Alley Theatre
The Alley's artistic director, Gregory Boyd, is eclectic and gutsy and sometimes simply wicked. But most of all, the man is smart. Since he was appointed head honcho at Houston's richest theater in late 1988, he has brought home a Tony and taken to Broadway a whole slew of shows that premiered at the Alley. Things were a bit quieter for the 1999-2000 season. But Boyd wasn't sitting up in his office resting on any laurels. He found a handful of terrific directors, actors and technicians, and created a stay-at-home season that was simply spectacular. He kicked things off with a mighty reworking of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, filling the stage with iron girders and shadowy darkness that stretched up into the rafters. He went on to put together a minimalist production of Margaret Edson's Wit, a show that sent its audiences home weeping copious tears in the Houston night. He even had the audacity to rewrite Shakespeare with a production of The Comedy of Errors that Boyd himself directed. Whether he's winning national awards, flying off to New York or sticking out the heat here at home, Boyd is always pushing his audiences to see the wild possibilities in life that only the theater can unveil.
The Alley's artistic director, Gregory Boyd, is eclectic and gutsy and sometimes simply wicked. But most of all, the man is smart. Since he was appointed head honcho at Houston's richest theater in late 1988, he has brought home a Tony and taken to Broadway a whole slew of shows that premiered at the Alley. Things were a bit quieter for the 1999-2000 season. But Boyd wasn't sitting up in his office resting on any laurels. He found a handful of terrific directors, actors and technicians, and created a stay-at-home season that was simply spectacular. He kicked things off with a mighty reworking of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, filling the stage with iron girders and shadowy darkness that stretched up into the rafters. He went on to put together a minimalist production of Margaret Edson's Wit, a show that sent its audiences home weeping copious tears in the Houston night. He even had the audacity to rewrite Shakespeare with a production of The Comedy of Errors that Boyd himself directed. Whether he's winning national awards, flying off to New York or sticking out the heat here at home, Boyd is always pushing his audiences to see the wild possibilities in life that only the theater can unveil.
Jason Nodler's Infernal Bridegroom Productions is still the most innovative and exciting theater company in town. A lot of its success goes to the inspired designers Nodler has been able to coerce into coming on board. Such is the case with his deliciously dark production of David Mamet's Edmond. It was designer Devlin Browning who made the Atomic Cafe's stage turn hellish under his dollops of voodoo yellow light. As framed by Browning's strange eye, Edmond's pathetic kicked-dog-white-man-as-victim story glimmered like some horrifying yet mesmerizing jewel, winking from a swamp of darkness. Browning filled the stage with pools of goopy light that were as much about Edmond's dead heart as they were about the seemingly endless capacity of darkness and half-light to hide the truth. All other theaters in town could take a lesson from Browning about the power of light and the muscle of darkness.
Jason Nodler's Infernal Bridegroom Productions is still the most innovative and exciting theater company in town. A lot of its success goes to the inspired designers Nodler has been able to coerce into coming on board. Such is the case with his deliciously dark production of David Mamet's Edmond. It was designer Devlin Browning who made the Atomic Cafe's stage turn hellish under his dollops of voodoo yellow light. As framed by Browning's strange eye, Edmond's pathetic kicked-dog-white-man-as-victim story glimmered like some horrifying yet mesmerizing jewel, winking from a swamp of darkness. Browning filled the stage with pools of goopy light that were as much about Edmond's dead heart as they were about the seemingly endless capacity of darkness and half-light to hide the truth. All other theaters in town could take a lesson from Browning about the power of light and the muscle of darkness.
Trey McIntyre is a modern dancemaker whose ideas are as evocative as the movements that express them. His White Noise dealt with a fear of death; Speak pitted soft ballet against violent rap; and Aliss in Wonderland cast the storybook characters in modern celebrity culture. McIntyre's latest creation, Bound, choreographed this year for Houston Ballet, explored the very different meanings of its title -- from boundless space to boundaries, from bounding across the stage to being bound up. In one memorable pas de trois, a corseted ballerina struggled to break free from a speedy series of soaring lifts that passed her back and forth between two men. When she succeeded, though, her freedom was disappointing. Independent at last, she bourréed limply away but longingly looked back. McIntyre's choreographic conclusion was somewhat subversive: In order to bound through space, she must be bound by the other dancers. We just hope Houston Ballet's choreographic associate feels bound to come home again soon.
