Dallas — Two local productions in November used the word “shit” in song, in different ways but with the same basic intention. The most jarring example came in the Dallas Opera’s world premiere of Great Scott, which begins at the rehearsal for the premiere of a newly discovered 100-year-old opera. The great mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, whose character found the opera and is staking her reputation on starring in it, sings “This shit is hard!” referring to the art of opera. Of course, coming in an operatic voice (and projected on the supertitles above the stage), it was extra funny. And true.
The second example was at a theater where it’s not so uncommon to hear some cussin’: The Ochre House. In Kevin Grammer’s Blink, the character Sloan (Marti Etheridge) sings “shit happens in the blink of an eye,” a statement repeated several times, with some resignation that that's just the way things are. It's a good way of repeating the adage “shit happens” with some additional bad news. Not only does it happen but it happens fast and without warning.
And, like opera, life is hard.
Blink, which is also directed by Grammer, has a simple message that's more accessible than some of Matthew Posey’s work that we’ve come to love at Ochre, but presented with the Ochre House’s trademark raw flair.
The story: Sloan is the well-to-do wife of yuppie Derek (Chris Sykes), who after a near-death experience in a car wreck is taken by an angel (a puppet, natch) on a journey through his life, à la Ebenezer Scrooge. They visit his rich parents Mimsy and Prescott (Carla Parker and Ben Bryant), hippie-dippy sister Poppy (Danielle Bondurant) and longtime bro Brody (Matthew Holmes). The goal is to take stock of past mistakes and attempt to make things right.
Onstage musicians Brian and Scott Shaddock play an engaging, original score with banjo, mandolin, guitar and keyboard, and occasionally play satellite characters. Don’t expect a typical musical production—that’s not Ochre’s style. Most of the actors aren’t stellar singers, but they understand the kind of performance and comedy that this theater is known for. Grammer's songs and text are filled with witty, topical references about the one-percent and everyone else. And just when you think the takeaway will be cynical, well, it's not.
Best of all are Justin Locklear’s puppets, which are always wonderfully whimsical. There’s at least one bit of stagecraft early on, with the car, that I’ve never seen before. For someone who takes in upwards of 150 shows a year that’s saying something.
In fact, I often come away from Ochre House shows having seen something highly original. Blink is not particularly deep, but it does make you think in unexpected ways.
And that’s no shit.