Capsule Stage Reviews: Luck of the Draw, Paradise Hotel, The War of the Worlds

Luck of the Draw Earthen Vessels, the Sandra Organ Dance Company is currently showcasing Luck of the Draw, the 13th annual Black History Month Dance Concert, an evening of contemporary dance by choreographer Sandra Organ Solis. Of the nine dances featured, Delight Songs was the winner — the choreography was concise and the performance lighthearted. Trios, duets and solos unfolded on top of an enchanting soundtrack. The voices of children recounted a metaphoric play-by-play of the movement of the dancers — "I am an airplane, I am the dream in I have a dream, I am the goddess of a fruit tree" — leaving the viewer to ask: Is the choreography reflecting the text, or are the children describing the dance as they see it? Another gem of the evening was Rock Paper Scissor (2004). Four dancers decked out in combat fatigues tumbled, wrangled and saluted against a backdrop of blocky, graphic hand signals. While I deeply appreciated the equal-opportunity partnering of women and men, women and women, and men and men, the potential political punch of this dance fell a bit short. Also of note was Rails, Rows and Seasons, a vibrant premiere directly inspired by Four Seasons, a painting by Houston artist John T. Biggers. Noteworthy performers of the evening include Paola Georgudis, Courtney D. Jones and Candace Rattliff, who each delivered a brightness with their dancing that transcended the execution of the choreography. Through February 27. Barnevelder Movement Arts Complex, 2201 Preston, 713-529-1819. — RT

Paradise Hotel Catastrophic Theatre takes on playwright Richard Foreman's wayward and terribly unfunny dissection of sex. Foreman, the darling of underground New York theater, is an acquired taste, but this dank, existential sex farce — loosely inspired by the wittier, less obnoxious originals of Georges Feydeau — is a mess. Still, Catastrophic deserves credit for a flawless production. The costumes (by Tiffani Fuller) are clever, and the set (designed by Greg Dean, who co-directed with Troy Schulze, also arts and culture editor at Houston Press) is witty and candy box-ideal for a sex farce. The sound design (Greg Dean again, and Chris Bakos) couldn't be better, and given what the actors have to work with, the performances are exquisitely shaded. Who could act any more insanely in heat than Matt Carter as Frankie Teardrop, who runs his tongue over his pencil-thin moustache and twitches out of control, yet remains steadfastly loveable? So too does George Parker as Martin X, in a most becoming green satin dress throughout, and Kyle Sturdivant as oh-so-gay Professor Percy Kittens, who's impaled with bouquets of roses and implores us to "Look at me, look at me." Then there's voluptuous Jessica Janes as voluptuous Jessica Juggs, on permanent boil for a physical encounter, and master of ceremonies Drake Simpson, as Drake Van Dyke, an oily confection complete with phallus and red fez. The characters, such as they are, are searching for — wait for it — Hotel Fuck. Of course, once they get there, as if in a bus-and-truck No Exit, they can't leave and no one ever has sex. There's also a foreboding, omnipotent voice that controls the action and makes them repeat sections when things go askew. They fall down, bounce back, shoot themselves and then are resurrected. An entire evening with everyone saying "fuck" every other sentence quickly loses all shock value and whatever little humor it started with. There's one shining moment: Janes sits at a table, and all is blissfully quiet. A platter is held behind her head, as if a halo. She wears a tiara. The light seems to emanate from inside her as she slowly spins a tale of ecstatic memory. She's a penny-ante Madonna, and our heart goes out to her. It's the only part of the bawdy vaudeville that touches us, because it finally shows some real emotion. The rest is Benny Hill on a bad day. A very bad day. Through February 26. DiverseWorks ArtSpace, 1117 East Fwy., 713-522-2723. — DLG

The War of the Worlds The Martians have landed — on the FrenetiCore stage! This is an ambitious, at times sparse, true re-imagining of the 1978 concept album Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. FrenetiCore's production is nothing short of zany. Best described as a dance-centric rock-opera extravaganza, The War of the Worlds features very little onstage dialogue and singing, but rather heavily relies on voice-over narration, dance choreography and silent acting to move the production along. With minimal set design, panoramic video projections set the tone for each scene. In the first act, we are introduced to the narrator, his love interest, the Martian and the three-legged fighting machines. The Martian, who resembles more of a swamp thing than a little green man, undoubtedly steals the first half of the show with his almost-sexy wiggle dance and orange death ray. Act two opens with the dance of The Red Weed — a noxious Martian plant taking hold on earth. In skintight metallic-red body suits, three dancers excellently interpret this role with the quintessential acro-dance stylings of Rebecca French. With two sizable musical numbers in the second act, we hear strong vocal performances by both Ekanem Ebinne and Robert Thoth. The mix of science fiction and musical theater, with a dash of Victorian nostalgia and interpretive dance, adds up to a kooky yet enjoyable romp to the Red Planet. 5102 Navigation Blvd, 832-426-4624. — RT


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