Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bee Smart and Make a Bee-line to see “Queen”

Queen (Pankaj Luthra)
Pratidhwani (at ACTLab)
Through August 19, 2018

If you love playwriting that crackles with tension and possibility, is laugh out loud funny, and full of surprising emotional twists, and takes on a very topical and important subject all at once, then you need to hie yourself over to ACT Theatre for Pratidhwani’s production of Madhuri Shekar’s play, Queen. Sometimes, it’s not clear why a title exists with a script. This one is pretty clear – it’s about bees and colony collapse disorder: CCD. So, it involves queen bees.

Also, it’s a story of two women doctoral candidates who are supreme. Supremely smart, and supremely good at their research, and supremely honorable in their intentions. Sanam Shah (Archana Srikanta) and Ariel Spiegel (Isis King) have been studying CCD at UCSanta Cruz and think they are on the verge of proving that a Monsanto chemical is the real culprit. They have been studying a model of research that Sanam is convinced has taken into consideration every variable that can be controlled for and excluded impacts from every variable that can’t be controlled for. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Preview of "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Paramount

The Phantom of the Opera (Matthew Murphy)
The Phantom of the Opera
Paramount Theatre
August 8-19, 2018

The “new” Phantom of the Opera sweeps into our fair city to wow us with its fresh approach to an iconic Broadway musical. Believe it or not, your SGN reviewer has never seen it! Of course I have heard a lot about it, but nope, never actually seen it.

I will say that I am not a huge Andrew Lloyd Webber fan. I feel honor-bound to make sure you factor that in. I respect his success and I understand that he has managed a kind of incredible feat in hitting the public’s sweet-spot of interest with musical extravaganzas.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Chew over the ideas in ”The Great Inconvenience”

The Great Inconvenience (Ian Johnston)
The Great Inconvenience
Annex Theatre
Through August 18, 2018

Holly Arsenault’s new play, The Great Inconvenience, is now presenting at Annex Theatre. The press release describes it thusly: “2050. Somewhere on the West Coast of the United States. A scrappy group of historical re-enactors—orphans of our next civil war—have formed a chosen family.

“Abandoned by a government that no longer pretends to serve any but the rich, their survival gig is helping to whitewash some of the worst atrocities in American history for audiences of wealthy schoolchildren. When an unexpected visitor starts camping out in their dioramas, portending a new and growing danger, they’re forced to face their own histories, and contend with the revelation that the woman they all work for is much more than just their boss.”

Succinctly describing plays is definitely a challenge sometimes and after seeing this play, that description does a pretty good job of it, but even so, there is so much packed inside this piece that you might walk away, as I did, mulling it over and over and over.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

August Theater Openings – Few But Mighty

Queen (Pankaj Luthra)

There aren’t that many new shows opening this month, but there are plenty of Shakespeares to see in parks and a few shows that opened at the very end of July. Hope you are having a wonderful and entertaining summer!

Blood Wedding, The Williams Project, 8/2-4/2018 (at Equinox Studios)
This is a dry-run toward a full production sometime next year. In an isolated village, a bride is visited on her wedding day by a former lover, sparking a sequence of events that will shock everyone from the flower girl to the Moon itself. The Williams Project will bring the whole town to life in song, dance, and verse. With some of the best poetry ever written, in a seldom-seen translation by famed American poet Langston Hughes, Blood Wedding will explode and expand our understanding of love, violence, race, gender, sex, and community.

Queen, Pratidhwani and ACT Theatre, 8/3-19/18
PhD candidates Sanam and Ariel have spent the better part of the last decade exhaustively researching vanishing bee populations across the globe. Just as these close friends are about to publish a career-defining paper, Sanam stumbles upon an error, which could jeopardize their reputations, careers, and friendship. How far will you go to defend your ethics and standards of integrity, and at what cost? Queen by Madhuri Shekar is a play about pursuit of truth, relationships, and bees.

The Rules of Charity, Sound Theatre Company, 8/4-25/18 (Seattle Center Armory)
The late John Belluso, a playwright who championed honest portrayals of people with disabilities, wrote this play about an older generation clashing with a younger. This “lacerating critique of altruism” (SF Weekly) focuses on Monty, a brilliant father who has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair. He spars with his care-taker daughter in the haunting relationship at the heart of this play that examines what it means to be disabled and marginalized in modern American society. Contains Mature Content.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

“Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” doesn’t know where to go

Lauren Weedman (Chris Bennion)
Lauren Weedman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
ACT Theatre
Through August 12, 2018

Lauren Weedman used to live in Seattle and developed a lot of her theatrical skills and instincts here before moving on to more national recognition of her unique talents. She’s a naturally funny person (there are many aspects of comedy that just can’t be taught, since a lot of timing is something innately understood). She also has bravely mined her own insecurities and foibles to create solo shows about aspects of her personality that also apply to lots of other people in the world.

