LookOut Arts Collective Is a Force to Be Reckoned with

If you see some electricity crackling across the sky tonight and tomorrow, it may be the energy generated by a young acting troupe performing five short plays that raise the intellectual level of Houston by several degrees. Not only is the writing brilliant -- some of the plays are by famous playwrights -- but the synergy and staging make this as much of an art happening as a theater piece.

The performances continue May 4 and 5 and are being held on the borrowed premises of Good Jobs = Great Houston, at 2955 Gulf Freeway.

Each of the five plays tackles the counter-culture themes of poverty, meaningless wars, child abuse, patriotism run amok, oppression by the powerful and a legal system used as a bludgeon against the weak. LookOut Arts Collective, along with Occupy Wall Street: Houston, will soon be part of a protest challenging the new Houston law making it a crime to feed the homeless, so these themes are timely and relevant.

The most skillfully crafted of the plays is Picnic on the Battlefield by Fernando Arrabal, and it is filled with humor, irony, wit and surprises. Kevin Lusignolo nails the role of an armchair warrior nostalgic for the glamor of riding a horse to war, and Suarabh Pande as a captured foe provides adroit comic timing.

One of the plays, The Dinner Table by Sawyer Estes, is an impressive premiere, and Luis Gonzalez is powerful and convincing as an adult facing an abusive father and a spineless mother.

The other plays are Down and Out by John Patrick Shanley, Loyalties by Murphy Guyer and The Judge's Wife by Caryl Churchill.

LookOut is supported by the University of Houston, and was founded in 2011 by Caleb Travis and "Panda" Padora, students who met while studying under Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee and Tony Award winner Mark Medoff. It has previously produced two full-length plays, an interactive art piece and a music festival.

This production takes place on a makeshift stage only eight feet deep, and exemplifies bare-boned theater, where energy and raw talent make up for a lack of production values. There is a talkback after each performance.

The long-winded title for the evening is Theatre for the 99%: 5 short plays about living in America, through May 5 at 8 p.m. at Good Jobs = Great Houston, 2955 Gulf Freeway, 77003. Reservations at 832-450-9416 or just come and pay what you want.

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Jim Tommaney