Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: 2012 Festival of Independent Theatres: Week 2 | 2012 07 13 | Bath ... - TheaterJones Performing Arts News

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Keeping FIT, Part 2


Reviews of the second weekend at the Festival of Independent Theatres: Echo Theatre and Rite of Passage Theatre


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published Monday, July 23, 2012

2012 Festival of Independent Theatres: Week 2


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Bath House Cultural Center
521 E. Lawther Drive
Dallas, TX 75218

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Dallas â€" The second weekend of the Festival of Independent Theatres brought with it three world premieres from new and veteran Dallas playwrights. Friday night opened with the premiere of Melissa Cooper's thought-provoking NYC Coyote Existential about Cooper's encounter with a coyote in Central Park. This fanciful re-imagining of an event she claims is "all true" was packed with information about the creatures and original music. That was paired with the stunning performance of Barrett Nash in the one-woman show My Name is Rachel Corrie, Rite of Passage's entry in the festival.

Saturday, Justin Locklear premiered his first fully staged play I Met You and I Screamed, which explored the story of two girls learning how to love with music, dance and poetic dialogue. This was followed by the light comedy about small town Texas, Conversations with God and Other Women I've Known from New Horizons Theatre Company.

The variety of subject matter and playwright perspective made each production a delight. The Bath House was a good place to spend the hottest weekend of the year while enjoying air-conditioned entertainment. Here's more on each.

 

Echo Theatre: NYC Coyote Existential

There's an overwhelming sense of homecoming in Echo Theatre's FIT show. Melissa Cooper, the wife of former Dallas Theater Center Artistic Director Richard Hamburg, wrote and stars in NYC Coyote Existential, a story about moving back to New York City after living in Dallas for more than a decade. 

Photo: Pam Myers-Morgan

"NYC Coyote Existential" by Echo Theatre

The play consists entirely of her conversations with or about a coyote in Central Park, through which she gained a better understanding of herself. This mangy creature (played by Rhonda Blair) becomes her obsession, as she learns everything about it and in turn teaches the audience. The coyote asks relentlessly, "Where is my island? Is this my island?" 

Cooper, like the coyote, was a disperser leaving her family, her pack, for new adventure. In the play, their ideals soon blend together in a homogenous howl. Together they sing the folksy songs written for the show by Thomas Cabaniss, played by local artist Annie Benjamin, from "The Big City Kicks your Ass" to a ballad where the coyote bemoans searching for her "And Beyond." 

To open up this story of obsession, philosophy and science, Cooper addresses the audience with an affable candor. She discusses her reactions to the animal, her endless desire to tell her friends about this coyote and the ways she sees herself in the coyote. Even when it wanders into a preachy lesson about the evolution and psychology of Canis latrans, Cooper manages to find a deeper element of truth. After all, aren't humans in some ways domesticated animals? 

"Don't you wanna stay awhile?" Cooper asks the coyote. "Well, then you have to fit in." Welcome back, Melissa Cooper. We hope you'll stay a while. 

 

Rite of Passage Theater: My Name is Rachel Corrie

With a charming flick of the hair and a passionate diatribe against war Barrett Nash presents multiple levels of the eponymous peace activist in My Name is Rachel Corrie. 

Sunday afternoon agitprop at FIT comes in Rite of Passage's entry about a member of the International Solidarity Movement. This play is not quiet about its ideals, presenting them through the story and writings of Rachel Corrie, edited by Katharine Viner and Alan Rickman. 

Nash starts the play with a childlike glow. She gives a toothy grin as she spouts ideals like "Everyone deserves to feel safe." She wrestles with the bed covers, talks about a boyfriend who broke her heart and dreams of a world in which we could all live peacefully. 

Photo: Christopher Eastland

"My Name is Rachel Corrie" by Rite of Passage Theatre Company

Clay Wheeler has directed Nash in her one-woman show to take advantage of the space, to stay busy as someone would while they monologued about their visions for a better world. Soon Nash reveals that she is headed for Gaza to protest the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

As she heads overseas, she changes the set (a functional, reflective design by Christopher Eastland) from a messy college student's room to a stark backdrop, upon which images of tanks are projected. And as she marches toward peace, Nash's demeanor shifts as she realizes the horror of the situation. 

