Texas Repertory Theatre
Texas Repertory Theatre NEXT OPENING DECEMBER 3RD
October 16, 2014 — The set is nice and fiftiesish. The play is so against and from and not of anything that I understand, that I can’t see reasons to do it. It’s John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, for goodness sake. The acting isn’t awful. The casting is well done for type and abilities. My inability to agree with anything I see or anything that seems to be portrayed is cryptically explained in this statement of mine, that even as a farmer and especially as a brother of a severely limited sibling I could never understand the necessity to drown puppies for which you couldn’t find homes.
Our review of Of Mice and Men got lost in email or spam and I’m not sure how fair it is to try to recreate it now. See you next time.
PLAYING NOW — OF MICE AND MEN
The Foreigner — September 4th ,2014
By Austin Green
I find myself astounded this evening by a number of things which before viewing Texas Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Foreigner” were, quite honestly, lost on me.
The first of which was the theatre itself! They’re charging through their 10th year what I imagine to be nothing short of prestige. I arrived in North Houston in the summer of 1998 and had yet to hear a whisper pertaining to the theatre’s existence until 3 days ago. Low and behold, The Texas Repertory Theatre sits, in the back, off the main thoroughfare, towering above it all.
Upon arrival, my escort and I were received by the theatre’s staff who were notably curious about my ties to their theatre but not so much as to deny us the kind of welcome one would expect from any pride-driven institution. It wasn’t long before Gary Kreitz, the theatre’s Director of Community Relations wound his way through the surprisingly thin crowd of 20 or so audience members before landing on us. Post introduction, he directed our attention onto an interactive kiosk that stood to the side of the lobby and the same as any memorial does,but this one was programmed to snap photographs of you and company before uploading them to their Facebook page. Call that a modern spin on an American classic, but I’ve always been a sucker for photo booths!
There was an unavoidable vintage charm resonating from within Texas Repertory and it had nothing to do with the fact that everyone in attendance last night save a handful of people, were vintage in their own right. It was something that wouldn’t become clear to me until hours later. I’ll expand on this more in a moment.
First, let me tell you all the truth about something. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything quite as surreal as witnessing a mob of fully decorated, hate-driven Ku Klux Klan members in live action. Regardless of how satirical their presence was or wasn’t intended to be, being confronted by the Klan will never escape into the tomes of history as anything less than absolutely heinous.
I’d most likely do just as well by excluding the fact that this play has a plot that could have kept the Titanic from splitting in two, wiping the event from history altogether. I’ve never seen ignorance so covertly managed by the epitome of wit like I witnessed in the part of Charlie. Mr. Lane’s performance was razor sharp and perfectly in-tune with his fellow cast members. I kept thinking to myself as the play erupted more and more into insanity, “This bunch functions like one of those self-winding Swiss time pieces. All in unison with one another like the gears and hardware of an intricate machine. Everything you hope for in a story is there for your imaginative delight but after the cast took their bow before receding through those back stage exits, the lights bled reality back into the theatre, “The Foreigner” became unified for me.
In my opinion the Texas Repertory Theatre gave a marvelous display of stage chemistry. It held a heavy civil rights flavor throughout its entirety but I believe it to be much more than a glorified PSA. They personified the beauty, ignorance, bliss and corruptibility of the human experience. It stands as a testament to both the tragic pitfalls and soaring triumphs that embody the fabric of what it is to truly be alive.
Good show, Texas Rep!
Now, allow me to explain the inherent charm I experienced throughout my stay at the Theatre. As I viewed the play from the highest focal point to be had by an audience of so few, I had a remarkable realization. Granted, the run time of this Play (as I assume are a great number of other productions) was comparable to that of a Feature Length Film, this production affected me on such a deeper emotional level than Movies hardly ever strike. The cast, the script, the stage, the Theatre in itself does not spoon feed emotions to its audience like the cinema is notorious for doing. I sat in The Texas Repertory Theatre last night and took notice of why the aisles and seats weren’t sticky with coca cola syrup and caked with pulverized candy and popcorn. It is the mission of a truly effective Theatre Company to deliver to you an experience. An entire experience that serves as a total package. A five star, four course banquet of emotion that you can carry with you forever because I felt it. I wasn’t lead gingerly into how I should feel about it. The Texas Repertory Theatre’s ability to deliver this experience is irrefutable evidence of its captivating spirit. A spirit that can often be mistaken for a “resident charm” by theatre goers like myself.
