2018 Theatrical events of the season
The Closing of Theater LaB Houston
As the edgiest of cutting-edge theater companies, Theater LaB Houston, brainchild of Gerald LaBita, was a party palace. The venue at 1706 Alamo Street, his parent's former grocery store, was so tiny and cramped that an actor couldn't jump up when excited or he'd bang his head on the rafters. Yet what worlds LaBita celebrated in that most intimate space. Always on the lookout for weird and wonderful plays or musicals, he'd scour London, Edinburgh or NYC on annual jaunts to find many of the oddest, the most distinctive, the most remarkable of plays to entertain us.
And entertain us he did. For 22 years he dazzled his loyal audiences with the likes of Neil LaBute, Stephen Sondheim, Athol Fugard, John Patrick Shanley, Tim Miller, Jonathan Harvey, Charles Busch, David Hare, Richard Greenberg, Brad Fraser, Douglas Carter Beane, A.J. Gurney, David Sedaris. Then there were those crazy musicals he'd produce with such panache: Johnny Guitar; China: The Whole Enchilada; Top Gun; Eating Raoul; The Musical of Musicals; Reefer Madness; Blood Brothers, Debbie Does Dallas; title of show; Gutenberg, the Musical! He'd bring in nightclub acts, such as Kiki and Herb, Steven Brinberg, Deborah Boily, and Eve Ensler performing a new performance piece called The Vagina Monologues all while reminding us that we were not in Houston anymore.
The LaB as it was often referred to - was gay, straight, a bit of both, kinky, and thoroughly unforgettable. Many of Houston's brightest players got their start there, playing in an area so small that a feather boa whipped about by an energetic actor could strangle you in the first row. It was exciting, novel, terribly chic in a grunge sort of way. Like some exotic bird displaying its plumage for our delight, Theater LaB was unique to Houston. Nobody did it better. Air kisses to LaBita, or maybe a riding crop and bustiere. You never knew what you'd find on Alamo. Whenever we hear, “Remember the Alamo,” our first thought flies to that once mom and pop grocery store that became the little theater that could - where dreams came true. You never knew, that was its allure. Houston Press