Waco stages buzz with action this week with four plays opening and providing everything from farcical comedy and melodrama to family drama and examination of a relationship, the latter two set to music.
“The Last Five Years,” Jubilee Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jubilee Theatre, 1519 N. 15th St.; $10, $5 for students, available online at https://missionwaco.brushfireapp.com/events.
Time travels two ways in Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years,” a two-person about the relationship between Cathy (Lauren Weber), an aspiring actress, and Jamie (Cameron Dinkins), a promising writer. For Jamie, time travels forward as he falls in love with Cathy, marries her, then the two divorce; for Cathy, it goes backward, starting with the end of the marriage, then backtracking to how it began with her.
Their stories intersect at the midpoint, their wedding. Baylor University theater faculty member Guilherme Almeida will accompany the two on piano.
Trent Sutton, the play’s director and the Jubilee Theatre’s new artistic director, said “The Last Five Years” and its look at relationships is part of the Jubilee’s renewed approach of presenting a mix of family-friendly fare and plays that raise issues for community discussion and consideration.
“Theater is a transformational experience,” he said, adding that the Jubilee’s upcoming five-production season will be announced during the play’s run.
“Shootout at Sadie’s Saloon,” Brazos Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Brazos Theatre, 7524 Bosque Blvd; $16.50, $14.50 for senior adults and students.
Brazos Theatre makes audience participation a part of its regular offerings with its murder mysteries and monthly comedy improv. It adds crowd-cheering, villain-booing melodrama with this weekend’s “Shootout at Sadie’s Saloon,” with popcorn available for throwing purposes.
Saloon owners Sadie and Sally Spencer find the fate of their saloon up for grabs, with temperance forces Hazel Hootchhater and Prudence Purewater wanting it shut down, gambler Dirk Devious wanting it by any means necessary and Sadie’s boyfriend, Clint Cactus, wanting it sold so he can marry Sadie and live happily ever after.
$5 slider plates also will be sold for those wanting an accompanying dinner, but only popcorn may be thrown.
”Noises Off,” Baylor Theatre, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through April 29, 2 p.m. April 29 and 30, Baylor’s Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center; $20, $17 for Baylor students and faculty, available at baylor.edu/theatre or by calling 710-1865.
Baylor Theatre staged the Michael Frayn farce “Noises Off” 12 years ago, but director Stan Denman says there’s no problem in repeating his favorite comedy: It’s considered a contemporary standard and proven audience-pleaser. “This may be the top-ranked farce of all time,” he said.
It follows a small English traveling troupe staging a bad sex comedy, “Nothing On,” at three points in the play’s run: a disastrous last-night rehearsal, a disastrous performance a month into in the run and a late-run performance that’s beyond disastrous when alcohol, revenge, infidelity, a pregnancy and incompetence create a cast that simply doesn’t care anymore.
The cast is filled with theatrical archetypes: tempermental director Lloyd Dallas (Noah Aldefer), lead actress and major investor Dotty Otley (Tiffany Navarro), stuttering lead actor and Otley’s latest romance Garry Lejeune (Lucas McCutchen), assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor (Megan Reese), put-upon stage manager Tim Algood (Brody Volpe), clueless young actress Brooke Ashton (Kolby Jacobs), alcoholic actor Selsdon Mowbray (Gabe Lipton), sensible actress Brenda Blair (Rachel Cendrick) and somewhat slow-witted actor Frederick Fellowes (Jack McAffe).
For those who might remember that production, things have changed, Denman noted. There’s a different cast with different sensibilities toward the characters they play. The set, played from the back in the second act, is flipped in its orientation. Most notably, there’s a set of French doors in the center through which the audience can see what’s happening backstage or, depending on the act, onstage.
Selections for Baylor Theatre’s 2016-17 season were made at the end of 2015, and the prospect of a nationally polarizing presidential campaign for 2016 led Denman, in part, to chose the comedy. As the presidential campaign evolved, leading to President Donald Trump’s election and the ongoing controversies of his emerging administration, the Baylor director could see more than laughs in the play:
The result of “Noises Off’s” petty rivalries, infidelities, deception and revenge? Chaos.
“It’s all about the machine breaking down,” he said.
The dynamics of the Dupont family as they see their matriarch gradually suffering from dementia feel real to writer-director Kerry-Ann Frazier, and that’s the point: That feeling of reality may help some in her audience deal with their own personal experiences.
Frazier, a social worker with the Harker Heights Police Department as well as a playwright and director, drew on the real-life family crises she often saw in her work in writing her play. The recent illness of her mother-in-law, with care from her only child, Frazier’s husband, Daryl, complicated by her living in Florida, also helped shape the story of “Losing Mama.” “It hit us hard,” Frazier said.
The 43-year-old Frazier has been involved in plays and theater since a child and finds it a helpful medium in communicating emotions and human relationships. “Losing Mama” not only shows the growing sadness of children losing a parent to disease, but the stress a loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease or dementia puts on marriages as well as grandchildren puzzled by the changes in family members. “This is how an entire family grieves,” she said.
“Losing Mama” is not all serious: The play uses humor and music, the latter from composer Brandon Baggett and Waco worship leader Sarenson Trotter, to offset the heavier material, said Frazier, who also has written several murder mystery dinner theaters and satires over the years.
In addition to her social work, Frazier runs the company KZFrazier Drama and is the drama minister at Killeen’s Christian House of Prayer. She sees her theater work as a calling. “To me, this is ministry,” she said.
Ten percent of the proceeds from the play go to Teach Them to Love Outreach Ministries, a Killeen organization that runs shelters for victims of domestic violence.