Buster Spiller is a transplant from Michigan. Finding his artistic roots in Dallas, this veteran actor, theater producer and director loves finding good theater in expected and very unexpected places! He can be reached at DallasTheaterGuy@linusspiller.com.
But even this self-professed Grinch has a soft spot so when my favorite children's Christmas tale The Little Drummer Boy comes on, I'm fixed in front of the TV like I was as a young boy and often find myself crying because the message in the story transcends a religious and biblical one; it is a story about the best in humanity.
That childlike fascination and sentiment was evoked recently during Teco Theatrical Productions updated and modern version of Langstan Hughes The Black Nativity, produced annually by the company. I have seen many versions of this show, and nearly every one staged by Teco, and I can say with utter confidence this is by far the BEST Nativity I have ever witnessed. It's that good!BWW Reviews: Kitchen Dog Theater's Must See Production of THE ARSONISTS is Riotous Fun Yet Prophetic November 16, 2014
Based on the number of U.S. residents who participated in the recent midterm elections, the lowest turnout since 1942, Kitchen Dog Theater's recent production of "The Arsonists", written by Max Frisch in 1953 is a stark reminder the old adage "art imitating life" can easily be rephrased to say "art IS life." And the parallels between this play and the inertia of the American voting public, which seems to get worst, is a somber cue that if citizens don't take serious the business of their daily lives, individuals with misplaced and misguided intentions are more than willing to cajole them and turn their lives upside down.
Now to be certain, this story pulls you in IMMEDIATELY and you will laugh at what you see because it seems very 'familiar', and actually, it IS familiar. It is us. It is our story. We live it every day. As Americans, we love baseball, apple pie, cooing babies, and happy endings. You know, the perfect Norman Rockwell picture ending. We are nostalgic to a fault and want everything to blissfully continue without too much changing. In fact, we detest change despite our words to the contrary.BWW Reviews: AART Ensemble Takes DETROIT 67 On a Serious, Groovy Ride at a Rock Steady Pace November 7, 2014
It is in this setting that the regional production of "Detroit 67", written by Detroit native Dominique Morisseau and produced by the African American Repertory Theater (AART) takes place. In what can be a story easily dismissed as regional, of interest only to people familiar with the rise and fall of the city, Morisseau's colorful and fluid writing style complete with vernacular of that period, along with great direction and blocking creates a theatrical setting in which one is completely absorbed into the story and its place in U.S. history.BWW Reviews: Despite Dense Script, Exceptional Ensemble Effort Drives MBS's DANTE: PURGATORIO October 24, 2014
According to the Roman Catholic Church, these things are true regarding purgatory. One, it is real ("Ok, I'll go along with this"). Two, it's not a second chance at heaven if you screwed up on earth. It's just a docking place for you to do some last minute purification since nothing unclean can enter the heavenly realm ("I don't think that's fair"). Three, it's not an actual place but a state of being ("Like Nirvana-ish?"). Four, it's not punishment but rather an act of mercy by God ("SIGH of relief!"). Five, prayers for spirits in purgatory help them get to heaven (Hmmm…I don't know if I want sinners praying for me, especially those Christians). Six, souls in purgatory can't pray for themselves but can pray for those still on earth ("that is WAY weird!"). Seven, people send themselves to purgatory IF they are saved first, God doesn't do it for them ("Free will! Yep, I'm onboard!"). And eight, there is no fire in purgatory ("Even BIGGER SIGH of relief!").BWW Reviews: WingSpan Takes Calculated Risk and Scores BIG with Tennessee Williams' THE TWO CHARACTER PLAY October 22, 2014
Americans are particularly spoiled when it comes to what we expect from films, television, and theater. We have to have a presentation that follows a very predicable format, including a likeable hero or heroine, antagonist, life conflict that mirrors our own, and a climax in which good wins over evil. We want to leave these experiences feeling completely uplifted and good about ourselves. What is perceived as negative isn't even part of our collective consciousness.BWW Reviews: Contemporary Theatre of Dallas LITTLE WOMEN Jumps Off the Pages October 19, 2014
Despite its billing of a tale woven in the Louisiana bayou during the 21st century as written by 2013 MacArthur Foundation Fellow Tarell Alvin McCraney, 'The Brothers Size' actually has its genesis in some West African village over 3,700 miles away across the Atlantic Ocean, serving as a cultural bridge connecting the ancient with the contemporary.
