Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 34, Ed. 1 Friday, January 6, 2012 Page: 18 of 40
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Black & White
Former Dallasite Robert Bartley
returns from NYC to helm Pegasus
Theatre's latest monochrome play
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES I Life+Style Editor
Films like The Artist and ////\vhave spent
the last month racking up awards and
nominations as they tribute the golden era
of black & white movies of yesteryear. But for
Kurt Kleinmann, there's a bit of "been there,
still doing that/'
Kleinmann is the star, author and impresario
of Pegasus Theatre, which for more than 25
years has produced the signature
"Living Black & White" show: A
murder-mystery send-up to the
melodramas of moviedom's past.
Over 16 plays — all written by
Kleinmann, with kitschy titles
like Mind Over Murder!, Death Is
No Small Change! and The Fre-
quency/ of Death!, the last of which
is now playing at the Eisemann Theatre in
Richardson — the galumphing, clueless "world
famous detective and aspiring actor" Harry
Hunsacker (played by Kleinmann) and his side-
kick Nigel Grouse have solved crimes, while
surrounded by a cast of overwrought hams
FREQUENCY OF DEATH!
Eisemann Center for Performing
Arts, 2351 Performance Drive,
Richardson.Through Jan. 22. MCL
Grand Theater, 100 N. Charles St,
Lewisville. Jan. 26-29. $20-$35.
. PegasusTheatre.org. >
all the while wearing makeup and performing
in a set that fools the eye into believing you are
watching a black and white movie.
Frequency/ of Death! is a "thorough rewrite/
Kleinmann says, of a previous incarnation of
the play, but the signature look remains the
same. For director Robert Bartley, that posed
"Kurt is always reminding me, 'You can't do
that.' Tor instance, you have to
be very aware of the facial
area," Bartley explains. "You
can't have people kissing or
touching their faces. Even the
set is a problem: You can't use
reflective surfaces, like glass in
the doors, or you will be able to
see the red EXIT signs in the the-
That% just part of the fun for Bartley though,
who spent much of the holidays in Dallas
mounting the show for its two-venue run, sepa-
rated from his partner of 13 years. The sensibil-
ity fits with his own aesthetic. Pegasus shows
have always contained a camp element, ideally
TAMING PEGASUS | New York-based writer/director/actor Robert Bartley, above, returned to Dallas to
direct his first Living Black & White production, 'The Frequency of Death!,' below, which recreates the look
of '30s-era movie melodramas with complex and challenging makeup and design processes. (Production
photo courtesy of Phil Allen)
suited for gay audiences accustomed to drag
queens basing their characters on Tinseltown
divas of the '30s and '40s.
It's also a homecoming of sorts for Bartley. A
boyish 49 who looks like he still gets carded for
buying beer, Bartley cut his teeth on theater in
the Metroplex while attending the University of
North Texas. For more than two deeades>.
though, he's made New York his stage, acting
and dancing in plays and movies, and launch-
ing Broadway Backwards, directing and con-
ceiving of what has become a major fundraiser
for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, at-
tracting talents including Betty Buckley, Neil
Patrick Harris and Clay Aiken.
But Dallas feels like home.
"This is where I worked on The Cuban and the
Redhead," he explains over an Atkins-friendly
lunch in the gayborhood. Bartley workshopped
the musical, about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz,
in Arlington and Garland from 2004 to 2007,
and he couldn't have been more pleased —
then and now.
"The theater community here is as good as
ever," he says. "We had great turnout for our
play." The same is true of Frequency of Death, he
insists. Among the cast is Susan Mansur, a
Broadway veteran (the original cast of Best Little
Whorehouse, the revival of Damn Yankees!) famil-
iar to local audiences as Helen Lawson in Up-
town Players' Valley of the Dolls. ("She drinks
throughout our show," Bartley quips:—her
character, that i&J
Bartley came of age in the era of AIDS, and
says the community has also grown up a lot
"When I was in college, I was the only person
there who admitted being gay" he says, "I
think there is. more acceptance of the gay and
lesbian community — it's more open."
Not everything, after all, is black and white
.m except, of course, a Pegasus shoW- ■
Read a review of The Frequency of Death! this weekend
y online at DallasVoice.com/category/Stage. j
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Nash, Tammye. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 34, Ed. 1 Friday, January 6, 2012, newspaper, January 6, 2012; Dallas, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239201/m1/18/: accessed January 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.