Entertainment: Overnight/Reviews

Review: 'Klatsch,' 'Tape' buoy festival

02:32 AM CST on Tuesday, March 9, 2004

By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News

ADDISON WaterTower Theatre's own main course in its third Out of the Loop Festival Dave Johnson's Baptized to the Bone might not be as interesting as the previous years' centerpieces. But the side dishes, by and large, have vastly improved this time around.

Two relatively established area companies came out strongest. Theatre Quorum established communication between two generations of women in Dori Appel's Coffee Klatsch, and Boaz Unlocked examined crises of conscience in two old friends who had gone their separate ways in Stephen Belber's Tape. (Both were area premieres.)

All four performers in Coffee Klatsch add new luster to their already impressive local track records. Lisa Hassler, Cindee Mayfield and Angela Wilson play middle-aged women who wrote under pseudonyms for a newspaper's women's page decades ago. Shanna Riddle, a graduate student interviewing them for her thesis, has a hidden agenda. It's good to have Lisa Cotie, one of the best directors around for small, realistic plays, back on the scene.

The big news in Tape is Mike Schraeder, a young actor who has impressive credentials around the country but is a newcomer here. As Jon, a filmmaker having a reunion with an old high school buddy, he shows enormous emotional range and dead-on technical accuracy. Will Harper as Vincent, the underachieving pal, and Elizabeth Van Winkle as Amy, the girl both went out with, are terrific, too, and director Tom Parr IV deserves some of the credit.

Rover Dramawerks' contribution to the festival, Right Around Here , premieres three short plays by local authors, all in the hands of different directors. Jason Rice's Every Now and Then at 4th and Main has nice performances from Ken Freehill and Lee Irving as a pair of mysterious tramps. In Marc Rouse's Greasy Spork, Jack Birdwell and Misty Baptiste stand out by creating sharply defined characters in only a couple of minutes. Matthew J. Edwards' The Pitch finds a salesman trying to sign up the devil for an insurance policy. Sadly, the clever idea is let down by the writing.

Ameristage Players' Seekers of the Light (by Richard Zinober) tries to take us inside the mind of a young woman who has been abducted from a cult for deprogramming. The script is pompous, and Jeff Fenter's direction doesn't help his actors get past that.

E-mail ltaitte@dallasnews.com

WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Festival continues at the Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison, through Sunday. Tickets $15, festival pass $40. For a complete schedule and tickets, call 972-450-6232, or go to www.watertowertheatre.org.