Last weekend for T3’s intoxicating, brilliant Little Night Music

Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music is a nonchalant, funny, somewhat biting romantic spoof that actually feels quite modern for a period piece. Sondheim always injects a tone of cynicism into his work, and Night Music is no exception. Most of the characters belong to the privileged class, but it soon becomes clear their socializing and connecting is burdened by pretension and lame attempts at civility. Fredrik is married to the much younger Anne, though he is clearly smitten with famous actress Desiree, and she with him. She is having an affair with Carl Magnus, a military man who is married to Charlotte. Charlotte is well aware of her husband’s dalliances, and has become very bitter in the process. Henrik, Fredrik’s son, is a minister, and actually a better match for Anne than his dad. He worries at length about the welfare of his and everybody else’s soul.

A Little Night Music is a curious mix of gentleness, regret, skepticism and warmth, reflecting on the foibles of love, vanity, selfishness, and subterfuge. At the outset Madame Armfeldt tells her grand daughter Fredrika the summer smiles three times. Once at children who know nothing. Once at grown-ups who don’t know enough. And once at the elderly, who know too much. The narrative fulfills this lovely, somber bit of wisdom without ever getting corny or quaint. I think one of the reasons “Send in the Clowns” (splendidly realized by Jennifer Kuenzer and John Kuether) is such a cunning fit for this story is that each character, in their turn, plays that role. If you fall in love, sooner or later, you will look ridiculous. But then, if you’re in love, you don’t care. Theatre at its best reveals the characters in all their flawed glory, but does so without judgment. At least by the time the curtain drops.

The sophistication of a A Little Night Music lies in its layers of meaning. It’s very entertaining, and amusing. But most everything in the script cuts both ways. Seemingly careless remarks includes a wiser subtext. Carl Magnus is a pompous buffoon. But he’s lonely in his marriage. His wife Charlotte has the verbal skills of a cobra. but she’s also angry and hurt. All of these points are made with nuance and a kind of gracious detachment, as opposed to so much of the jackhammer tactics we see in comedy today. No one is sloshed with a barrel of drek, or forced to run naked through a crowd, or engaged in a screaming match at the top of their lungs. I say this not as some kind of witness for taste and propriety (sometimes excess is fine) but suggest it can be enlightening how well a different approach can actually work.

Theatre 3’s production of A Little Night Music is blissful, smart, sublime, filled with rage, somber admission, playfulness and delight. It is an adult musical in the best sense of that word: mature, understanding, poised, experienced and just enough moonlight and wistfulness to lift our miserable, damaged hearts.

Theatre 3 presents A Little Night Music (composed by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler) playing June 8th-July 2nd, 2017. 2800 Routh Street, Suite 168, Dallas, Texas 75201. 214 -871-3300.

Last chance to see Kitchen’s Dog’s beguiling premiere: Br’er Cotton


Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm’s Br’er Cotton is compelling, odd, intriguing and a bit chilling. Not so much a call to revolution as a thoughtful, intelligent demonstration of the racial pressure cooker that seems to be escalating in these United States. Current debacles such as the melee at Ferguson and Trayvon Martin are evoked. As we might infer from the title, Chisholm begins with the imagery of Br’er Rabbit, a series of folktales from the Deep South, often considered an affront to our contemporary, more enlightened sensibilities. We might remember here that that these stories can be tracked all the way back to African stories of the trickster hare, who might use his wits (or even extreme measures) to prevail against slavery. Br’er Cotton begins with what we take to be a slave woman, who describes Br’er Cotton, who (instead of counting his blessings) resents living so close to heaven, when it’s still unreachable. Locked away from bliss, but able to watch others enjoy it.

Nadine (Stormi Demerson) is a middle-aged African American lady who works for a house cleaning franchise like Merry Maids. One of her clients is Officer (Clay Yocum) a friendly cop who gives her moral support. In her private time she studies to improve her lot, while caring for her teenage son Ruffrino, and father-in-law, Matthew. Ruffrino (Kyle Fox Douglas) contentious, unwieldy, and sometimes bearing a resemblance to Huey Newton, is enraged by the growing oppression he sees, all over the United States. He spends a great deal of time caught up in violent video games he plays with Caged Bird (Katie Tye) a teenage girl who writes poetry. Since they are friends in cyberspace, he doesn’t know she is white, and manages multiple sclerosis. Matthew (Dennis Raveneau) is wily and secretive. Like many elderly folks he seems to love poking at Nadine, giving her grief, and acting vaguely superior. None of these characters feel outlandish or implausible, though this family is sometimes visited by a small “chorus” dressed in rags, and planting cotton in the living room. Does the family not see the cotton, or are they too resigned to notice it?

A salient quality that struck me about Chisholm’s fantastical, ominous drama is balance. He carefully lays out the strategy of his narrative. Nadine makes good money cleaning houses, it’s not like her employer or clients degrade her, but its debatable whether she’s caving to a system that makes upward mobility so difficult for her to attain. Many teen boys are full of piss and vinegar, and we can hardly blame Ruffrino for the agitation he feels in the midst of America’s racial upheaval. We cannot ignore however, that he keeps partaking of provocative material, with no good way to process or resolve it. Chisholm adds to this the elements of the metaphoric, poetic and surreal, leading to a very sad and seemingly inevitable conclusion. He mixes a number of volatile and unnerving ingredients to create a cautionary allegory. A philosophical/political quandary. How long will it take before we can finally leave the cotton fields? The plantation?

