best may theater
Dragons, drag queens, 'Mad Men meets Sex in the City,' and more star in Houston's top theater for May
Thankfully, May has 31 days, as could spend nearly every one catching all the theater and performing arts shows this month.
Fans can expect world premieres, contemporary classics, fairytales, Sci-Fi, and shows that are quite a drag — in all their high-heeled glory. With pirates, matadors, Elvis impersonators and hippies as our guides, May makes for quite the theatrical adventure.
Tooth & Tale from Mildred’s Umbrella (through May 13)
This new play from Houston playwright Elizabeth A.M. Keel had almost as much of a dramatic fairytale story as what will go on stage in this world premiere production staged at the historic Deluxe Theatre. The show went through several workshop with Mildred’s originally scheduled to produce it in 2020.
Finally, this story of princesses, dragons, pirates and amazing adventures will have its happy ending, a life onstage. Here’s hoping that ending will just be the beginning.
Catholic School Girls from On the Verge Theatre (through May 28)
For their last show, On the Verge staged a play about competitive swimming at an indoor pool facility. Now, the company is back staging this Casey Kurtti memory comedy in a church, specifically Bering Memorial Church.
Set in the '60s, the play showcases the versatility of this cast of four, mostly local actresses who play both the the school girls from the title and the occasional nun. The girls experience bonds of friendship, reprimands from authority figures, and pressure from home, growing up in a time of the Beatles and the election of a Catholic president.
The Legend of Georgia McBride at Stages (through July 2)
A down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator with a wife and baby finds he can no longer pull audiences in. When the club where he performs makes some programming changes, this Elvis must trade in his white, Rhinestone-studded jumpsuits for something a bit more subtle—namely drag.
He soon learns he has more talent as a performing queen than impersonating the King. With humor and fabulous numbers, playwright Matthew Lopez’s story challenges our perceptions of identity and classic gender roles with humor and depth.
Brother Toad at Ensemble Theatre (May 11-June 4)
In this all-too-timely play, Black high school student Marques recuperates at home after surviving being shot by a white man while he was just sitting in a car with a friend — who was killed.
As the show begins, Marques’s uncle Randall a sport-radio host want the family to attend a community march against gun violence. The family’s reluctance to attend seems to stem from other, unclear concerns, but it’s that fear, in its many forms that is a thread throughout this powerful play from screenwriter and playwright Nathan Louis Jackson.
1968: The Whole World Is Watching from Open Dance Project
Houston’s driving force for world premiere, immersive dance works that are always theatrical in the extreme is back. This latest work that will transport us back to the history-making ’68 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Breaking down conventional barriers between audience and stage, this immersive experience situates audience members directly in the center of the action, where they walk through and engage with the interdisciplinary, multimedia performance as it mines iconic photographs, news media, music, art, actions, and events of 1968 for a deeper understanding of our conflict-ridden, intensely mediated here and now.
Torera at Alley Theatre (May 12-June 4)
One young woman attempts to break through the red glass cape (capa de brega) in this coming-of-age story. In the world premiere play by Monet Hurst-Mendoza, previously workshopped at the Alley All New festival, Elena Ramírez wants to enter the almost exclusively man’s world of bullfighting.
With the help of her best friend, a matador’s son, Elena begins secretly training to compete with the greatest. When she discovers her seemingly inherent talent can beat even the most accomplished toreros, this young woman must choose between accepting society’s limits or breaking boundaries.
The Best of Everything at Main Street Theater (May 14-June 18)
In what MST describes as Mad Men meets Sex and the City, this comedy chronicles the lives, loves, and careers of a set of ambitious women at a New York publishing company.
One catch to their climb up the corporate ladder: the time is the 1950s and our female heroes are trapped in the steno pool. (Yeah, we had to look up the word steno, too.) We’re guessing this Julie Kramer contemporary adaptation of the Rona Jaffe 1958 novel will have something of 21st century look-back sensibility, as these women try to figure out if they really can have the best of everything.
Rent from Theatre Under the Stars (May 16-28)
The season of love arrives for the final TUTS in-house production for their 22-23 lineup. Jonathan Larson’s show redefined what a musical could be in the late 20th century, all the while inspired by the 19th century operatic heights of La Bohème.
We heard early rumors that director Ty Defoe's vision for this production might include a new focus on documentarian character of Mark and perhaps weaving a multimedia component to the show. Is this Rent for the social media/citizen journalism age? Either way, the core story about love, death, art, and friendship remains timeless.
