Our Houston Theatre Christmas Wish List
'Twas the night before Christmas, and through the Houston area people were shopping, cursing their error. Why did they wait for the last few minutes to buy so many holiday presents? Cozy, at home, two theater enthusiasts discussed theatrical amusements. There were funny shows, and sad ones. Some had music and joviality, while others encouraged civic responsibility. But, sadly, the list of dream shows to see just grew and grew. Wouldn't it be great if Houston produced just a few? They may have been done, but not since we started seeing everything. Oh, Santa and producers, please make true our Christmas dreams.
Below are the Top 10 shows (in alphabetical order), we'd love to see come to life on Houston stages:
THE ACCIDENTAL BLONDE - Leslye Headland, writer of BACHELORETTE and ASSISTANCE, is working on a cycle of plays known as the Seven Deadly Sins Cycle. BACHELORETTE focuses on gluttony, ASSISTANCE focuses on greed, and THE ACCIDENTAL BLONDE is her take on envy. With a keen eye for social commentary and a devastatingly sharp wit, we are excited about seeing her tackle jealousy by following the lives of two estranged friends, Lucy and Veronica.
ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES - When looking at the development of American theatre, this two-part masterpiece by Tony Kushner is highly regarded for many reasons. We've seen the HBO miniseries adaptation, we've read the both MILLENNIUM APPROACHES and PERESTROIKA, but we've never seen them on stage. The notably epic plays together equal about seven hours of theatre, dealing with homosexuality, AIDS, love, heartbreak, politics, and transformation.
THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE - Martin McDonagh first landed on the scene with this beautifully violent, in-your-face, and thought-provoking dark comedy. Debuting in 1996, produced by the Alley Theatre in 1999 and by Theatre Southwest in 2009, and set in Galway County, Ireland, it tells the story of the dysfunctional relationship between a 40-year-old spinster, Maureen, and her overbearingly selfish and manipulative 70-year-old mother. However, when Pato, a middle-aged construction worker, visits the house, Maureen is attracted to what she sees as her last chance at a normal life, and she pursues it. The entire play is set in the shabby, dimly lit kitchen of the house, adding an element of claustrophobia and unease to the tense and taut plot.
CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION - Annie Baker is one of America's most beloved new playwrights. In Houston there have been successful mountings of her plays BODY AWARENESS and THE ALIENS. Now, we definitely feel it's time to bring the play that started it all to Houston stages. This play, set in an artsy small town, brings together an unlikely collection of strangers who sign up for an "Adult Creative Drama" class. Over the course of the summer, the silly games played in class generate some real-life drama.
DARK PLAY OR STORIES FOR BOYS - This drama, crafted by Carlos Murillo, had its World Premiere in 2007's Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays. The plot centers around a teenage boy's fictional internet identity. It all spins out of control when the game he plays becomes overwhelmed by real emotion because the virtual and real world collide. The Denver Post calls it a "shocking, revelatory look at how the internet blurs reality and virtual reality."
DRACULA, THE MUSICAL - Frank Wildhorn has made a career of adapting fascinating novels into the musical medium. In 2004, DRACULA, THE MUSICAL, featuring lyrics and book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, made it to Broadway, and the critics were not very kind. Despite this, its revised and re-orchestrated production in Graz in 2007 was met with rave reviews. As fans of Frank Wildhorn and of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, we have always longed to see this show produced on the stage. Our wish almost came true as the title was part of The Masquerade Theater's 2012-2013 Blockbuster Season, which sadly never came to fruition.
HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE - Paula Vogel is one of our favorite modern American Playwrights. This quirky and somewhat disturbing coming of age comedy won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was last produced in Houston by Country Playhouse in 2009. It follows the edgy and often inappropriate relationship between Li'l Bit and her aunt's husband, Uncle Peck, from her adolescence through her early adulthood. In the work, Paula Vogel cleverly uses learning to drive as a metaphor to explore issues such as pedophilia, incest, and misogyny all while exploring themes of control and manipulation.
NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 - Who doesn't love complicated Russian literature when its condensed and turned into a sung-through musical? Especially when that musical blends and melds the aesthetics of Russian Folk Music, Classical Music, Indie Rock Music, and Electronic Dance Music? Dave Malloy's GREAT COMET is based on Volume 2, Part 5 of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. It focuses on Natasha's affair with Anatole and Pierre's growing despondency. Since we first heard the incredible 2 disc Original Cast Recording, we've been eagerly anticipating its Houston premiere. Let's make this one come to town sooner than later, okay?
REEFER MADNESS: THE MUSICAL - With music by Dan Studney and Lyrics and Book by Kevin Murphy, this tongue-in-cheek musical from 1998 is based on the 1936 cautionary film Reefer Madness. Over the course of the two acts, we learn that marijuana, the greatest evil on the North American continent, turns teenagers into sex-crazed, amoral zombie-like creatures with unforgettable songs and audacious humor. We know that Theater LaB Houston just did it in 2010 with an incredible cast, but we've only ever seen the 2005 Showtime movie starring Alan Cumming, Kristin Bell, Christian Campbell, Steven Webber, and Ana Gasteyer. So, we say, "play it again Houston!"
TRIASSIC PARQ - To call this Off-Broadway gem of a musical, written by Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Stephen Wargo, life changing isn't a stretch. At least, not for us. In a lot of ways, this magically irreverent and surprisingly deep musical, essentially the Jurassic Park film told from the dinosaurs perspective, was just what we needed to see at the time we saw it. As we all know by now, the frog DNA used in bringing dinosaurs back to earth allowed for some gender confusion and dino private parts changed overnight. Mix in hysterical social commentary about sexuality, sex, science, and religion, and you've got more dinosaur-sized fun than you can shake a goat's leg at.
Well, Santa (and/or producers), if you feel we've been exceptionally good this year, we'd also like to share this one Honorable Mention, as well:
SLASHER - This dark comedy, penned by displaced Texan Allison Moore, premiered at the 2009 Humana Festival of New American Plays. In the show, Sheena is cast as the "last girl" in a low-budget slasher flick and thinks this is the big break she's been waiting for. Yet, news of the movie unleashes her mother's feminist rage, and she will stop at nothing to put an end to filming. The Philadelphia Inquirer sums it up the best, stating, "Screaming. Blood. Impalement. Meat hooks. Electric drills. Objectified sexy women. Crazy mother in wheelchair. Whaddya expect? It's a slasher movie."
So, Houston, please make our Christmas wishes come true. All we want for Christmas is you... and these plays, but mainly you!