kthxbai: Texting Cheerleaders Won’t “Give It Up”

The Dallas Theater Center opened its third production in their new home last Friday. The verdict? Give It Up is like MTV’s The Real World meets HBO’s Real Sex, only it all plays out more like a traditional musical comedy than a sex romp,” writes our theater critic David Novinski. You can expect more from David in the coming months. Now just a tease: his full review is after the jump.

Theater Review: The World Premiere of Beane and Flinn’s Give It Up

By David Novinski

Give It Up will run at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater through February 14th. For tickets, click here.

Pop music, college basketball and Ancient Greek comedy combine for an entertaining night in the Dallas Theater Center’s production of Douglas Carter Beane’s Give It Up, but it’s the cast that makes this play a slam dunk. Patti Murin plays our perky protagonist, Lysistrata, with beguiling naiveté and excellent voice. Her real life husband, Curtis Holbrook, is Xander, the intriguing outsider who opens her eyes. Their chemistry is worth the price of the ticket. Lindsay Nicole Chambers plays the other social outcast in a potentially show-stealing ugly duckling role. But there’s no stealing the show when the whole cast is so strong. If you are wondering why everyone is so good, it’s because the stage is full of Broadway ringers, plus our own local ringer: Liz Mikel, who always seems like she’s in a role written just for her. In this case, she’s the wise “working woman” who, goddess-like, guides these Spice Girl cheerleaders and their boy band basketballers.

Give It Up is a very new musical based on a very old play. Long ago in Ancient Greece, Aristophanes wrote about a girl named Lysistrata who tried to end a war by convincing all the women not to sleep with their men. The results of her sex drought are hilarious, if horrifying, like some sort of Viagra mishap.  But there’s no need to fear playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s Greek vixens. His Give It Up is full of basketball players and cheerleaders singing and dancing to pop music. In this reworking of the tale, Lysistrata is a cheerleader who is tired of “giving it up” to a basketball team that is always giving up. She organizes her squad and they go on strike. It is MTV’s The Real World meets HBO’s Real Sex: “What happens when people stop having sex and start getting real.”  Only it all plays out more like a traditional musical comedy than a sex romp.

At its best, sport is like dance, but the reverse is not true. Basketballs make unwilling dance partners. Fortunately, Director and Choreographer Dan Knechtges is at the helm of this athletic argosy, and he keeps the action fast and fun and the basketball choreography to a minimum. Composer Lewis Flinn’s soundtrack is pop music ripped from the radio. The catchy hooks make them easy to sing in the car on the way home.

The writer could learn a lesson in plot from the sentimental simplicity of a Taylor Swift song, though. Instead of one main character’s heart-warming journey of self-discovery replete with cute twists, everyone here gets a heart-warming journey of self-discovery. This and a small cast leads to a paradoxical situation. Since most everyone is in a relationship with someone, any lover’s mix’n’match is either predictable or confusing: the romantic counterpart coming obviously from the available pool of characters, or confusingly from the available pool of actors who double in multiple roles.

But remember, this is a pop music play pandering pop culture, and the audience doesn’t mind. Some of the biggest laughs come from jokes about Tiger Woods, the iPhone, and sexting. Ironically, the play says that happiness lies in rejecting the roles that pop culture forces on you: “Be true to yourself and everything will work out.”

As long as you get your text: kthxbai