Friday, February 27, 2009

HHF reviews keep rolling in

Stage Frankenshtick
By Arnold Wayne Jones
Staff Writer -
Feb 26, 2009

Monsters! Virgins! Men in dresses! ‘Hello Human Female’ goes camping

When you open the door to Ochre House — the Fair Park-adjacent performance space (it hardly qualifies as a theater even in the most generous of moods) where Audacity Theatre Lab is presenting its new show, “Hello Human Female” — you step directly into the action: 50 seats scattered in front of a unraked “stage” barely six feet deep. The set: Two cruddy folding chairs and a few painted panels hiding the actors and some props. If you use the bathroom during the show, the curtain speech warns, be sure to turn off the light before you exit to avoid disrupting the performance.

This is guerrilla theater in its most charmingly downscale incarnation.It’s also a great example of how, in live theater, you really don’t need a huge fly-space or perfectly tailored costumes and state-of-the-art sound if you have heart and a point of view that connects with the audience.

About that last part: I’m not sure I have the slightest idea what the playwright, Matt Lyle, had in mind in writing “Hello Human Female.” Point-of-view? Maybe in a psych ward. Lyle’s last play, “The Boxer,” was a sentimental paean to silent films. This one sort of takes on the sci-fi genre, but does so with more camp. A coda at the end of “deleted scenes” seems to pay homage to the DVD era, but I’m not quite sure why.

Actually I am sure: Because Lyle wants to make you laugh, whether with references to a 1970s-era Riunite ad, a gag about how many shoes an octopus would need to steal or a hoard or marauding cats. All is fair game.

A pastiche of bits from “Young Frankenstein,” “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog,” “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Hello Human Female” is self-mocking and intentionally clunky in parts, unintentionally in others. All I know is, I laughed out loud. A lot.

Jeff Swearingen, Dallas’ preeminent comic genius at the moment, plays Blork, the Igor to Dr. Gorn’s Frankenstein. The creepy, Dr. Evil-like Gorn (Jeremy Whiteker) starts online dating in order to find a woman to spawn his intended army of yak-bee-human hybrids. He lures Tamela (Arianna Movassagh), a 37-year-old virgin who has spent her life under the oppressive thumb of her mother (Whiteker again), to his lair but she falls for Blork instead.

Mother disapproves (“He’s a patchwork of corpses!” she chides Tamela; “If his hands worked, they’d be all over you!”), so she sends Blork on a quest until he can prove his worth. During his travels, Blork meets a small boy (Becca Shivers) and a dotty old man (Scott Milligan) who mistake him for a dog.

In some ways, that’s the least weird of the many weirdnesses in this play … and I mean that in the best possible way. There’s nothing subtle about any of this, unless you count some of the slippery allusions to such diverse pop culture topics as “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Lassie,” Abbott & Costello, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Top Gun,” “Mommie Dearest” and “South Park.” Indeed, “South Park’s” balls-to-the-wall absurdity seems to have been the inspiration for this commedia dell’arte picaresque.

The cast is fearless with giddy brilliance. As the mother, Whiteker looks and sounds like Garth Brooks in drag: Southern trailer-trash with a cheap wig and inappropriate sexual energy. Shivers channels an enraged, spoiled tween given to tantrum with eerie intensity (and later creates wonderfully goofy “dialogue” while costumed as a yakbeesapien). Movassagh, North Texas’ reigning comedic soprano, get to sing “Somewhere Out There” while playing air guitar.

It’s Swearingen, though, who commands the audience’s focus. His lower lip perpetually askew, his shoulders held in a Chaplinesque slump, Swearingen is the most physical of actors, clowning and capering around recklessly while maintaining a sweet smirk on his empty face.

Swearingen’s endearing audaciousness is reminiscent of what made Adam Sandler stand out before he got so smug about his success. And it’s 10 feet away from you in a storefront on Exposition. Can’t beat that.

Ochre House, 825 Exposition Ave. Through March 7. Wednesdays–Saturdays at 8:15 p.m. $10–$15. 469-236-2726.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 27, 2009.© Copyright by

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Franken- Sense & Sensibility
"Hello Human Female" creates a monster you can't help but love
by Mark Lowry
2-24-2009 –

There aren't many mortals who would dare integrate the cheese-tastic 1986 song Somewhere Out There into a wacky, off-color narrative about a pop culture-savvy creature who falls for a 37-year-old virgin. Well, maybe if Roger Corman or the Troma pranksters remade An American Tail with a psychotic but still lovable Fievel.