With musician S-Ankh Rasa who hails from Dakar, Senegal operating as a silent but completely integrated spiritual guide with his solitary drum, unseen to the characters but very present to the audience, the beats which emanate from his instrument creates the storytelling space for three modern day male griots to narrate a tale so visually moving and powerful that it simples leave you speechless from start to finish.
Under the outstanding production team of director Tre Garrett and assistant director George W. Donaldson III, running at one hour and 15 minutes, the show reviewed was one of several preview shows before the production opens on Fri., Oct. 3.BWW Reviews: Parker, Wilson, and Swartz Stand Out Despite Script in Kitchen Dog Theater's THINNER THAN WATER September 29, 2014
In today's world, marriage is an optional life choice for couples versus previous generations where it was expected that adults would marry, procreate children, grow old, and eventually die having completed their primary life's function.
Even though those family structures may have included outside children born out of wedlock by a husband committing adultery, children and their mothers who were either ignored or treated like they didn't exist, the primary family unit remained intact.
In Melissa Ross's "Thinner than Water," currently in production at Kitchen Dog Theater, you realize despite advancements we have made as a global society in a number of areas, this component of the human condition is still alive and well.BWW Reviews: Core Theater's Cast of 12 ANGRY JURORS Speaks Out on Trials and the Legal System March 13, 2014
There are very few long-running play festivals/competitions in North Texas and the fact TeCo Theatrical Productions, Inc. has been able to successfully produce their event for 12 years speaks volumes about their ability to sustain programming in the midst of reduced arts funding nationwide.BWW Reviews: Mamet's RACE Sizzles with Fast Pacing and Provocative Dialogue December 5, 2013
Two lawyers find themselves defending a wealthy white executive charged with raping a black woman. When a new legal assistant gets involved in the case, the opinions that boil beneath explode to the surface. When Mamet turns the spotlight on what we think but can't say, dangerous truths are revealed, and no punches are spared.BWW Reviews: Silence is Golden in the Creatively Potent PLAYTIME November 15, 2013
The story of a man/child who is constantly surrounded by happiness. However, just as he is able to find happiness, a sinister, dark force swoops in to rip it away from him. In the face of this overwhelming oppression, our hero continues to fight for his happiness in a funny, heartwarming, and truly unnerving story that culminates in a single climatic scene.BWW Reviews: Rover Dramawerks Serves Up Delicious Pie in BLOODY MURDER November 8, 2013
Dante is given a tour through the different circles of hell. As he descends further into the underworld it he finds himself slowly descending into madness and that the souls and demons he encounters aren't going to allow him to escape. This ground breaking theatrical production of Dante's Poem is done in modern English making it accessible and understandable to modern audiences. Original premiere in 2008.BWW Reviews: BLACK AT THE ASSASSINATION Deserves A+ for Compelling History Lesson October 21, 2013
Directed by Becki McDonald, who makes some excellent directing choices with her large cast of fifteen adult and children actors by combining brief oratory, traditional dialogue, and injecting cast members into the audience to DRAW viewers dead smack into the action. This created a theater experience that is equally educational, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Use of mixed media was also a component but the limitations of the performance space really hampered full immersion into the subject matter created by Robertson and Spencer in their script.BWW Reviews: Nouveau 47, Crossover Arts Theatre Successfully Birth Norton's SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD April 19, 2013
As the play opens, all seems right in the Westmoreland household. Dayne prepares for the start of football season, and Gracie and Kendall audition to join the cast of the high school production of 'Oklahoma.' Everything quickly begins to fall apart when an unexpected tragedy rocks the solid foundation of the Westmoreland family to the breaking point. Yellow dives head first into the themes of cowardice, intolerance and the damage caused to families by secrets, rejection and the difficulty of forgiveness.