| [credit: Ron Heflin for DallasNews.com]|
John Michael, Elaine Liner and Danny O'Conner are the local artists
in the inaugural Dallas Solo Fest by Audacity Theatre Lab
Promising and Provoking Fare From Local Artists at Dalla Solo Fest
DallasNews.com | Nancy Churnin | May 16, 2014
Her picture hangs proudly in the lobby near the Margo Jones Theatre that bears her name. Whether you believe in ghosts or think someone’s spirit lives on as a result of efforts by the living, it’s hard not to feel the memory of Dallas’ theater pioneer permeating the Magnolia Lounge in a leafy oasis of Fair Park.
Audacity Theatre Lab has launched its first Dallas Solo Fest where Jones encouraged fresh voices, including Tennessee Williams, in 1947. Whether greatness emerges from these eight artists remains to be seen, but Thursday’s three Dallas performers proved promising and provoking.
You don’t have to be a knitter to fall under the spell of Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love by Elaine Liner. Best known as the theater critic for the Dallas Observer, Liner powers her funny, poignant and engaging 70-minute love story with knitting references from history and literature. She starts with Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, pulls in the Fates weaving human destiny and gives Hamlet’s speech a redo: “To knit or not to knit, that is the question.”
Sweater Curse is the tale of a woman who yearns for love. Each boyfriend leaves her before she finishes the sweater she has begun to knit for him — that’s the sweater curse. As Liner sits on a yarn-bombed chair onstage, her needles clacking away, she makes a case for how the compulsion to knit is like the desire to bring two lives together as one.
Using knitting terms, she compares “casting on,” the beginning of a new project, to a new relationship, noting that one must not be too lax or too tight. She talks of knowing when to unravel or “tink” — knit spelled backward — when you’ve made a mistake.
Liner took her show to last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland and, after additional polishing, plans to perform it there again this year. I was impressed with Sweater Curse when Our Productions Theatre Co. presented it at the MCL Grand Theater in Lewisville in December. I’m more impressed now.
Danny O’Connor’s Bouncing Ugly enthralls with colorfully told tales of his days as a bouncer at the Coyote Ugly Saloon in New York City. O’Connor is a terrific storyteller who shows you how tough he is, then reveals his vulnerability by sharing his dream of being a famous actor. He brings up painful questions: What do you do when your dreams don’t come true? What do you do when the person you love gives you an ultimatum of your dreams or her? Can and should dreams change over time? These are rich ideas worth further exploration; one wonders how many of the people he bounced struggled with these issues.
John Michael’s Crossing Your I’s grabs you immediately as he enters on a bicycle arguing with unseen motorists. He takes you on a journey of an angry young man who learns unexpected lessons from dementia patients. He doesn’t like lying, but learns how lies can get a particular patient to eat. He doesn’t want to tell an adult whom he’s helping with a diaper that he loves him. But after telling the patient that, he starts to feel it.
This world-premiere show is rough around the edges. Michael introduces elements that he needs to clarify, but it’s a thoughtful show with smart visual details, including vivid masks by Ely Sellers used to suggest patients. It’s worthy of further development.
Plan your life
Continues through May 25, with Bouncing Ugly (55 mins.) Saturday and Sunday; Crossing Your I’s (40 mins.) Friday and Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love (65 mins.) Sunday and May 25 at the Margo Jones Theatre in the Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park, 1121 First Ave., Dallas. $12 per show, $55 pass for all shows. 214-888-6650. dallassolofest.com.