Dallas — Below are reviews of the four shows that opened in the second weekend of the Festival of Independent Theatres.
Read the reviews of the first four shows from the first weekend here. All shows run in two-show blocks through Aug. 2. The complete schedule is posted at the end of this file.
The Diaries of Adam and Eve
WingSpan Theatre Company
Austin Tindle begins The Diaries of Adam and Eve by addressing the audience in a dapper light suit. He is describing Catherine DuBord, who has come on with a baby in a sling. With patient charm Mark Twain is readying us for the Garden of Eden in Susan Sargeant’s adaptation of Twain’s work, produced by WingSpan Theatre Company.
The blessing of great material is also its curse. Mark Twain’s works are national treasures. The nagging question: can you do it justice?
It takes a minute to buy into The Diaries of Adam and Eve. But you will. It doesn’t hurt that the proper costumes courtesy of designer Barbara Cox give way to vine-painted flesh-colored unitards (which Ms. Dubord pulls off swimmingly). The initial concept of these two characters journaling their experiences creates a challenge theatrically. And Eve’s naiveté requires Dubord to adopt a childish attitude.
But, then, it all clicks. And it’s a sublime treat. Twain has set up Eve as the driving force behind the first ever relationship. She conquers Adam’s indifference with a gentle but assured persistence. The cat and mouse courtship is entirely endearing.
Director Sargeant employs some wonderfully inventive staging. A bit of blue silk as water on the ground isn’t too impressive, but use it to show how someone may struggle in swimming or choke under the waves and you’re at a whole other level. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of how the fabric then becomes their first-born or how that bundle then grows.
The show isn’t all whimsy, though. There’s the issue of the apple. And Cain killing Abel, of course. At first, Adam and Eve try their hardest to see Abel’s condition as some sort of sleep. Their initial denial and final begrudging discovery seems to be as perfect a depiction of what parental grief must be: as if you’ve just discovered death for all time. Dubord especially shines here.
But Tindle gets the last word. As he outlives her, he gets the benediction and conclusion. It’s simple, heartfelt and beautiful.
Keep tissues at the ready.
The Diaries of Adam and Eve repeats in the FIT performance blocks at:
- Week 3: 8 p.m. Thursday, July 24; 5 p.m. Saturday, July 26
- Week 4: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1; 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2
Food for Thought
The McClarey Players
Written and directed by Cliff McClelland, Food For Thought is an entirely frivolous endeavor. The amazing achievement here is that even with notable historical characters such as Charles Darwin, Marie Antoinette and Friedrich Nietzsche, this production remains weightless.
The first skit involves Darwin (Beauen Bogner) being hit on by Carmen (Didi Archilla) in a bar. Though she is attired in a generic Norcostco period gown, she is in fact a marine Galapagos Iguana. Or so the conceit goes. It’s not as interesting as it sounds and involves mostly the two of them sitting at a table.
The second skit traffics in the greatest narrative bait-and-switch of them all: time travel. Marie Antoinette (Chloe Clark-Soles), who is going to the guillotine is interrupted by a time travelling student, Rosalie (Erin Kane), who is doing a project for school…in the future. All the usual time travel lazzi are trotted out.
In the final skit, Nietzsche (Erik Archilla) is accosted for childcare by Wagner (Tobyas Meeks). Salome (Erin Kane) provides the love interest and Chloe Clark-Soles provides a helmeted blonde Helga.
The whole thing is presented in a cringe-tastic, presentational style. The kind you would find at the Renaissance Faire or Cosplay convention. The aim is attention. Larger themes are sabotaged by its pursuit.
Food for Thought repeats in the FIT performance blocks at:
- Week 3: 5 p.m. Saturday, July 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, July 27
- Week 4: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2
Sleepwalker Man Walk Through Wall
Those familiar with Pina Bausch or Anne Bogart will enjoy Sleepwalker Man Walk Through Wall, written and directed by John Leos. It’s an ensemble performance art piece that takes sleep for its theme.
