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Hip Pocket co-founder gets chance to shine in 'Solo Molemo and the Long Tall Sallys'

Solo Molemo! And the Long, Tall Sallys!

8:15 p.m. Friday-Sunday

Silver Creek Amphitheatre, 1950 Silver Creek Road, Fort Worth




Posted 3:03pm on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012

There are a number of reasons not to miss the final show of Hip Pocket Theatre's 36th season, Solo Molemo! And the Long, Tall Sallys!

Longtime Hip fans will already know that Molemo is the commedia alter ego of the group's co-founder and artistic director, Johnny Simons, and this show features him performing pantomime.

This is major because Simons, who is well into his 70s, hasn't performed onstage since 2007 (in a show with his daughters, Lake and Lorca, called Trio Molemo), and it could very well be his last time on the stage. Of course, that was the thought in 2007, and here he is doing it again.

What's particularly amazing about this adventure, which also features dancer/actresses Gracey Tune and Julie Ballew as the Long Tall Sallys, is that he puts himself through a physically rigorous routine.

For instance, in one section, he approaches Tune with a rose and almost reaches her window and then falls, purposefully, on Hip Pocket's wooden stage. He crawls back up to hand off the flower, which, in a classic comedy twist, makes her sneeze and is abruptly returned.

Other segments include a pantomime to the Patti Page song (How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window, with Simons in dog ears and red nose in a picture frame, and Tune and Ballew lip-synching the lyrics; or a playful dance routine to I've Got a Crush on You, with all three donning red noses.

The women are lithe and delightful throughout, but this show is about Simons. His moves his arm like a wave with enviable fluidity, and every crag and wrinkle on his face adds to the expressiveness of his eyes. It's not all light and frothy, though.

There's a touching tribute to Douglas Balentine, a Hip Pocket co-founder who died unexpectedly in 2008. And in one haunting scene near the end, all three performers wear white expressionless masks. Simons lies on the ground and the women cover him with a swathe of white fabric. One assumes he has died, but he gets up and shrouds himself in the cloth, and Ballew sprouts wings and moves like an angel. A better analogy would be of the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis.

No matter what tragedies befall him, Simons will always be reborn through the magic of theater and performance, to which he has devoted his life.

Not unexpectedly, the show ends on a happy note, with the trio striking the "Keep on Truckin'" pose illustrated by comic book artist Robert Crumb (with whom Simons worked) as they jauntily move about the stage and exit, returning to thunderous applause.

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