When the stage is cleared and the costumes are returned, there is little tangible trace of the efforts, efficacious or not, that took place there. This intrinsically ephemeral nature of performing arts makes a year-end column perfectly appropriate. Memory, then, is the true test of a performance’s merit.
More often than not, in my memory, it is a momentary glimpse of a performer that thumbnails the entire experience. This is not to ignore the designers that have worked behind the scenes to make the moment possible, but the performer sits in center of the theater arts nexus as a human conduit through which the art must flow. We are meaning-making machines, after all, and as such we tend to measure in our own person shaped units.
The primacy of the performer is such that some directors say that 90 percent of their job is done when the cast list goes up. Though it smacks of facetiousness, their resigned tone rings true. After all, there’s no diving in the shallow end of a talent pool.
Now, the whole affair is meaningless until there is an audience there to co-create the theatrical event, but finding that increasingly elusive audience is the subject of another article, though it doesn’t take a ballistics expert to tell you a better barrel hits the target more of the time.
All of that is a long-winded way of saying here are some bull’s eyes from the year 2015.
Mandy Patinkin and Taylor Mac singing the Patty Griffin tune “Making Pies” in Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville at the Eisemann Center in Richardson. Sitting side-by-side, simply miming rolling pins, these two powerhouse performers summed up the heroic in the humdrum workday world.
Van Quattro’s sad eyes staring at the audience in his autobiographical, Standing 8 Count. Though the one-man show is about boxing, the emotional punches he takes longing for love from his father or his girl are more devastating than any movie close-up could deliver. Performed at WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival and then at the Dallas Solo Fest.
David Coffee with a crown of twigs on his head clinging to a blindfolded Chamblee Ferguson in King Lear at Trinity Shakespeare Festival. Their comedic sensitivities coaxed our defenses down. That’s how you make a late-act Lear scene infinitely penetrating.
Lydia Mackay as the Princess of France in Love’s Labors Lost at Trinity Shakespeare Festival in beautiful, regal finery on Bob Lavallee’s beautiful tapestry set receiving the news of her father’s death. In the midst of the froth of fancy Shakespeare frivolity, she suddenly makes it all too real.
Steph Garrett as a little girl becoming possessed. In the midst of director Jeffery Schmidt’s cornucopia of staging innovation in Drama Club’s fantastic Faust. Garrett, holding her own light source on her bed in the dark, manages to make her voice and then her body not her own. It’s puppetry of the creepiest sort.
In the same show, Drew Wall’s sausage sandwich-loving taxicab driver earnestly steering his joystick cab and Lydia Mackay’s super-sexy/scary Mephistopheles prowling a rave like an underworld ringmaster.
Hilly Holsonback as one of the test subjects in Dead White Zombie’s DP92. In the mosh pit of sight specific sci-fi, she managed to maintain an honest, almost innocent drive that helped establish the human desire to survive in the midst of a lot of narrative noise. That’s performance art.
Bruce DuBose as the Irish schlub Tommy, explaining to his dim-witted friend, Doc, played by Scott Latham, the math behind his wages in The Night Alive at Undermain Theatre. With accents and comic timing to match, these two belong to a proud tradition of common-man Irish clowns.
Jason Leyva as Charlie, the 600lb almost eponymous character in The Whale at L.I.P. Service Productions. With a fat suit and thin breath, Leyva makes a pitiful character’s end almost heroic just by taking a few steps.
In another L.I.P. Service production, Streamers, Pat Watson delivering a drunken monologue in the midst of blood covered barracks floor. The mouth gaping ridiculous waste of war is summed up in this damaged man trying to measure an ocean of horror with a thimble of logic.
Chandler Ryan and Matt Holmes in The Adventures of Flo and Greg at Echo Theatre waiting with anxious expectation for a picture of the Bible to finish printing so that they can make a swearing sufficiently solemn.
Marianne Galloway swinging a sword with a combination of expert grace and comic flare in Lovers and Executioners at Circle Theatre. Jon Strand’s adaptation of a 17th century story bucked back and forth from farce to tragedy like an angry bull, but Galloway managed to stay on and make it look like she meant it to go that way the whole time.
These are some of the gifts that were given to Metroplex audiences this year. Unlike some things you may have recently unwrapped, these feel great, fit just right and won’t wear out. No exchanges necessary.
2015: Year in Review
- Monday, Dec. 28 Margaret Putnam's Year in Dance
- Monday, Dec. 28 Cheryl Callon's thoughts on the year in dance
- Monday, Dec. 28 Katie Dravenstott's thoughts on the year in dance
- Monday, Dec. 28 Columnist Danielle Georgiou's Year
- Tuesday, Dec. 29 Gregory Sullivan Isaacs' Year in Classical Music and Opera
- Tuesday, Dec. 29 Lance Lusk's Year in Shakespeare
- Wednesday, Dec. 30 Jan Farrington's thoughts on the year in theater
- Wednesday, Dec. 30 Martha Heimberg's thoughts on the year in theater
- Wednesday, Dec. 30 David Novinski's thoughts on the year in theater
- Thursday, Dec. 31 Amy Martin's Year in Comedy
- Friday, Jan. 1 Mark Lowry's Year in Theater
- Sunday, Jan. 10 TheaterJones writers look forward to 2016
- Monday, Jan. 11 The top performing arts news of the year