 financial collapse divided audiences when it premiered — British critics adored it, Ben Brantley dismissed it — but the inherently tragic aspects of the scandal just scream for the stage.
Enter playwright Lucy Prebble, the young Brit who took accounting fraud and turned it into vaudevillian satire. The thing about Enron as a play is that it’s intriguing: We all know the outcome, yet this different way of looking at history makes us look beyond the facts.
Fly by Night, Dallas Theater Center
April 26-May 26
The casting notice for this new rock musical asks for a Rod Serling-type narrator and a leading man whose occupation is a sandwich maker. I’m already in. Wait, it’s also about a trio of New Yorkers pining for love during the 1965 blackout? Even more into this.
And it’s conceived by Kim Rosentock (DTC produced her play Tigers Be Still last year), who’s known for being generally smart, offbeat and awesome? See you there.