Candy Barr, a classy exotic dancer and local legend, used to work at Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club in Dallas, Texas. Of course, Jack Ruby is the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald after Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. So much research, speculation and scuttlebutt has proliferated from Kennedy’s untimely demise (and the subsequent malaise of the American zeitgeist) that you could read a different book every day, and continue for more than a year. Undoubtedly, it was a watershed in our history. Because Candy Barr was so closely associated with Ruby (and mobsters, strippers and other fringe dwellers) she was subsequently interrogated by the FBI and, according to Candy Barr’s Last Dance, endangered by possible conspirators who perceived her as a loose end.
Tricksy Dean (Cindy Beall) Corky Latrelle (Mary Lang) and Flutter (Marty Van Kleeck) are friends and exotic dancers who knew Candy (Lydia Mackay) back in the day. Candy was a poetry writing, somewhat ethereal stripper who took the art to loftier realms. Tricksy, Corky and Flutter have reunited in Corky’s home to attend Candy’s funeral. Flutter seems reluctant to discuss any details of the notorious assassination, or the time when the four of them were forced to lay low in this very house, jeopardized by their association with Candy, Jack, and their connection to a squalid underworld running from Texas to Louisiana. Discovering a mysterious photograph in Candy’s old suitcase, Flutter recognizes someone and promptly swoons, passing out cold.
Playwright Ronnie Claire Edwards has endowed her three heroines with earthy, raucous, dazzling and eccentric qualities. Texans might refer to these ladies as “ring-tailed tooters.” Their dialogue is peppered with lots of vivid, homespun metaphors and there is not a trace of bashfulness or ambivalence in their behavior. In many ways Ms. Edwards’ spirited, comic drama put me in mind of Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty. These writers have a great gift for exploiting the intense strangeness, the surreal, freakish atmosphere that everyone just seems to take for granted in the Bible Belt and Deep South. The blazing paste jewelry of this content requires a delicate, sure hand. Candy Barr’s Last Dance flirts with the catastrophic loss of The New Camelot, and its reverberations, but never quite embraces it. There’s a wistfulness to Candy’s interludes that’s very touching but leaves us wanting more. That being said, Edwards combines high-octane characters with the perpetual motion of JFK’s assassination lore, and the result is entertaining, even if she neglects to take this premise to the next level.
Theatre 3 presents Candy Barr’s Last Dance, playing August 7th-31st, 2014. 2800 Routh Street, Suite 168, Dallas, Texas 75201. 214-871-3300. www.theatre3dallas.com