Many solo performers use autobiographical history to create performances that make statements about the larger world. The most successful hone in on one or two particular events or aspects, develop a theme incorporating other characters, and weave together a whole story they perform all the roles within.

The last time Weedman had a long-run Seattle show was in 2007 with Bust, a play about her time volunteering at a Los Angeles women’s lock-up, where she tried to listen, but often talked so much that she put a foot in her mouth. It was a beautifully distilled performance where characters included a host of different incarcerated women and their jail-house visitors, and Weedman’s sometimes ham-handed interactions with them.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

“Disenchanted” is Enchanting

Camilla Smith in Disenchanted (photo by Fiely Matias)
Mamches Productions
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through August 18, 2018

Brad Cerenzia, it turns out, is a social media frenzy – and he’s applied it to his new company, Mamches Productions, for his new production, Disenchanted. It’s a musical he fell in love with when it came out in 2014and waited to produce here as soon as rights became available. It’s an anti-Disney-style “what happens after the ‘married happily ever after’” spoof.

He then cast six powerhouse local actors to take on all these princesses and tell you their wry stories of what didn’t really work any more. Led by force-of-nature Caitlin Frances as Snow White, writer/lyricist/composer Dennis T. Giacino includes Cinderella (Jessie Selleck), Sleeping Beauty (Ann Cornelius), The Princess Who Kissed the Frog (Camilla Smith) , Belle and The Little Mermaid and Rapunzel (all Gloria Alcala), and Pocahontas, Mulan and Badroulbadour (all Aimee Karlin).

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The immigrant story of “Sweet Land” at Taproot Theatre

Molli Corcoran in Sweet Land (Erik Stuhaug)
Sweet Land
Taproot Theatre
Through August 18, 2018

Taproot Theatre has a summer tradition of choosing a musical to perform. This year, they’ve found a new musical, one that’s only been performed once before, so Sweet Land will be completely new to everyone in Seattle-land. An immigrant tale told by book writer Perrin Post, book and lyric writer Laurie Flanigan Hegge and composer Dina Maccabee, the story is based on a small, independent film by Ali Selim, made in 2005.

The immigrant is Inge Altenberg. It’s 1920 and she has traveled from Norway to meet and marry the farmer son, Olaf (Tyler Todd Kimmel), of her Norwegian employers. All the couple has ahead of time are grainy photos of each other. The plucky Inge, played with verve and heart by the lovely Mollie Corcoran, has the strength of mind and conviction to travel all the way to the middle of Minnesota, not knowing the prejudice she will face immediately.

It turns out that she is not Norwegian, but German. It’s just after World War I and the small town inhabitants, particularly the pastor (Hugh Hastings) and the town clerk, refuse to marry Inge and Olaf, leaving her without a home while she somehow persuades the town that she’s a good person.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Well-done “Family Matters” by ReAct Theatre

Cast of Family Matters (David Hsieh)

Family Matters
ReAct Theatre
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through July 28, 2018

ReAct Theatre is presenting a new play by local playwright Rachel Atkins called Family Matters. Atkins has fashioned a tender, stressed-out family dramedy that focuses on themes of family responsibility, elder pitfalls, adoption, and race. It’s a pretty full pot of stew!

The story, involving four female family members and a new boyfriend, is set on Mother’s Day and the Horowitz family elder, Nana (Walayn Sharples) gets to have an outside celebration at her family home because it’s tradition to do it that way. What’s new is that Nana goes in and out of remembering things, and her daughters Pearl (Serin Ngai) and Lena (Katie Tupper) and granddaughter Gracie (Mika Swanson) try to figure out how to celebrate around the forgettings and the moments of outright dementia. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ibsen's "League of Youth" is a strange hybrid

The League of Youth (Michael Brunk)
The League of Youth
Through July 29, 2018

Theatre9/12's production of Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play, The League of Youth, is a strangely hybrid affair. Hatcher's adaptation was done in 2017 and while Ibsen's work is said to be his only comedy, it is essentially a farce - not necessarily a comedy. Sometimes "farce" is not funny. In this case, it skewers politicians and small towns and, since it was written in the mid-1800s when women were either married or servants or nuns, it skewers that state of affairs, too.

On a Fourth of July picnic, a newcomer to a small town, Stensgaard (Tom Ryan), decides their rituals and traditions are stodgy and he challenges the town by announcing a new political party called “The League of Youth.” He claims he can stop the corruption and it's time for a new generation to take over.

He's quickly informed that his goal of becoming the town's highest politician has a requirement - he must "own property." Since the vote is that night, he has to be married - or at least engaged - by nightfall. While the youth of the town meet elsewhere and someone else writes his manifesto, he pursues the marriageable women in town with property rights.