Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ACT Theatre's "Tribes" explores deaf culture

Joshua Castille and Lindsay W. Evans in Tribes (photo by Chris Bennion)
ACT Theatre
Through March 26, 2017

Deaf culture gets a hearing (oh, oof) in ACT Theatre’s newest play, Tribes, by Nina Raine. The production is a solid one, with all six actors taking strong positions as well-constructed characters with vivid points of view.

Directed in the round by John Langs, a busy but effective homey set by Shawn Ketchum Johnson greets the audience as the home of Christopher and Beth (Frank Corrado and Anne Allgood) who still live with their three adult children, Daniel, Ruth, and Billy (Adam Standley, Kjerstine Rose Anderson, and Joshua Castille).

Monday, March 13, 2017

Solo show focuses on Black and American experiences

(photo by Dave Hastings)
Yankee Pickney
Written and performed by Jehan Osanyin
Theater Schmeater
Through April 1, 2017

A “yankee pickney” is translated, in this solo show by Jehan Osanyin, as “Americanized child.” Osanyin occasionally translates Jamaican patois to help the audience understand. Yankee Pickney is performing at Theater Schmeater, and it is a brisk 70 minute heart-opening walk through Osanyin’s life.

Solo biographical productions are hard to write about because when you see it, you should gain the information as you watch and not have someone tell you all the “spoilers” in a review. Osanyin’s story is unique and interesting. You are entirely encouraged to attend and hear her story.

Osanyin understands theatrical presentation and how to play with it. She begins by offering tea to her audience and takes time to help everyone become comfortable. Once she starts the story, she palpably creates “her home” on stage – with her goldendoodle at her side – and explores “kinds” of blackness.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Showtunes tackles The Unsinkable Molly Brown - this weekend

(photo by Chris Bennion)
March 11 (8:00pm) and March 12 (2:00pm), Showtunes Theatre Company is taking on The Unsinkable Molly Brown for their next musical presentation. If you aren't familiar with their style, you are missing out on the fun.

The company mostly mounts musicals that will not likely be produced on a local stage, either because it might have great music but not a really great story, or it just has too large a cast for a company to afford. This is a great opportunity to see this classic musical in a concert style.

The actors carry their scripts and they use minimal props and costumes, though they present the entire script and musical numbers. It's an intriguing way to experience musicals that are part of our rich musical theater canon, but rarely receive a full production.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Brandon Ivie, Village’s New Musical Whisperer

Cubamor (Sam Freeman)

To an extent, this is a “Where is he now?” interview! In 2009, Brandon Ivie was kind of a kid wonder in theatrical circles when he was first profiled in SGN.

He started his own theater company, Contemporary Classics, as a senior in high school, focusing on new musicals. Once graduated from UW, he landed a job as assistant to David Armstrong, Executive Producer/Artistic Director at The 5th Avenue Theatre. He calls that "the best first job out of college ever."

Ivie has already worked on a number Broadway shows – some of which premiered at 5th Ave, like Shrek, Memphis and Catch Me If You Can, and helped launch the Broadway production of ex-Village Theatre associate Brian Yorkey's next to normal, which won a Tony Award. He worked on multiple productions of A Christmas Story across the country. He helmed an Off-Broadway production of Jasper in Deadland and reprised it at 5th Ave.

He’s been working for several years with friend and protegee Justin Huertas on Huertas’ Lizard Boy, which premiered at Seattle Repertory and has had several backing presentations in New York City to try to get it produced Off-Broadway.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A whole life in half the time - Bright Half Life

Tracy Michelle Hughes and Rhonda J. Soikowski in Bright Half Life (MJ Sieber)

Bright Half Life
New Century Theatre Company and The Hansberry Project
Through March 11, 2017

How does one get at the interior of a romantic relationship on stage? In the case of Bright Half Life, now presented by New Century Theatre Company and The Hansberry Project, playwright Tanya Barfield chose to throw ordinary women in ordinary moments together into a mixed-up time machine of a stew. Directed by HATLO, actors Tracy Michelle Hughes and Rhonda J. Soikowski portray a lesbian relationship that bounces (sometimes literally) from future to past to present to past in a seemingly random fashion.

The audience can’t just sit and let this play wash over them for a moment. You must come ready to engage.  In scenes that might last two sentences before a change of time and place, you can witness the first meeting of this couple, their awkward supervisor-employee attraction, their acceptance of their connection, and all the way through having children and growing older.