And if there is anything to be said about the vintage folks that run the Theatre across from that one bar and in the shadow of those towering feed silos, is that their Spirit is a force to be reckoned with.
I Love YELLOW!
July 11, 2014– The vocal harmonies were great. The music all worked. Some of the songs were real toe-tappers. The band, that is to say the male characters, the “Pump Boys” almost seemed to be costumed to repel or to bring back “grunge”. They milled around the set while the wonderful man introduced the theater to the crowd. I had just been treated to opening night catering in the lobby by Le Cookery. Man does Jan Winn put down a table of great tasting, great looking food. I had just found out that the theater has decided not to cater opening night any more because the cookery is retiring. The staff and volunteers were great and wonderful and open and friendly. So, fat and sassy and ready to see a great show, I sat dead center. Best seat in the house, or one of them, I was watching the show. The “Dinettes” came onstage in their beautiful YELLOW waitress outfits and my brain split.
The set was cut in two by a black stripe “road”, like the corpus collosum. On the right were large diamond squares in red and white on the floor to be “diner”. On the left of the ‘road’ were large diamond squares in green and white to be the floor of the “garage”. Symmetry does wonderful things when you choose to use it. The symmetry of the stage with the floor over-firing my cones on one side and my rods on the other and the perpendicular line down the middle, started to make an un-3D effect, seeming to turn a three dimensional stage play into seemingly a two dimensional presentation. Wow! It was worth going just to see this effect where the actors seemed to go flat. Studying the effect in myself and moving to the front of house right and away from the center, where the flattening became not apparent, I came to think that it wasn’t just the firing cones and rods in my retina and the symmetry of the stage cut in half perpendicularly and my sitting in the center of the theater, but also the lighting and the blocking which heightened the 2D from 3D people on stage effect. The Pump Boys all seemed stuck in their band playing positions, and although they inhabited the space wonderfully with some really great ‘business’ the Dinettes also kept their YELLOW on their reddish pink side of the stage which represented the diner. It was wonderful relief when Lindsay crossed into the ‘garage’ side and the color intensity on stage became a bit more balanced. As I said before, during the second act, I sat in other seating and there I looked across the symmetry. It now looked more like I was watching the garage through the diner, I’m sure, as the set designer intended. If you ignored the mind-twisting effect of the floor (at least it was mind twisting to me), the symmetry of the set was really quite interesting to the eye. A blue fountain stool-cover was strategically placed to distract from the sameness of angle and set pieces on the right and left sides. A very nice-looking three dimensional, layered mountain set piece was always behind the drummer, letting one see the sunset through a giant hole the shape of an interstate highway sign. The set was really beautiful, but I wonder about the choice to use half of the depth of the stage to create this gorgeous effect, leaving the actors, especially the male band member actors seeming stuck. The lighting with a solid down light on for much of the time, straight down onto the center of the stage, might have also contributed to the 2D effect mentioned above.
All this set thinking might have been what kept the band and the music from ‘drawing me in’. The band remained mostly ‘band’ in my mind, rather than characters playing “Pump Boys” The music was great, but I was waiting, much of the time for the ‘Dinettes” to show up when they weren’t on stage. They did some of the most interesting music playing, syncopated beats like the old drum group “Stomp” or like the Blue Man Group AND they gave me character to watch, react to, feel about. These ‘Dinettes’, Prudie and Rhetta Cupp, Christina Stroup hovering over Lendsey Kersey who was barely half her size, did some GREAT tight, together dancing. They even pulled out their tap shoes for a number. Watching them fight for attention was the highlight of the show to me. When the music is all good, one might look for weakness. Maybe Adam , the music director, had the weakest voice tonight, but his songs were still good and his piano playing and music direction were great. A couple of times it seemed like both of the Dinettes constricted their vocal passages, but their voices were strong and clean through-out most of the show. With the song they sang about childhood and growing up, the Dinettes pulled me in. Looking to the fourth wall, looking at their memories, the fourth wall became their lives, a reflection to see the wisdom and sorrow of life gone by.
Those yellow outfits were great.