Thursday, September 22, 2011
Theater review: Duets at Theatre Three in Dallas
The script is designed for laughs, and the actors' execution made the most of every opportunity.
Peter Quilter is a relatively new playwright to hit the scene. His first big hit was End of the Rainbow in 2005, a sobering yet delightful musical based on the final days of actress Judy Garland. Winning several awards, it launched Quilter's career, where he quickly turned to comedy with Glorious!, also released in 2005.
We are fortunate here in Dallas to have an opportunity to see one of Quilter's more recent plays, Duets at Theatre Three (playing through October 9). Quilter created this script with flexibility to allow local productions to personalize the script and set to suit their regional distinctive. Director Michael Serrecchia and Set Designer Bruce R. Coleman take advantage of that freedom.
If you have not had an opportunity to see a production in the lower level of the Theatre Three building (also known as Theatre Too – a cute pun), you have been missing out! It's a tiny space, with limited seating, creating a uniquely intimate theatre experience. I have often been impressed with how set designers maximize the use of their space at this venue, and the Bruce Coleman's design is no exception.
As you walk into the theatre, you feel as though you've walked into someone's high rise condo. From the living room area at the center, to the fully stocked kitchen on the end, you are brought into the experience both by ambiance and proximity.
One of the challenges of Duets is the fact that you have two actors playing a total of eight characters over the course of four different scenes. So how do you make it obvious to your audience that they are entering into a different living room from scene to scene? This is where Coleman's creativity takes over. Window treatments, sofa cushions, even slip covers are changing from scene to scene.
In a particularly fun move, there is a framed print hanging on the back wall that changes from scene to scene. We begin in Dallas, move to Houston, then to San Antonio, and then for the final scene the framed print is replaced with impressive mounted steer horns, and a wrought iron piece that tells us that we are now in Mesquite.
These are simple, small changes – but changes that prove very effective in taking us from scene to scene with the understanding that we are now about to see different characters enter the room.
Director Michael Serrecchia also has a good time personalizing the script to give it a unique Texas flavor. This is most evident in the fourth duet where we are taken to Mesquite and given a behind the scenes look at an East Texas rancher's wedding – "It's time to get that heifer out of the chute!"
Terry Dobson and Carol Farabee Blackwood face a daunting task. Each of them has to play four very different characters throughout the evening. Thankfully, they are up to the challenge! Blackwood is a delight. She delivers her lines with impeccable comic timing, and comes across very believable in each and every role.
Dobson also demonstrates excellent stage presence and comic timing, and handles each of his roles quite well. The only issue is that some of his distinct mannerisms as an actor are manifest in each character, but the pacing and excellent delivery by both Dobson and Blackwood minimize any distraction this would have otherwise caused.
All in all, this is a wonderful evening. The script is designed for laughs, and the actors' execution made the most of every opportunity. It starts with slow, dry, somewhat sophisticated humor, and closes with a fast-paced, frantic display of physical comedy that has the entire room laughing virtually non-stop.
If you have an evening free, be sure to head out to the Quadrangle to see Duets at Theatre Three – you won't be disappointed! Be sure to bring the other half of your duet so you can laugh together throughout the evening.
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