Trey McIntyre is a modern dancemaker whose ideas are as evocative as the movements that express them. His White Noise dealt with a fear of death; Speak pitted soft ballet against violent rap; and Aliss in Wonderland cast the storybook characters in modern celebrity culture. McIntyre's latest creation, Bound, choreographed this year for Houston Ballet, explored the very different meanings of its title -- from boundless space to boundaries, from bounding across the stage to being bound up. In one memorable pas de trois, a corseted ballerina struggled to break free from a speedy series of soaring lifts that passed her back and forth between two men. When she succeeded, though, her freedom was disappointing. Independent at last, she bourréed limply away but longingly looked back. McIntyre's choreographic conclusion was somewhat subversive: In order to bound through space, she must be bound by the other dancers. We just hope Houston Ballet's choreographic associate feels bound to come home again soon.
Writer/actor Rob Nash has lots of fans. No wonder. His one-man shows, including Junior Blues and Senioritis, which ran this year at the Bienvenue Theater, are pure theatrical magic. Built around his teenage years at Houston's own Strake Jesuit high school, the scripts are hysterically funny. But a lot of what makes these fairly simple stories about adolescent troubles so wonderful is that Nash himself plays every single one of the 30-plus characters in his plays. Each character is truly unique and carefully drawn with a subtle nuance that manifests in the curve of Nash's spine, the smirk on his lips and the twist of his wrists. But Nash's real kick-ass accomplishment is that these characters appear on stage together, not in a series of monologues. Nash snaps with astonishing grace and speed from one character to another. They bicker, tango, French-kiss and share bong hits as they stomp their teenage way toward maturity. He never skips a beat. The whole thing is a tour de force of acting, writing and absolute guts.
Writer/actor Rob Nash has lots of fans. No wonder. His one-man shows, including Junior Blues and Senioritis, which ran this year at the Bienvenue Theater, are pure theatrical magic. Built around his teenage years at Houston's own Strake Jesuit high school, the scripts are hysterically funny. But a lot of what makes these fairly simple stories about adolescent troubles so wonderful is that Nash himself plays every single one of the 30-plus characters in his plays. Each character is truly unique and carefully drawn with a subtle nuance that manifests in the curve of Nash's spine, the smirk on his lips and the twist of his wrists. But Nash's real kick-ass accomplishment is that these characters appear on stage together, not in a series of monologues. Nash snaps with astonishing grace and speed from one character to another. They bicker, tango, French-kiss and share bong hits as they stomp their teenage way toward maturity. He never skips a beat. The whole thing is a tour de force of acting, writing and absolute guts.
Even the surroundings are theatrical -- sort of. When you drive up to Ashland Street Theatre Co., the first thing you see is the factory at the end of the street. Huge and metallic and glowing in the shadowy darkness, the ominous building looks like it could be the hideaway haven of some sort of mythic drug lord. But this is the sweet old-fashioned Heights. And nothing more serious than chain-link fencing seems to be coming from the corrugated walls. And as the theatrical muses would have it, it's not the big scary factory that's full of weirdness; it's the quaint white building a couple of houses over that fills the night with scenes of decadence and human destruction. That's because Travis Ammons, the young and lovely artistic director of the theater, clearly has a penchant for the strange and ribald. The opening season included plays about the nasty things people utter during sex (Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight), monologues about anal sex (Ray Hill) and scenes filled with incest (Fat Men in Skirts). Though not exactly sexy, the shows were certainly brazen and full of youthful chutzpah. And they were good enough and strange enough to make you wonder what kind of encore Ammons has planned for next year.

Even the surroundings are theatrical -- sort of. When you drive up to Ashland Street Theatre Co., the first thing you see is the factory at the end of the street. Huge and metallic and glowing in the shadowy darkness, the ominous building looks like it could be the hideaway haven of some sort of mythic drug lord. But this is the sweet old-fashioned Heights. And nothing more serious than chain-link fencing seems to be coming from the corrugated walls. And as the theatrical muses would have it, it's not the big scary factory that's full of weirdness; it's the quaint white building a couple of houses over that fills the night with scenes of decadence and human destruction. That's because Travis Ammons, the young and lovely artistic director of the theater, clearly has a penchant for the strange and ribald. The opening season included plays about the nasty things people utter during sex (Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight), monologues about anal sex (Ray Hill) and scenes filled with incest (Fat Men in Skirts). Though not exactly sexy, the shows were certainly brazen and full of youthful chutzpah. And they were good enough and strange enough to make you wonder what kind of encore Ammons has planned for next year.

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