It's terrific! Hilarious! Great fun. Many plays on Broadway not half as funny! Bright, hard-edged, bitchy."
- Janos Gereben, The San Francisco Post
by Dalt Wonk, 2008
Rio Seco tells the story of three rich elderly sisters living in a Texas town on the Rio Grande. The eldest and richest of them owns and lives in a motel. This is considered both an eccentricity and a disgrace.
Nonetheless, during one frantic week, all the sisters — plus, a daughter, her fiancé and a priest — end up seeking refuge in the motel.
Inconvenient? Yes, but worse than that — a scandal! In an election year! For Lena, the most imposing and haughty of the sisters (and the central character) is married to a judge, who is running for re-election. And he cannot afford a scandal!
The comedy, like the town it’s set in, has a spicy south-of-the-border flavor, but no Spanish is necessary to follow the shenanigans.
Rio Seco was produced to critical acclaim at the renowned American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, as well as at le Chat Noir in New Orleans.
by Dalt Wonk, 2006
Dangerous Gardenias is a cabaret comedy. It premiered at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, then transferred to Le Chat Noir Cabaret for a sold-out, twice-extended run.
The story follows Richard, a married man, who has stolen a suitcase of cash from his criminal brother, so he can run off with Jane, the girl he’s fallen madly in love with. She’s a pretentious bubble-head. But he’s blinded by the romance of it all.
The story begins when these enamored fools meet for a tryst at the Cabaret.
Richard: You still come here often, don’t you?
Jane: I come, sometimes, to try and remember.
Jane: I don’t remember.
Richard: Memories can be so painful, when they bring back the past.
Jane: And one remembers so little else, except the past, really.
Unfortunately, Richard’s wife shows up, looking for her spouse. His brother shows up, in search of his dough. Worse still, a Mob hitman shows up!
Dangerous Gardenias lives up to its name — hilarious, nonsensical, irresistible. Imagine “The Maltese Falcon” starring the Marx Brothers instead of Humphrey Bogart.
"Entertaining ... witty ... and engrossing. [Full of] humor, romance, and suspense."
- Richard Dodds, The Times Picayune
A Bitter Glory
Play by Dalt Wonk, Music by Alvin Batiste, 2003
A Bitter Glory is a musical drama set in 1790 in Colonial Louisiana. A French Marquis purchases a new African slave — whom, he learns, was the head-man of a warrior tribe. The French aristocrat is intrigued by the African aristocrat and favors him over the other slaves.
He even gives him the cabin of Bobó, a trusted house-servant, who has worked for the Marquis in the Plantation House all his life.
Eventually, the Marquis grows competitive with the African. Which of the two is more noble, more aristocratic? A crisis is inevitable.
It is house-servant Bobó, however, and his estranged wife who become the focus of our attention — as they struggle to learn the fate of their daughter who was sold away.
Selfish vanity drives the aristocrats. The “little common people” don’t concern them.
In the end, Bobó must give up his illusion of belonging. And learn the harsh truth that he is dispensable.
New Orleans Jazz composer Alvin Batiste wrote the music for the drama — which was presented in concert form at the Contemporary Arts Center and aired on WWOZ radio.
Play by Dalt Wonk, Music by Charles Neville, 2001
Shangri-La is based on a real nightclub, the Dew Drop Inn. The Dew Drop was the happening place for Black musicians in the segregated New Orleans of the 1950’s and before.
Charles Neville, saxophone player for the famous Neville Brothers Band, got his start there. The New Orleans Jazz Fest gave Charles a grant to celebrate the place. Neville asked Dalt Wonk to write the script.
Shangri-La, a mythical version of the Dew Drop, premiered at the Contemporary Arts Center and played for a year in music clubs around town — Tipitina’s, Mason’s Las Vegas Strip and the Blues Saloon among others.
Fern, a young singer, is set to make her debut as a soloist — but her former partner, who’s been in jail, arrives at the club demanding that they restart the duo (in which he stars, of course). Through many ups and downs, — involving colorful characters like Hot Mama and Bug Juice — Fern struggles to free herself and launch her own career. There is much laughter and irresistible Rhythm & Blues.
"Captures wounded spirits who inhabit a French Quarter bar. Intriguing. Affecting."
- David Cuthbert, The Times Picayune
by Dalt Wonk, 2002
Spiritual Gifts offers a startling and unconventional look at life in the French Quarter by a writer who has been a long-time resident. It’s set in a piano bar on lower Bourbon Street — the kind of place tourists peek into, but then avoid.
Brenda Saenz holds court there at her piano. She is a wry pompous eccentric, who carries herself with the hauteur of a White Russian exile.
And who works at the bar? A once-famous Black chanteuse is the cleaning woman. A caustic, rootless young New Yorker is the waitress. Lost souls, the dregs of society — and yet, your feelings about them change, once you get to know them.
Gradually, we realize that Brenda is desperately trying to escape from heart break — the suicide of her only child, the son she cherished and devoted her life to.
Spiritual Gifts had a successful run at le Chat Noir Cabaret Theater.
"One of the most entertaining plays here in some time. Snappy dialogue. Of a high comic order tied together with Wonk's individualistic wit."
- Chuck Bauerlein, The States-Item
Splendour Harmonies Returning
Play by Dalt Wonk, Music by Jody Dickerson & Wonk, 2000
Splendour Harmonies Returning follows a young Rhythm & Blues singing group as they try to get their big break. At the center of the group (and of the story) are Lester and Claire. He’s a mechanic and she works in a Beauty Shop. They’re in love, but can’t seem to stay on an even keel.
The show is a quirky comedy — interspersed with songs, as the group rehearses and performs.
Finally, the group — THE SPLENDOUR HARMONIES — gets to play for a high-class society Gala. This could launch them! After years of struggle, it’s moment of truth. Or, so it seems to Lester. Can he survive the failure of his dreams?
For its premiere production, the show received enthusiastic reviews. “One of the most entertaining plays here in some time” said the States-Item critic — noting Wonk’s “snappy dialogue and wit”.
By the second week-end, people had to be turned away at the door.