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Becoming Kinky: Some Things Beat Being Governor

Jesse Dayton
Jesse Dayton
Photos by Jason Wolter

Check out our a slideshow from the play's opening night.

What a smooth, hilarious thing the opening and world premiere of Becoming Kinky: The World According To Kinky Friedman was Monday night at the Mucky Duck, with the Kinkster himself gazing on.

By the time the first public performance was over, it was former Houstonian Ted Swindley's gently conceived script - careful not to go over the top but filled with pungent Kinksterisms - that won over the entire crowd, which included trial lawyer Dick DeGuerin and family, local socialite Kimberly DeLape, co-producer Carolyn Farb, and a phalanx of shutter-clicking photographers.

There was plenty of Kinky's bigger-than-the-silver-screen bravado, inherent Texas swagger and confirmed-bachelor wiliness in Swindley's script; the man wrote Always... Patsy Cline, so he knows what he's doing. And it is Swindley's script and stage adaptation that make this play such a winner, at least in its infancy.

At this young age, the production is in flux, but fortunately it is a very agreeable sort of flux. It captures an essence of something so Texan, so decent and so cool that all of us born between the Rio Grande, the Red River and the Sabine will be proud to claim it as our own.

As far as acting goes, country singer Jesse Dayton got through his stage debut most admirably. And with a performance belying his age, young Conroe-based actor Ross Bautsch as Friedman in his young Peace-Corp-hippie days easily proved that he has been on the stage since before elementary school and his years studying theater at USC.

 

L-R: Alan Lee, Jesse Dayton, Ross Bautsch and Little Jewford
L-R: Alan Lee, Jesse Dayton, Ross Bautsch and Little Jewford

But on opening night, it was veteran stage actor Alan Lee who deserved Best Actor recognition. Starring as the elder Kinky -- the one who ran for Governor and writes crime novels that "I grind out... errr... carefully craft," Lee showed that he was the experienced theatrical lion in this ensemble. He literally brought tears to the eyes of the audience with his reading of Friedman's memories of his parents, their summer camp in the Hill Country, and the feeding of hummingbirds, and his hummingbird soliloquy was the dramatic highlight of the night.

But not the comic. Friedman is nothing if not funny and erratically ironic, and Lee, Dayton, and Bautsch had the audience in titters - or outright howling - with Swindley's thoughtfully matched Friedman offerings. Lee's intuitive deadpan humor is Texan to the core, and a subtle accent on the proceedings that turns out to be not all that subtle when the audience erupts in belly laughs.

Alan Lee
Alan Lee

Of course, I must mention the hilarious Little Jewford, a longtime Friedman collaborator and original member of the Texas Jewboys. Jewford played himself in a role that awaits the likes of John C. Reilly or Will Ferrell if the play travels to New York. Jewford has played the comic foil to Friedman for decades and has his act down to a comic science.

And I must confess that I was not exactly an innocent bystander or an entirely impartial reporter. Your reviewer became a character in the play when I was singled out in an audience-participation segment to answer the questions in the "Are You a Redneck, Good Ole Boy, or Oilman?" skit. Suffice to say that readers will be surprised to discover that, by the parameters of the Friedman quiz - similar to Wheel of Fortune - I am a good ole boy.

Becoming Kinky is the best thing in Houston theater since Catastrophic's Bluefinger last fall. Tickets are still available for the next three performances. Go see this because it will make you feel good, and because you won't get the chance with this kind of intimacy and electric, emerging urgency again.

Becoming Kinky runs through Thursday at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. See mcgonigels.com for ticket information.

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McGonigel's Mucky Duck

2425 Norfolk
Houston, TX 77098

713-528-5999

www.mcgonigels.com


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