But when talking about local theater, playwright Matt Lyle is the man for this job. Even when he is reveling in off-color humor and minor gore, he always reveals a sweet, romantic side.Lyle and his wife Kim moved to Chicago last year, but the writer who gave us 2007's brilliant The Boxer continues to have his work produced here. Audacity Theatre Lab opened the world premiere of his Hello Human Female at the Ochre House in Exposition Park last week. The space is teensy (and not a thrill for anyone wanting easy parking), but it's also perfect for low-budget performance. In this case, that's not a dig at Audacity's lack of funds. It's in praise of the ingenious ways Lyle and director Brad McEntire use simplistic costumes, set pieces and props—plush toy cats that might have been pulled from a Goodwill drop box!—to achieve stylishly cheap B-movie effects.

Hello Human Female sets up its story with evil Dr. Gorn (Jeremy Whiteker) looking for love on In truth, he's searching for a virgin in which to sow the seeds for a race of yak-bee-human thingies. He e-matches with the lovely Tamela (Arianna Movassagh, whose Kewpie doll adorableness makes her perfect for the role). When she arrives at his pad for the face-to-face, she becomes smitten with Blork (Jeff Swearingen), an Igor type who was stitched together from the remains of 35 people. Despite the fact that his brain is in the jar (but not the empty jar that just happens to be in his head), Blork is an oddly charming creature who speaks in Facebook status update-style, but iffier on agreement and tense."Blork have mish-mashed legs," he might say. Or, in one of the show's more hilarious of many funny pop culture references, "kiss Blork's grits" at the mention of the TV show Alice.Sounds like an amusing enough premise for a comedy sketch. But Lyle stretches it into a longer thread, and amazingly sustains it. Tamela brings Blork home, where her tyrannical mother (Whiteker, in a funny drag performance) attempts to break up the two by sending Blork on a solo adventure. On that journey, he befriends the philosophical Homeless Harry (Scott Milligan), an ignored boy named Timmy (Becca Shivers, in another comic triumph for her and the show) and Timmy's grandfather (Milligan). Each of these satellite characters has stories, but instead of baldly laying these out, Lyle drops their psychological profiles into casual dialogue or the occasional short monologue, such as when Gramps speaks of his deceased wife while whittling a log into a toothpick.

Just like the patchwork quilt of humanity called Blork (and the 35 people who died, ahem, so that he could be born at an evil scientist convention), Hello Human Female gives us a touching look at the human condition. It's somehow poignant, even in the midst of the kind of wonderfully silly comedy that can be traced from the Marx Brothers to Mel Brooks to the Zucker Brothers and beyond. Some of the gags are recycled from famous comedy routines, but are still fresh and hysterical. No need to spoil them here.

At the heart of all this is Swearingen, who has time and again proven his prowess with physical comedy and spot-on line delivery. He goes above and beyond here, morphing a monster into a character that even the most cynical human would want to take home and feed a bowl of soup.
There's bound to be a Blork for everyone. Somewhere out there.
When Scary Met Sally
By Elaine Liner - Dallas Observer
Published on February 25, 2009

Goodbye, winter blues. Hello Human Female, springing from the wildly funny imagination of Texas playwright Matt Lyle, arrives as a late Valentine to the willy-nilly silliness of love among lovable misfits. In its world premiere by Audacity Theatre Lab at the tiny Ochre House Theatre next to Fair Park, Lyle's two-act comedy comes to life in a bright production that's lowest-of-low-budgeted but lavishly acted and ingeniously staged.

Take every B-movie about a mad scientist and whisk it into the plot of The Princess Bride. Add a hunchback, a giant man in drag, three stuffed cats, a trunk full of Cabbage Patch dolls, Timmy and Lassie on the edge of a crumbling cliff, some riffs on Nietzsche and the best of KISS—and you're only spooning up the first layer of hundreds of pop culture references Lyle stirs into his script. His gags are inspired by old Jack Benny and Sid Caesar routines, by Woody Allen, Mel Brooks (especially Young Frankenstein), Mike Myers (in Dr. Evil mode), The Wizard of Oz, Mommie Dearest, Of Mice and Men, the board game Clue and the feel-good rhythms of Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers.

Here's a 31-year-old writer with a jillion episodes of Beverly Hillbillies and Davey &; Goliath stored on his cranial hard drive. Little bits of retro TV shows, commercials and cartoons are sprinkled through this play like fairy-tale breadcrumbs leading into a magical forest of theatrical fiction. How Lyle uses all this without dialogue and characters becoming hokey, cliché or bogged down in cuteness is what sets him apart from so many young playwrights who throw failed sitcom and movie scripts on small stages and try to call them plays.

