Everett Evans

Elusive sound is more than mere noise in 'Hunchback'

Maher is using one particular artistic challenge, that enigmatic Chekhovian sound cue, to explore the futility of all artistic endeavor - perhaps, even any endeavor. Despite the preposterousness of the construct, Quasimodo appears dead serious throughout, and even the initially glib Beethoven evinces increasing perplexity and frustration. Add the periodic bursts of poetic language and "The Hunchback Variations" somehow acquires rueful resonance, even amid the resolute absurdity of it all.

Chronicle critics offer entertainment suggestions

The dark fantastic: Catastrophic Theatre almost always has something intriguingly offbeat up its sleeve - especially when artistic director Jason Nodler gets it into his head to introduce Houston to an exciting playwright he's discovered. This time, the emerging dramatist is Mark Schultz. Nodler will direct Catastrophic's world premiere of Schultz's "The Blackest Shore, which centers on a troubled 16-year-old obsessed with making a graphically violent movie, and the relationship with his father, who has dark corners of his own. As when he introduced Houston to Mickle Maher by presenting two of his plays in one season, Nodler will present a second Schultz play, "Everything Will Be Different: A Brief History of Helen of Troy," later this year. 

Catastrophic Theatre gives playwrights star treatment

Catastrophic Theatre will introduce Houston audiences to up-and-coming playwright Mark Schultz with two of his works during the 2015 season.

The world premiere of "The Blackest Shore" will open the five-show season Feb. 13-March 7. "Everything Will Be Different: A Brief History of Helen of Troy" will close it, Nov. 20-Dec. 12.

Catastrophic will return to the distinctive work of Maher, with the Houston premiere of the Chicago playwright's "The Hunchback Variations," April 10-May 2

Returning to one of the foremost playwrights of the avant-garde, Catastrophic will revive Maria Irene Fornes' "The Danube," Sept. 25-Oct. 17.

Rounding out the series will be the annual summer musical starring and co-created by Tamarie Cooper, one of the most original talents in Houston performing arts. "The University of Tamarie" will play July 17-Aug. 29. 

Droll 'Detroit' a worthy dark comedy

The Obie-winning "Detroit" is as much about the endangered middle class, the fading dream of a secure, satisfying suburban paradise, as it is about the two couples. But D'Amour's quirky characters and their recognizably human foibles are interesting in their own right.

The foursome experiences its share of bonding, surprises, personal setbacks and sudden hostilities in all directions. Deciding to return to nature, the two wives set out on a camping expedition, while Kenny convinces Ben their best response is a boys' night out at a strip club. When things don't work out as planned, all regroup in Ben and Mary's backyard and fall into a sort of impromptu primal revel that serves as the play's climax

Theater season has much tried and true, but some fresh choices, too

Lisa D'Amour is an acknowledged force in avant-garde theater. Catastrophic Theatre and artistic director Jason Nodler have championed her work in Houston with "Anna Bella Eema" and the world premiere of her "Hide Town." Now, the company is preparing the Houston premiere of the Obie-winning "Detroit." Set in any "first-ring suburb" of a major metropolis (not necessarily Detroit), it depicts two neighboring couples (including one husband newly unemployed) sharing barbecue and reflects upon all types of contemporary angst, especially involving upward, downward and/or nonexistent mobility

Tamarie Cooper not only writes and directs - she dresses her cast, too

"Wild and crazy" is the guiding principle for everything in Tamarie Cooper's annual summer musicals, especially the costumes.

This year's show, "A Very Tamarie Christmas," is no exception. From Gregory Dean's festively embellished duds (he's Christmas personified) to the floppy-eared rabbit suit Noel Bowers sports as a lewdly rapping Easter Bunny, the costumes are as crucial to the outlandish fun as the performers, songs and sketches.

'Tamarie Christmas' is reason to celebrate

For the 17th summer, Cooper has conceived, directed and choreographed a zany original musical in which she also stars. Appropriately enough, "A Very Tamarie Christmas" has the feeling of a rowdy holiday party. It generates lots of laughs, fun and surprises, with good company and festive accoutrements - a little out of control at times, but never dull. And no hangover.