HOUSTON VOICE • DECEMBER 29, 2000
2000 in review
The best and the brightest (and a few dim bulbs, too)
by D.L. GROOVER
The rainbow flag flew high and proud over
Houston's theaters this past year. We were
blessed with a surfeit of gay plays and musicals.
Mercifully, it was fairly free of outright stinkers,
and many productions found enthusiastic new*
audiences. The diversity extended to two new
theater companies who highlighted gav-theme
plays making 2000 a year of thriving gay the-
Roy Hill and Love
On Valentine's day, Stages gave us
that thorny bouquet, "Ray Hill and
Described by friends and foes as
irascible, tactless, pesky and generous, Hill says he's .i "cantankerous
old fart." Whatever, he's a Houston
institution and our own gay
Foghorn Leghorn: preaching hectoring, and offending.
With story-telling verve, this
gay Aesop spun personal
fables that detailed his life of
love and his love of life.
Along the twisted path lay
shards of Houston's gay history and six former lovers
For all his bluster, Hill's a big ol'
marshmallow when it comes to love.
He chases it with the passion of a union
organizer, wrasslin' it to the ground and
celebrating its mysteries, pains and joys
with pagan abandon.
One-sided in the telling, the ornery
Hill's longevity has earned him the
right to tell his fascinating stories any
way he pleases.
Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
and Sleeping Beauty
Blazing into the ultra-hip Commerce Street
Artists Warehouse as if on a Bedlam Halloween
float, came two one-act plays by Charles Busch,
the master high dramatist of camp: "Sleeping
Beauty" and "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom."
These delirious, amphetamine-induced
comedies were given a spectacularly cheesy
charm in the greasy hands of the dos chicas pro-
v'HfJuction team. Both pricked the conventions-
cinema, theater, society, sex—with surgical precision. They were whacked-out, loving versions of
Republic B-pictures overlaid with a slimy sheen
of sexual perversion and gender-bending.
Although Anne Zimmerman, who did
quadruple duty as director, costume designer
and actor in two leading roles, outdid herself
while wearing all four hats, the eye-opener was
Walt Zipprian, as the woman-eating Succubus.
With foghorn voice and acidic stage presence,
Zipprian overlaid the bizarre with comic relief.
He was over the top and under control at the
same time. It was perfect Busch: a gourmet cannibal who has Julia Child tor dinner.
Houston Grand Opera roared in during the
spring with a soaring production of Verdi's first
big hit, "Nabucco," which more than any other
work of its time gave a nice big kick to the fat
posterior of "bel canto." Thanks to Verdi, Italian
opera was never the same again.
Verdi supplies the bombastic plot with
incredibly profound music, and sets it all in the
dazzling theatrical splendor of
Nebuchadnezzar's ancient court. It's quite a
show, and HGO's superlative treatment never
flagged. Conducted in fever pitch by Patrick
Summers, the Houston Symphony raised the
melodrama into the heavens- The Opera Chorus
never sounded so beautifully alive, whether
praving softly for deliverance or thundering out
Maria Guleghina, as Abigaille, seeker of
vengeance, could be heard over an earthquake.
Though her volume control was set at temple-
shattering, her velvet soprano, agile enough to
leap around Verdi's vocal gymnastics, was a
force of nature, as was the consummate artistry
ot Samuel Ramev and Segei Leiferkus
"Nabucco" may not be great, but it's certainly grand. With HGO, you couldn't have heard a
finer production of Verdi's stupendous translation oi this Bible story. Even the pagans were
As Bees In Honey Drown
Like a spring breeze,
Douglas Carter Beane's
"As Bees in Honey
Drown" wafted in during late May. In the
Alley's polished production, "Bees" was a
bright, frothy boulevard comedy, whose
intersecting streets are
Melrose Place, Rodeo
Drive and the Yellow
Brick Road. It told the fairy tale rise ;and rise) of
the consummate con artist, the mysterious Alexa
Vere de Vere, international glitterati priestess.
Lighter than a fine souffle and as insubstantial as
cotton candy, melting in your mind as soon as it
was over, this comedy of manners was slick and
Carol Linnea Johnson portrayed Alexa with
lacquered sophistication. In her helmet of jet-
black hair, tailored suits, jungle red fingernails,
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