Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dinner in Dubai by Bernadette Nason, City Theatre, July 5 - 15

by Michael Meigs

Dinner in Dubai Bernadette Nason Austin TX
Bernadette Nason
Bernadette Nason is one of those unexpected treasures who makes Austin theatre such a pleasure to explore. I first saw her at the Austin Playhouse in Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward shortly after we arrived in Austin almost five years ago -- before, in fact, the notion of writing about Austin theatre even occurred to me.

 Bernadette played Madame Arcati, the loony medium who unleashes the spirit world upon the wealthy but hapless author Charles Condamine. She was funny, eccentric and quite undisturbed by the cantankerous ghosts; her performance brought her the 2007-2008 B. Iden Payne award as outstanding featured actress in a comedy.

Bernie's persona -- and her personae onstage -- bring to my mind a jaunty little ballad by Rodgers and Hart for the forgotten stage comedy I Married An Angel (1938). It's titled A Twinkle in Your Eye and the opening bars are, "You can do any little thing that you've a mind to/But you must do it with a twinkle in your eye." No, I never saw the show; I discovered this mischievous little ditty on Dawn Upshaw's compilation of R&H tunes:

(© 1996, Nonesuch Records )

So where did this very English charmer come from? She decided to give us some of her personal history, working with colleague Michael Stewart first on a one-woman performance entitled Tea in Tripoli describing her life as a tender young ex-pat in Libya and now with the sequel Dinner in Dubai. Nason is a gifted story teller and earns some of her daily bread from that art; this narrative of just over ninety minutes has the comfortable confiding intimacy of a good heart-to-heart over a couple of bottles of wine. Or perhaps over the bottle of gin that plays a key role in the wild dinner of the title.

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