Drag Wonderettes at Stages (May 19-July 2)
It’s a drag, drag world — at least at Stages — as the company offer this drag version of one of their most popular shows and Off-Broadway smash, The Marvelous Wonderettes.
Stages will actually world-premiere the jukebox musical about the friendship and bond of a '50s girl group conceived as a drag show. Drag Wonderettes will run in repertory with Legend of Georgia McBride, giving audiences the opportunity to see both show a day apart or even on the same night.
The theatre hopes audiences will think of the two shows in conversation with each other about drag as a performance art form. No matter which show we see first, we’re betting the Stages costume designers and assistants will be the hardest working show people in the city this month.
Sin Muros Festival at Stages (May 25-28)
Stages isn’t done in May, as they’ll also bring back their new play festival for its sixth year. See tomorrow’s theatrical works today with stages readings of four new works, including: Hotel Puerto Vallarta: A Legitimate Work of Dramatic Theatre by David Davila; 619 Hendricks by Josie Nericcio; parts per million & prophets by Ricardo Dávila; and a river, its mouths by Jesús I. Valles.
Along with this glimpse of new work from up and coming playwrights, the fest includes the annual presentation of the Premio Puente (Bridge Award) to an individual or organization who has demonstrated great skill/talent/drive/care in serving the Latinx art community in the Houston area.
Other fun includes theater and education workshops and an arts market featuring local vendors, artisans, food trucks, and non-profit organizations.
Divergence from Houston Ballet (May 25-June 4)
The last of HB’s mixed rep productions of their 22-23 season features some very Houston-centric works, including a world premiere from a rock star of the dance world, Justin Beck.
First up, HB brings back Aszure Barton’s Angular Momentum for the first time since its premiere in 2012. This homage to Houston as Space City features otherworldly costume design by Fritz Masten, a Houston-inspired set by lighting and scenic designer Burke Brown and Mason Bates’ hybrid score of orchestral-electronic melodies and archival NASA recordings. The performance will also include the long anticipated return of HB artistic director, Staton Welch’s, Divergence, which hasn’t been seen on stage as a complete work since 2012.
Finally, HB world premieres Tony Award-winning choreographer Justin Peck’s Under the Folding Sky, a dance inspired by the monumental, only-in-Houston artwork, James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany Skyspace at Rice University.
Peck uses the music from Philip Glass's opera "The Photographer" for his dance, with costumes designed by duo Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung of Reid and Harriet, lighting by Brandon Sterling Baker and scenic design by Rice University alum Karl Jensen.
Divergence will feature the full HB company.
August: Osage County from Dirt Dogs Theatre Co. (May 26-June 10)
When the patriarch of the Oklahoman Weston family disappears, the younger generation — including the three Weston sisters — return to the homestead. Accusations, recriminations, secrets, lies, and bitter truths are revealed.
The large cast of regular Dirt Dog players, as well as veteran Houston actors, will dig their teeth into this Tracy Letts’ darkly comic contemporary classic with shades of King Lear. The show contains so many strong and complex women roles, we’re looking forward to some of our local acting favorites to reveal these dogs as some bad bitches.
A Maroon’s Guide to Time and Space from Catastrophic Theatre (May 26-June 17)
Houston theater artist and filmmaker, Candice D’Meza, is back partnering with Catastrophic for this new, multidisciplinary, immersive theatre piece that merges live performance, music and video.
D’Meza most recent film work has explored Afrofuturism, and it looks like Maroon’s Guide will take further theatrical leaps into strange new worlds, while time traveling into multiple pasts and futures.
When the audiences enter this play — that’s not a play, and much more than a play — they’ll climb aboard a Harriet Tubman time traveling spaceship to transcend science as we understand it, escape their own linear timelines to experience true, abiding, and eternal access to freedom.
Fairview from 4th Wall Theatre (May 26-June 17)
Jackie Sibblies Drury’s 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning play finally gets its first Houston premiere in 4th Wall’s intimate Studio 101. All the better to see (and be seen at) this twisty, layered comedy that has garnered so many awards.
What begins as a situational comedy about the party pressure experienced by a middle-class Black American family preparing for Grandma’s birthday celebration turns into something quite different: a commentary on race, identity, and the power of perception and storytelling.