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Well" - meta-theatrically funny and a hard play to get right

Sarah Rudinoff and Barbara Dirickson in Well (Alan Alabastro)
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through March 5, 2017

Playwright Lisa Kron wants to explore illness and recovery. Some people recover from illnesses and others can’t. Kron wants to know if a reason can be found for who does which, and maybe why. In this kooky meta-theatrical play, Well, that breaks the fourth and fifth and sixth walls, Kron – who appears in the play as herself (but actually played by talented Seattle actor Sarah Rudinoff) – Kron explains all this to the audience at the beginning of the show.

Kron tells of her mother’s history of being sick with a mysterious disease that her mother attributes to “allergies.” And yet, even though mom has been debilitated, she’s been able to move them to a struggling integrated neighborhood and been active enough as a civic leader to help the neighborhood heal. Kron wants to link the healing of the neighborhood to the lack of healing of her mother.

“But,” Kron says, “this play is absolutely not about my mother!” Kron says she’s just using her personal life to examine the larger question.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

“Three Americans” – An excellent snapshot of modern life

Cynthia Jones in Three Americans (Tiffany Diamond)

Three Americans
West of Lenin
Through March 4, 2017

A trio of monologues have been mounted by the folks at West of Lenin specifically to address, in some fashion, the new administration. Director Anita Montgomery and producer AJ Epstein asked three playwrights if they had material to contribute to the effort. The evening they have produced is a stunning example of range and response in a very “now” fashion.

Three Americans: Voices of Hope includes pieces by Yussef El Guindi, Regina Taylor and Mashuq Mushtaq Deen.  The Birds Flew In is an El Guindi monologue from an immigrant mother of a soldier. Taylor writes about an African American woman describing how important voting has been in her life in Déjà vu. Deen, in Draw the Circle, gives us a portrait of a woman in love with a trans man and the challenges she’s faced with him.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Stay outa the rain with March 2017 Theater Openings

Scott Shoemaker as Ms. Pak-Man (Doug McLaughlin)
Seattle Fringe Festival has changed its annual timing to March and has a robust line-up that may cause you to binge on short shows like candy! Other offerings include glimpses into inner city friendships, the struggle of a deaf boy in a hearing world, musical delights, and local writing. Get out your calendars. It’s time to schedule March plays!

Milk Like Sugar, ArtsWest, 3/2-25/17
On Annie's sixteenth birthday, her friends have decided to help her celebrate with a brand new tattoo. While there, one offhandedly reveals she’s pregnant. This humorous yet probing script peers into teens, friendships, inner city unhappiness, and choices that can last a lifetime.

Ms. Pak-Man: On My Last Heart!, Scott Shoemaker, 3/2-4/17 and 3/9-11/17 (at Rebar)
This original production is the third installment of the successful Ms. Pak-Man series. Watch this world-renowned video game superstar of the 1980s pop power pills while she shares scandalous songs and stories about her life and loves—glitches and all. She sings! She dances! She drinks! She might black out! There’s a chance she won’t remember the show, but you will!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Valentine's plus Poetry = Lovers' Play

Alyssa Kay and Katherine Jett in When Love Speaks (John Ulman)
When Love Speaks
Thalia’s Umbrella
(at Taproot Theatre)
Through February 25, 2017

"Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?" Well? Should I? Don’t I get an answer? If you have ever read any poetry and felt like maybe someone should be there answering “Yes” or “No,” then you are thinking like David Wright. Wright was reading a lot of poetry and decided that some of it, particularly the love poetry, sounded like it should be conversations and scenes. So, he put dozens of poets together in piles of potential dialogue, with a large portion of Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Ben Jonson, and made a lovers’ play.

First presented in 1992 by Seattle Shakespeare Company, When Love Speaks is being remounted in a pleasant and amusing fashion by Thalia’s Umbrella at Taproot Theatre’s small new space. Four talented actors and a cute Dionysian helper become visitors to an island resort – the kind where love might be born, but lust is also sometimes disguised as love.

Christine Marie Brown and Terry Edward Moore start out by appearing as the most in-love couple ever, only to have Moore suddenly become quite the temporary lover. Katherine Jett, the most shy and abashed and funny, is perhaps hopelessly in love with Alyssa Kay, who doesn’t mind, but seems to be looking for someone a little assertive.