Theater Review: Giant
© THE FLASH LIST | January 28, 2012
Photos by Karen Almond
Dallas Theater Center & The Public theater at Wyly Theatre
Written by Michael John LaChiusa (music and lyrics) and
Sybille Pearson (based on the 1952 Edna Ferber novel)
Directed by three-time Tony nominee Michael Greif
Regardless of whether Giant is Dallas Theater Center’s biggest production, we reckon it’s definitely the Texas twangiest.
A co-production with New York City’s Public Theater, Giant is an epic saga spanning 27 years (1925-1952) about the inhabitants of Reata, an expansive ranch in the heartbreaking Texas brush country whose nearest neighbor is 80 miles away.
Storytelling through song with a 15 member orchestra suspended over the stage, a lighted sky backdrop that gradually changes colors with the rising sun, a water tower, and props that glide around on a turntable stage, Giant addresses topics such as business, taxes, politics, unions, drilling, border control … and even a humorous explanation of the Six Flags over Texas.
Jordan “Bick” Benedict (three time Tony nominee Aaron Lazar) runs the ranch with his older sister Luz (a Sissy Spacek-ish Dee Hoty) who speaks to the Mexican help in her condescendingly over the top (lil bit Peggy Hill) Texan accented Spanish. In order to combine neighboring properties and create one mega ranch, she wants Bick to marry Vashti Hake Synthe, the fiddle playin’, Bourbon drinkin’, girl who likes to hike dusty roads (played fabulously by Katie Thompson: think a mix of Wynonna Judd and Betty Hutton, with a little Queen Latifah ‘slash’ Ron White thrown in).
Instead, Bick runs off to buy a horse, ends up in a whirlwind courtship, and gets hitched to Virginian socialite Leslie Lynnton (Tony Award nominee Kate Baldwin). So, in Green Acres style, the poised, highfalutin, pageant type comes back with Bick to Texas (where a man can be more independent and wild and free), gets to wandering around until she’s lost, and ends up finding out that all the vaqueros (ranch hands/cowboys) and their families are living in shacks with no running water, which turns out to be the catalyst for her discovery of the racial hostilities between Mexicans and whites.
Despite the social injustices, tragedy striking in its various forms, and the antagonistic Jett Rink (Broadway actor P. J. Griffith) who finds oil and tries to weasel his way into the heart of Leslie (who’s easily distracted because she still ultimately wants to go to New York to see the Met and the other Met and hear opera, not opry) the family pulls itself up by the bootstraps and struggles to redefine itself while maintaining its core identity.
Less like a sitcom and much more like a miniseries, this rascal is looooong. With a 30 minute pre-show arrival, 1½ hour first act, 15 minute intermission, and 1¼ hour second act, we were at the theater from 7:30 - 11:15 PM. So a practical piece of advice: Hit the loo beforehand; the Wyly’s one set of restrooms (on the first floor) were slammed at intermission.
It might be a little glitzy down there though. On opening night, we saw men dressed in boots and cowboy shirts, as well as some lovely ladies in fur and even one beautiful red formal gown. And although we hate to perpetuate the myth that Texas is all pickup trucks and ten gallon hats, there was enough blonde and teased up hair in the crowd that it was actually very Dallas.
Giant runs through February 19, 2012 with tickets starting at $15.00 (you could really sit practically anywhere to enjoy this show). Also check out the 1956 movie of Giant filmed in Marfa and starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean.
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