In My Name is Rachel Corrie, Nash is a force of raw zeal. Her performance makes Rite of Passage the stand-out show of FIT's second weekend.

 

Upstart Productions: I Met You and I Screamed

Photo: Frank Lopez

"I Met You and I Screamed" from Upstart Productions

There's so much angst in I Met You and I Screamed, it's hard to separate the overwhelming sadness and confusion from the moments of beauty and raw emotion. Justin Locklear's foray into playwriting is both elegant and cumbersome, like a man wearing two left shoes, albeit two delicately crafted shoes. 

Grace (Cassie Bann) and Megan (Danielle Georgiou) are women in love, but their relationship is fraught with trouble. This is Megan's first gay relationship and she has yet to tell her well-meaning, but overprotective mother Bren (Cindee Mayfield). When Grace discovers that Megan has been lying to her about her past experiences, she refuses to speak to her and brings her problems to her therapist Dreiden (a delightful, nuanced turn by Mitchell Parrack). 

Locklear masterfully disguises these clichés in poetic language. After all, the backbone of every good teenage rom-com is a parent who just doesn't understand and apologizes in the end. 

If the language can overcome the story, the show's concept triumphs above all. From the music played by Stefan Gonzales (who is also quite amusing as Grace's roommate) to the choreography by Georgiou, characters express internal struggles from the scene previous through art. 

Where the story fails, an occasional turn of phrase or graceful move from Georgiou rectifies the show. I Met You and I Screamed gives hope for future collaborations from all artists involved.

 

New Horizons Theatre: Conversations With God and Other Women I've Known

In small town Texas, claiming you've spoken to the Lord isn't that impressive. Unless the Lord tells you to stop dyeing your hair blonde and gambling.

In New Horizons Theatre Company's Conversations with God and Other Women I've Known, Beverly Daniel writes characters recognizable to anyone from the Lone Star State. 

Photo: Mark Daniel

"Conversations With God and Other Women I've Known" by New Horizons Theatre

Mary (Daniel) and Connie Joe (Constance Gold Parry) are best friends, although Mary might need to save Connie Joe's soul. They enter raffles together, go to a weekly movie and gossip about everyone in town, especially Mary's daughter-in-law Novalene (Angela Wilson). 

This play captures the charm of small town Texas without the obnoxious stereotypes of shows like Greater Tuna. When Mary and Connie Joe win a trip to the Big Apple, the only faux pas they commit is wearing high heels instead of comfortable shoes. 

There's a simplicity to Conversations with God and Other Women I've Known that makes an enjoyable pairing with any show at the festival. Although it may not be groundbreaking, Daniel has written heartfelt relationships and Texas-size laughs.

 

â—Š Read reviews of the first four FIT shows here.

◊ Read Lauren Smart's preview of FIT 2012 here.

 

FIT 2012 companies and their shows:

  • Churchmouse Productions â€" Dead of Night by Kurt Kleinmann
  • Echo Theatre â€" NYC Coyote Existential by Melissa Cooper
  • FTP Comedy â€" 2012: The Last Comedy Show
  • New Horizons Theatre â€" Conversations with God and Other Women I've Known by Beverly Daniel
  • One Thirty Productions â€" Making Contact by Patricia Bosworth
  • Rite of Passage Theatre â€" My Name is Rachel Corrie adapted by Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner 
  • Upstart Productions â€" I Met You and I Screamed by Justin Locklear 
  • WingSpan Theatre Company â€" Counting the Ways by Edward Albee 

Remaining schedule:

Thursday, July 26:

Friday, July 27:

  • 8pm: One Thirty / Upstart

Saturday, July 28:

  • 2pm: Upstart / Churchmouse
  • 5pm: New Horizons / Rite of Passage
  • 8pm: Echo / FTP Comedy

Sunday, July 29:

  • 2pm: Echo / WingSpan
  • 5pm: One Thirty / New Horizons

Thursday, Aug. 2:

  • 8pm: WingSpan / FTP Comedy

Friday, Aug. 3:

  • 8pm: Rite of Passage / New Horizons

Saturday, Aug. 4:

  • 2pm: New Horizons / Upstart
  • 5pm: Rite of Passage / One Thirty
  • 8pm: WingSpan / Churchmouse
 Thanks For Reading

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