Lyle may someday write for television—he left Dallas for Chicago last year to join Second City's comedy writing program—but he's already shown great promise with his theater work. Before Hello Human Female, there was the one-act The Boxer, which debuted at the Festival of Independent Theatres in 2007 and transferred to a successful run at Dallas Children's Theater. That one paid homage to the silent films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, which also are Lyle obsessions. Acted without words, The Boxer told the sweet story of an unemployed Depression-era girl (played by Matt Lyle's wife, Kim) who masquerades as a man to train a scrawny pugilist for his big bout. That they fall in love is cause for much confusion, until, of course, the girl reveals her true identity. Lyle's plays usually lead to the happiest ending possible.

The Boxer was written with the title role in mind for Dallas actor Jeff Swearingen, one of those uniquely gifted physical comedians with a Chaplinesque flair for gesture and timing. Lyle also wrote a starring part for him in Hello Human Female: Blork, the Igor-like assistant to the play's unhinged scientist, Dr. Gorn (Jeremy Whiteker). Blork is a "patchwork human" made of bits of 35 corpses. In the sloppy construction job, Gorn forgot to give Blork a brain, but burdened him with three scrota and only one testicle.

From his entrance in the first act, Swearingen takes Blork to places even Lyle probably didn't imagine. The character would be funny enough as written, but this actor delivers a value-added version. Since Blork is made of recycled parts, Swearingen moves his limbs like a marionette with uneven strings. He keeps his eyes unfocused. His top lip seems to have come from a different stiff than his lower one. He scuttles unevenly across the little stage, like a crab with a hernia. But even when he's doing the goofiest business, like playing "Camptown Races" on the spoons, we know that inside Blork's little hunched-over bod throbs a giant-sized heart that's yearning to beat in unison with the leading lady's. Blork's a romantic, a Prince Charming in disguise.

The lady love is Tamela, a dorky 37-year-old virgin played by the compact, curly-haired Arianna Movassagh, who's terrific at ditzifying. Lured to Dr. Gorn's lab by an online dating service, Tamela falls in love at first sight with Blork. They are separated in true fairy fable fashion—Becca Shivers and Scott Milligan play several supporting characters who get in the couple's way—but they wind up back in each other's arms. Or in Blork's case, several other people's arms whipstitched onto his droopy shoulders.

Hello Human Female brings the funny in big and small ways. There's a close laugh-to-line ratio, but that stretches the performance past the two-hour mark. A little trimming and tightening wouldn't hurt. And though the "deleted scenes" after the curtain call are amusing, they're really unnecessary. Comedy should always leave 'em wanting more. We definitely want more plays by Matt Lyle. If they keep starring Jeff Swearingen, even better.

Hello Human Female

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Matt Lyle, the playwright of HELLO HUMAN FEMALE, currently presented by Audacity Theatre Lab (until March 7th) was recently interviewed on

Friday, February 20, 2009

Audacity Theatre Lab:
Dishing it up and Out

20 February 2009 at 7:45 am
Alexandra Bonifield for the

If attending live theatre is like sitting down to a prix-fixed meal of the imagination, then Audacity Theatre Lab’s Hello Human Female is gourmet grilled potluck, peppered plumb full enough of implausible characters and wacky situations to sate the humor-seeking palate. It’s kind of like watching Joaquin Phoenix on David Letterman, except these folks mean to be funny and are aware of their audience. Soap opera plot meets Lost in Space meets Young Frankenstein meets Lassie, Come Home and Wizard of Oz, with homage to the faked orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. Whew. In retrospect, the chaotic concatenation somehow channels Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with its over-riding theme of amor omnia vincit (LUV conquers all). In this case, LUV certainly does. Clean your plate and go back for seconds.

The secret to the hyperkinetic, no-holds-barred romp? Matt Lyle, the playwright, currently resides in Chicago, where he’s studying comedy writing at The Second City and screenwriting with Chicago Dramatists. Director of the play and artistic director of the company, Brad McEntire, mounted and produced over fifty plays here in Big D then toured successfully to New York and Austin Fringe Festivals, before sallying forth in 2006 on an artistic sojourn to Hong Kong and other exotic, inspirational locales. There’s a brazen confidence herein, born of endless dribbling of ink on paper and much time spent clamoring to earn and keep the attention of maddeningly fickle audiences. These boys got it down to a science.

