DECEMBER 29, 2000 • HOUSTON VOICE
Mostly hits, Jew misses marked Houston theater in 2000
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studied hyper attitude, and a pronunciation
guide stolen from past divas, Alexa's velvet
spider ensnared up-and-coming wanna-bes
behind her enticing, seductive smoke screen.
Her latest conquest is a hot gay writer on
the rise. With his dark matinee idol looks and
four-star physique, Ty Mayberry was the perfect naive fly caught in Alexa's seductive web.
"Bees" pricked the balloon of "sticky
sweet success" with sass, and the Alley
mounted it in a setting of flashy rhinestones.
A genuine theatrical cubic zirconium.
Zombies From The Beyond
Silly and inane, this cheesy re-mix of '50s
sci-fi B-movies made you laugh out loud. Part
homage, part vaudeville, Theater LaB's parody was wonderfully goofy.
In James Valcq's loving satire, the surprise
was the addition of a musical score that's a
clever parody of times past. The death ray of
the evil Zombina, the alien aviatrix, earth's
pneumatic nemesis, is her voice. Like a
demented Norma, her stratospheric coloratura drives men mad.
The septet of talented performers handled
their stock characters with infectious high
jinks, over-the-top zaniness, and nimble high-
kicking supplied in spades by director and
choreographer Jim Phillips.
This was the type of show that can't be
played straight, not when the young lovers
whistle their love song, or the illustrious skyline of downtown Milwaukee is knocked
senseless by the malevolent alien. Earthlings,
Fat Men In Skirts
Nicky Silver's "Fat Men in Skirts," written
in sulfuric acid, was a mordant, blacker than
black, comedy. You were likely to gag on your
laughter, as if gargling blood.
Flawlessly acted at Ashland St. Theatre
Co., it documented the chilling fall of Bishop
Hogan, plane crash survivor and ultimate
psycho, whose insatiable taste for human
sushi matches his unholy desire for his mother. There was no redeeming social value in
this satiric amoral tale, whose progenitors are
Jonathan Swift, John Webster and John
The play took the human condition and
whacked the stuffing out of it. Veering wildly
between biting satire and horrid melodrama,
it was like a highway accident: fascinated, we
had to look.
Travis Ammons inhabited the mad Bishop
Hogan like a second skin. Blood-drenched
from dinner, he sank deeper into psychosis
and resembled a dangerous medieval icon.
Hannibal Lector meets Norman Bates.
Therese Katara, as Bishop's out-of-touch
mother, matched his intensity every mad step.
This sit-com from Hell was laced with
enough tasty laughs to make it potable. On a
shoestring budget, director Chris Jimmerson
managed this bitter comedy with imagination, keeping us sated all the way to its bloody
As the inaugural production of Houston's
newest theater venture, Theatre New West,
"Fairy Tales" was a jubilant, radiant, enlightening gay musical revue. With music and
lyrics by Eric Lane Barnes, it was required
viewing for anyone who adored theater,
musicals, or just an exceptional evening out
on the town.
With wit and great charm, this bedtime-
story-for-adults revue celebrated the ordinary
life and times of a gay man who grows up in
a dysfunctional conservative family, comes
out, meets a lover, and eventually succumbs
Although solemnity runs under the story
like a riptide, this production rejoiced in the
delicious diversity of gay life. It reveled in
camp, yet glorified remembrance and humanity.
Alex Stutler, firm of voice and body, made
a strikingly good Matthew, all wide-eyed
comic innocence, longing for the complacency
and normal existence of his favorite TV family, the Partridges. Keith Caldwell as
Matthew's lover had the best voice of the five,
and his twang rendition of "Illinois Fred"
gave a well-heeled boot to the conventions of
masculine role playing.
With its sublime mix of laughter and tears,
"Fairy Tales" gave us a needed boost of
humanity and pride, ending in a stirring message of empowerment and hope.
Jonathan Larson's exuberant rock paean to
life has become a pop culture phenomenon. In
a decade or so of really egregious musical the
ater, "Rent" deserved all its awards. Spinning
its "Boheme"-inspired tale in contemporary
hues of AIDS, sexual nonconformity, drug
addiction, and multiculturalism, the musical
took the verities of poverty, homelessness,
and illness and transformed them with splendid affirmation.