Kitchen Dog Theater Presents Br’er Cotton, playing June 9th-July 1st, 2017. 2600 North Stemmons Fwy #180, Dallas, Texas 75207. (214) 953-1055.


Brick Road’s Cabaret scintillating, astonishing, powerful


When Cabaret premiered on Broadway in 1966, audiences didn’t quite know what to make of Kander and Ebb’s deceptive condemnation of the genocide, antisemitism and depravity Christopher Isherwood witnessed in 1931 Berlin. The Nazi party was just beginning to gain traction, but the rise of such a vicious, imperialist, ridiculously stolid ideology remains inexplicable to many of us. Isherwood was kicked out of college and moved to Berlin to pursue his vocation as a writer, moving into a squalid flat, and making the acquaintance of the notoriously hedonistic and cavalier chanteuse, Sally Bowles. Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, explore the collapse of erudition, culture and humanity, and provided the inspiration for Kander and Ebb’s skewed, sparse, yet complex musical of solipsism and profound loss of innocence.

Clifford Bradshaw (Isherwood’s stand-in) arrives in Germany, renting a cheap room from the sweet (if cynical) Fraulein Schneider. Not long afterword he visits the notorious Kit Kat Klub, hosted by the leering, campy, somewhat diabolical Emcee, where the songs celebrate debauchery and materialism. He meets the waifish, dolled-up Sally Bowles, who performs at the Kit Kat. She’s all about the glamorous, shameless party life, and she takes Clifford along for the ride. Meanwhile, Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz fall in love, Sally gets pregnant, and Nazism begins to take hold. Clifford starts smuggling money to help pay the bills.

You could write volumes about the Sally Bowles, one of the theatre’s most enduring and endearing characters. She’s charming, even when she’s being irresponsible or disingenuous. She’s spivvy, and reckless, utterly devoted to pleasure and joie de vivre, and considering how bleak the world can be, quite sympathetic. Cabaret is virtually soaked in irony, and when she sings the famous title song, it nearly becomes a tirade: “Start by admitting from cradle to tomb, it isn’t that long a stay…” Sally belts it out, declaring that when she dies, she’ll be blissed out on pills, liquor and sex. This is what makes Fred Ebb and John Kander so intoxicating. They mix biting, sardonic wit with a viable version of the truth. They’re bleak but brilliant. It makes complete sense that people would submerge themselves in distraction, especially when civilization is crashing, but the results are horrific. Sally is all of us, just craving a break from the pervasive ugliness of life. We love her because life hasn’t made her ugly, but wonder if her cocoon has ruined her.

Lately productions of Cabaret have run to the heavy-handed, and it’s a shame, considering that the original text handles this volatile, disturbing subject matter with meticulous grace. I’ve seen several versions that don’t seem to trust the script, as if we don’t grasp the insidious, devastating threat of the Nazi Regime and it’s disciples. Cabaret works because it doesn’t amplify the volcanic. It gives us just enough to reach us, and let the overwhelming take over, without pushing.

The Brick Road Theatre production of Cabaret (directed by Jeremy Dumont) is rich, vivid, and exquisite. Dumonts choreography is fresh and poised, sparkling with humor and precision. Amy Poe’s costumes are understated, evocative and effective. Cabaret’s tone of menace and mirth, despondency and optimism comes through beautifully in the performances of this diligent, dedicated cast. This is one of the best productions of Cabaret I’ve seen. Stand outs include Janelle Lutz (Sally Bowles) who beguiles without gobbling the scenery, Sara Shelby-Martin (Fraulein Schneider) whose world-weariness (“So What?”) will leave you inconsolable and heartbroken, and Billy Betsill (Cliff Bradshaw) who undergoes a sea-change as the show’s narrator.

The Brick Road Theatre presents Cabaret (composed by Fred Ebb and Kander, book by Joe Masteroff) playing June 23rd-July 2nd, 2017. Courtyard Theatre, 1509 H Avenue, Plano, Texas 75074. 972-467-7519.




Matthew Posey interview

Ochre House Theater & The 2017 Dallas Flamenco Festival Present:


June 21 – July 1

Written and Directed by Matthew Posey, in collaboration with The 2017 Dallas Flamenco Festival

This interview was recorded at the Ochre House Theater, June 13, 2017. Intro and exit music from “Elemental,” by Calvin Hazen.

For tickets, show times or other information, please visit HTTP://WWW.OCHREHOUSETHEATER.ORG

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Rhonda Boutte’ interview

Rhonda Boutté is an actor and director, well known in the Dallas theater community. In June 2017, Rhonda will direct the world premiere of Br’er Cotton by Tearrance Arville Chisholm at Kitchen Dog Theater. Rhonda’s Independent spirit drives her to seek out unusual roles produced by small independent theaters as well, such as The Shine Plays – The Woman Who Was Tampered with in Youth by Ted Shine (Soul Rep Theatre), Diamond Dick: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (Project X, performed in Dallas as well as at LaMama in New York). Rhonda’s performances at these theaters garnered numerous D-FW Critics Forum Awards over the years.

For more information, please visit Kitchen Dog Theater

This interview and more are also available