After more than five years in the suburbs, 2018 will be known as the year that I became reacquainted with Dallas theater. For this, I owe TheaterJones a debt of gratitude for its trust in my work and for the opportunity to continually be surprised, entertained, and stimulated by the vital and thriving performing arts scene of North Texas, as I caught more than 40 performances.
Outstanding solo performances dominated the year. In addition to the Dallas Solo Fest and Del Shores’ touring production of Six Characters in Search of a Play, Uptown Players staged James Lecesne’s The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey as part of their Gay History Month Festival starring Terry Martin. But it is Brigham Mosley’s defiantly smart, funny, and emotionally raw Critical, Darling! that takes home the award for Best Solo Performance. This piece still charms and challenges even after six months. Mosley developed the work during his residency at 100 West Corsicana and performed it there as well as in the backyard of The Wild Detectives in June. He makes critical thinking sexy and deserves high praise for sharing his anti-moment with us.
There are several examples of accomplished physical theater work to choose from this year. Barcelona’s Mai Rojas captivated us in February with The Legend of the Faun and The Journey as part of Teatro Dallas’ International Theatre Festival. Danielle Georgiou Dance Group’s Just Girly Things (as part of the Festival of Independent Theatres) and WaterTower Theatre’s devised performance The Great Distance Home show just how talented our homegrown devised theatermakers and performers are. My vote for Best Physical Theater, however, goes to Jeff Colangelo’s BruNO and lOUIe. This work was Prism Movement Theater’s contribution to the Festival of Independent Theatres and starred the gifted mime work of Rafael Tamayo and Omar Padilla.
Although I’m not much of a fan of musical theater, I greatly appreciate a well written song that helps to develop character or advance the plot. My award for Best Original Music and Songs goes to Mousey, produced by Ochre House Theater. The play and song lyrics were written by Carla Parker. Justin Locklear composed the music, served as the production’s music director, and performed as part of his band of sock monkeys along with Gregg Prickett, Sarah Rubio-Rogerson, and Will Acker. The songs with their mix of existential moodiness and hilarity made them an integral part of the play.
Best Set Design of 2018 goes to Nick Brethauer for Teatro Dallas’ The Automobile Graveyard. Brethauer has been working with Teatro Dallas since 1992, and his work is consistently praised by reviewers and audience members. For this production of Fernando Arrabal’s absurdist classic, Brethauer created a set that felt monumental despite its intimate, and necessary, compactness.
WingSpan Theatre Company’s achingly sublime production of Harold Pinter’s Landscape wins for the year’s Best One Act. It, too, was part of the Festival of Independent Theatres. For Best Alternative Theater I nominate The Alexa Dialogues, a production that said as much about what it means to be human as it does about the techno-surveillance dystopia we call home. This piece was presented by Therefore Art, Sound & Performance Group as part of the Elevator Project at AT&T Performing Arts Center.
For its surprisingly affecting production of the John Steinbeck masterpiece, my pick for Best Production of a Play is Firehouse Theatre’s Of Mice and Men. Kudos to director Tyler Jeffrey Adams, who helped to breathe new life into the American tragedy by assembling a strong cast and gifted crew. Congratulations to everyone who makes theater possible!
2019 promises to be another incredible one for the performing arts in North Texas. There are three things in particular that I’m looking forward to:
After its encouraging debut with Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, I’m looking forward not only to the first full season of The Classics Theatre Project but also to their use of the Margo Jones Theatre at the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park. The Margo Jones Theatre is underutilized and needs an update; I hope that TCTP’s move there will help shine a spotlight on this historically significant Dallas gem.
Undermain Theatre’s premiere of so go the ghosts of méxico, part three by Matthew Paul Olmos is scheduled for April. With Olmos’ exquisite, evocative language and in Katherine Owens’ capable directorial hands, there is no doubt that this production will be one of the highlights of the spring.
Sorany Gutierrez has been easing into her new role as Artistic Director of Teatro Dallas. It is impossible to gauge the extent of founding artistic director Cora Cardona’s legacy, but I am nonetheless eager to see what Gutierrez and new Executive Director Sara Cardona have planned for the coming seasons of one of Dallas’ most ambitious and creative theaters. Here’s to Teatro Dallas’ next 33 years!
Finally, a prayer and plea: Dallas has been handwringing for decades over how to proceed with the needed renovations to the Kalita Humphreys Theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. If theater, architecture, history, or tourism are important to you, please consider contacting your Dallas Council Member about its perennially stalled plans.
2018 YEAR IN REVIEW
Friday, December 28
- The Year in Comedy by Chief Comedy Critic Kevin Beane
- Danielle Georgiou's Sixth Position: A Year of Movement
Saturday, December 29
- The Year in Dance by Chief Dance Critic Cheryl Callon
- The Year in New Dance Works by Katie Dravenstott
- The Year in Dance by Emily Sese
Sunday, December 30
- The Year in Music and Opera by Chief Music and Opera Critic Gregory Sullivan Isaacs
- The Year in Music and Opera by J. Robin Coffelt
- The Year in Music and Opera by Wayne Lee Gay
Monday, December 31
- The Year in Performing Arts Books by Cathy Ritchie
- The Year in Classical Music Recordings by Andrew Anderson
Tuesday, January 1
Wednesday, January 2
- The Year in Theater by Frank Garrett
- The Year in Theater by Jan Farrington
- The Year in Theater by Janice L. Franklin
- The Year in Theater by Martha Heimberg
- The Year in Theater by Jill Sweeney
- The Year in Latinx Theater by Teresa Marrero
Thursday, January 3
- The Year in Performing Arts News by Mark Lowry
- A challenge for our readers
- The Year in Theater by Mark Lowry
Friday, January 4
- Looking ahead to 2019