On stage, in the kick-ass dual role of codependent overbearing Mother in drag and equally overbearing, smarmy Mad Scientist in gaiters is Jeremy Whiteker, with as much meritorious experience in performing in quirky, absurdist one-act originals as he has in straight ahead musical comedy. S/he is a hoot and a holler, a medium rare sight to behold and savor. Becca Shivers steams into her debut with Audacity Theatre Lab like a locomotive in overdrive in the gender-bending role of pre-teen boy “Timmy”, returns in Act II as the Mad Scientist’s humanoid sweetheart, a real honey-bee of a waspish creation. The star-crossed lovers, Jeff Swearingen as hump-backed humanoid Blork and Arianna Movassagh as perpetual virgin in search of true love or unreasonable facsimile, play off each other effortlessly with a fine balance of physical humor, crisp verbal repartee and droll song. Their duet version of “Somewhere Out There” ought to be filmed and posted on YouTube. Worth a reprise at play’s end, wish it had happened. Stirring in a classical whiff of Ionesco, Beckett and Shakespeare to the madcap hilarity, venerable regional actor Scott Milligan plays Homeless Harry (shades of Everyman) and Timmy’s aw-shucks Gramps. He lends a sober grounding to the enterprise, in a bizarre but comforting way. Narrating the production and guiding the audience in docile compliance to its seats with dulcet-toned instruction of what to do in case of ‘inevitable fire” is professional voice over artist and ex-pat Brit Emily Gray. She adds a zesty dollop of whipped cream ephemera to the absurdist reality sur la table. Jolly bon appetit.

Audacity Theatre Lab’s Hello Human Female runs Wednesdays through Saturdays through March 7 at the Ochre House intimate space, 825 Exposition Avenue. Street parking is ample, close to the venue and well lit. House staff is super-friendly. Reservations and tickets: 469-236-2726

Thursday, February 19, 2009

HELLO HUMAN FEMALE has opened !!!

Theater review: Audacity Theatre Lab pushes the wacky button with 'Hello Human Female'

12:45 AM CST on Thursday, February 19, 2009
By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News

Matt Lyle has reinvented romantic comedy for the 21st century in plays where the romance is as whacked out as the comedy.

Sadly, Lyle moved his Bootstraps Comedy Theater from Dallas to Chicago last year, but Dallas still got the world premiere of his newest tasty weirdness on Wednesday. Audacity Theatre Lab opened Hello Human Female at the Ochre House in Exposition Park with the playwright and his wife and frequent leading lady, Kim Lyle, back in town for the occasion.

Lyle directed his previous two triumphs, Sunny and Eddie Sitting in a Tree and The Boxer, as well as writing them. So it was an open question whether Audacity founder Brad McEntire could whip the new script up to the same sort of post-Valentine, post-modern mushy madness.

Suffice it to say, he could and did. With a few of the old Bootstraps hands in tow and some other formidable talent on hand, as well, Hello Human Female is just as charmingly sappy, just as tartly silly, as its predecessors.

In the new piece, evil scientist Dr. Gorn (Jeremy Whiteker) uses an online dating site to lure Tamela (Arianna Movassagh), a 37-year-old virgin, to his bunker so he can work his vile experiments on her. When Tamela arrives, however, she is more taken with Dr. Gorn's subhuman creation, Blork (Jeff Swearingen). Gorn lets Blork and Tamela depart in the first flush of their mutual infatuation.

Alas, Tamela's over-protective mother (Whiteker again, this time in drag and an even worse wig) interferes and parts the new couple. The two incipient (but never, or hardly ever, insipid) lovers search high and low for each other. Blork encounters a young boy, Timmy (Becca Shivers), who has the mistaken impression that Blork is a dog. But Billy's Gramps (Scott Milligan) won't let his grandson keep his newfound pet. (Neither seems to notice that Blork can talk, albeit in harsh bleats.)

Lyle and McEntire load this tale with all kinds of sight jokes, sound jokes, song jokes and every other kind of joke you can imagine. Even the longest and strangest unfailingly get their laughs, although the outtakes after the curtain call do go on a little too long. All the performers do their silly bits brilliantly, but special credit goes to Movassagh and Swearingen for letting us believe in this weird pair's chemistry even as we yuck it up.

Hello Human Female runs through March 7 at Ochre House, 825 Exposition Ave. Runs 130 mins. $12 to $15. 469-236-2726,

Sunday, February 8, 2009

EYE IN THE SKY episode 1

Eye In The Sky is an original radio project being developed by Audacity Theatre Lab over the course of the next year or two. The first episode is up and ready to be listened to.

Pieces by playwrights James Comtois, Andy Eninger and Chris Humphrey.