All the usual ingredients are here: the synchronized prowling movement, the dramatic lighting, and the intermittent exaggerated gestures. Dialogue is eschewed in favor of monologues and choral work. Sure, they’re pretentious bordering on cliché, but doesn’t that also mean that there’s something about them that works? Ballet’s bag of tricks hasn’t changed much and jazz hands are still around. Give this thing a chance and you may find yourself more invested than expected.
In the beginning sequence, Melissa Riggins lip syncs “Dream a little Dream of Me” and the rest of the ensemble shuffle around a writhing DJ Grigsby, who plays a frustrated insomniac kid, the seeming focal point of this meditation on the barrier between us and slumbering rest. His sleep difficulties may be related to an autistic-like obsession with numbers. His ravings introduce the concept of our atoms being able to slip past one another allowing someone to slip through a wall.
Though most of the performance consists of terrifically choreographed movements accompanied by original sound/music composed by Jordana Abrenica and Andrea Allmond, there are vivid vignettes in the midst of swirling wash of the sleep wishing.
Some characters that materialize out of the ensemble: Jonny Gonzalez talking about a black dog, Jessaica Shields describing her ice cream man nightmare and Kia Boyer as a bewigged last-call skank.
If this sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea, this production may not be the one to change your mind, but you can’t fault the effort. Writer/director John Leos has gotten tremendous work out of his ensemble and given them in return something of which to be proud.
Sleepwalker Man Walk Through Wall repeats in the FIT performance blocks at:
- Week 3: 8 p.m. Friday, July 25; 2 p.m. Saturday, July 26; 5 p.m. Sunday, July 27
- Week 4: 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2
One Thirty Productions
Two dingy older ladies meet at greasy spoon for breakfast. Not since Seinfeld has there been a show in a diner as much about nothing as Our Breakfast. Playwright Ben Schroth has created an intricately frustrating vignette that verges on heartbreaking brilliance but settles for whimper. It’s not clear if director Gene Raye Price could have done anything more with what appears to be a first draft.
Waitress Erin Singleton is having a tough day that’s about to get worse. On a fabulously detailed set designed by Dave Tenney, she goes about the usual waitress duties punctuated by leaving a portentous voice mail that lets us in on her single mom working-class predicament.
In walk Mary Lang as Sybil and Marty Van Kleeck as Jean, old friends out to breakfast. Only they aren’t too sure about what they want to drink or, for that matter, order. At this point the play could be a romp on the frustrations of the service industry, but it takes a dizzying left turn.
Jean doesn’t seem to want the coffee she ordered or remember that she ordered coffee, but in the same second will flash a charming smile and “Thank you” for it all the same. Meanwhile, Sybil will always reply, “What?” It’s the beginning of most of her interactions and provides ample opportunity for Jean to derail when attempting to repeat what she was trying to say. For a minute the show teeters on a fantastic post-modern precipice deconstructing small talk, friendship and early onset dementia.
But then, it just gets tiresome. The audience, guilty from laughing at the ladies’ predicament, sits dutifully as the waitress tries to plough through their obvious debility with her rote ritual. The uncomfortable scenario deepens as we learn more about the waitress’ trials via her one-sided phone conversation. We end up knowing too much about her and too little about the ladies.
All three actresses distinguish themselves, anyway. Lang’s Sybil tries to deal some tough love to her addled friend. Van Kleeck is adorable as the confused Jean. Singleton rivals her for our pity, though, as many in the audience have waited tables just as difficult.
Playwright Schroth edges up on a thesis when one of the ladies asserts that maybe this breakfast, as unsatisfying as it is, is all we get in life, but it isn’t well supported. When they get up and leave, it feels like there is so much more left to do with these weighty issues.
To make matters worse, he can’t resist a quick tag concerning the overlarge tip they (perhaps mistakenly) left.
Ironic, considering everything else, “left on the table.”
Our Breakfast repeats in the FIT performance blocks at:
- Week 3: 8 p.m. Saturday, July 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, July 27
- Week 4: 8 p.m. Thursday, July 31; 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2