Larson's heartfelt empathy for his alternative community could be as sappy as a
Hallmark card (a chorus line of homeless
junkies seemed just as unreal as a convent of
singing nuns) but his passion packed a
mighty wallop. His pop and rock score, a
melange of styles borrowing tangos, blues,
gospel, reggae, funk, and MTV, is still rooted
on firm Broadway stock. The love ballads are
haunting, and the up-tempo pieces, feisty and
energetic, are filled with sophisticated
rhythms that keep us off balance. His dramatic lyrics, agile and propulsive, shift in off-kilter ways, too; sometimes comic, sometimes
heartbreaking, yet always right.
Bar none, this was the finest touring production of a Broadway musical last year. An
amazingly theatrical show, it used all the
high-tech smoke and mirrors that money
could buy. Grunge never looked so high gloss.
When Houston Ballet opened its 2000-2001
season in September, it did so with a knockout: Stanton Welch's "Bruiser."
With a company of eighteen, "Bruiser"
was a tongue-in-cheek, witty look at modern
relationships, using all manner of sports references,
Wearing skin-tight abbreviated shorts and
midriff revealing tops, the dancers—wrists
bandaged and cheeks blackened—feinted
and jabbed, performed tae bo, jumped hurdles, skipped imaginary rope, power walked,
even egged us on to fight. One of the guys
flexed like a muscleman upstage in silhouette.
The women, all on pointe and just as seasoned and strong as the men, fought back - a
contemporary Gen-X take that was mighty
refreshing. The guys were butch; the girls
A perpetual mobile of off-kilter classical
steps, big sweeping arabesques in lifts, sexy
duets, expressive solos, "Bruiser" was modern ballet with vengeance and a laugh.
As the preeminent tomboy, Britain
Werkheiser exuded stage presence with a
feisty powerhouse performance. The intense
and razor sharp Joel Prouty was a perfect foil
to the leggy and athletic Lauren Anderson;
while the very blond and beefed-up Ian
Casady complemented Sarah Webb's beautiful line. At the end of their pas de deux, he
pinned her down, but not for long.
There's no entry in the Olympics for ballet,
but if there were, Mr. Welch and his brilliant
dancers would've shared top spot: gold.
Naked Boys Singing
The title said it all. Unfortunately, there
wasn't much else to this musical presented by
Bienvenue Theatre. Once the revelatory shock
of being up close and personal faded, our
gazes glazed over.
This was a musical revue written by committee: 24 hands to be precise. Too many
cooks and no chef. This gay musical mean
dered without much thought in its head. It
was well-scrubbed and sex-free, non-prurient
and G-rated. Why did they bother to remove
For a musical that paraded its gimmick in
our face, it's ironic that the best number, the
most erotically charged, was the love song
where Augustin Paz slowly donned his
clothes, until by song's end he was fully
dressed. If only the rest of the show would've
been so charged. This was a sex musical without a rise.
Jeff Stryker Does Hard Time
In his first venture into live theatrical performance, the world's most famous male pom
star had the savvy to fashion himself a vanity
production. For what it was, this star vehicle
served him well. Everyone else got the shaft.
He and his un-credited co-writers crafted a
soft-core showcase, where Stryker is swathed
in '40s film noir glamour with inky shadows
and wet reflections. On display, his body
became his own fetish.
To be fair, you didn't go to this expecting
"Hamlet." But after scores of performances in
NYC and San Francisco, the eponymous star
and his tailor-made "hilarious, erotic comedy" should have had more pizzazz and polish
than this lumbering, limp effort.
As a live porn movie, this sad little affair
moved with the speed of a lump of Crisco. For
all its X-rated trash sex talk, the pom was
missing. Discreet and hiding behind veils, the
play cried out for Viagra.
The evening ended with a mini-sex show,
as Stryker doused himself with baby oil and
danced nude among the audience. It's one
exotic dance where he brought his own pole.
The curtain call had him parting his large
friend in appreciation of a job well done. It's
the only part of him that could act.
Kiki and Hetb
If you didn't experience this demonic dysfunctional duo at Theater LaB, you missed
one of the truly theatrical events of the season.
Frightening and funny, this psychotic
lounge act was post-modem drag and performance art mixed with a full fist of barbiturates.
Kiki (Justin Bond) is a washed-up, never-
has-been boozy cabaret singer whose
grotesque life story is the patter that drives the
rock and alternative grunge song cycle. Herb
(Kenny Mellman) is her autistic co-dependent
pianist who bangs out the accompaniment
and adds his wails to Kiki's vodka-tinged
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