Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2016 Village Theatre Festival of New Musicals Wrap-Up

Jessica Skerritt, Lauren DuPree and Sara Porkalob in String (Sam Freeman)
Musicals are one of the forms of theatrical presentations that take just about the longest to get on their “feet” since they are often the most collaborative, with the most fingers in the pie, and the most complicated, with music, dance and story inter-mingling. So, in order to support them from an idea to a fully complete stage-ready vehicle, a system of presentation opportunities has developed around the country to propel them forward, often a presentation at a time. This is a “festival” system.

Those in Seattle who love new musical development may be well aware of where new musicals have opportunities to develop. Aside from some internal supports from the two major musical theatre companies, Village Theatre and The 5th Avenue Theatre, there has been, for 16 years now, Village’s Festival of New Musicals, on the second weekend of August. The 5th Avenue has now added a “festival” of their own, which this year will take place in October.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

New company, Studio 18, catches Seattle premiere: musical Bonnie and Clyde

Cast of Bonnie and Clyde (Ashley Joncas)
Bonnie and Clyde
Studio 18 Productions
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through August 13, 2016

How to Mount a Production of a New Musical When You’ve Never Produced a Show Yourselves: I guess the answer is: “Be Studio 18 Productions!” Somehow, the young folks (Matt Lang and Alia Collins-Friedrichs) heading up this effort to bring the Seattle premiere of Bonnie and Clyde (the musical) to town found a way to get the rights, get a highly sought after venue (12th Avenue Arts) and a stupendous cast for this effort, and they pulled it all together!

Bonnie and Clyde debuted on Broadway in 2011 and is written by Frank Wildhorn (music), Don Black (lyrics) and Ivan Menchell (book). The show did not do very well and only lasted a month before closing. It is, of course, based on the lives of the infamous duo who lived, loved, and robbed in Texas, destined to die in a hail of bullets. Laura Osnes originated the role and she probably was able to elevate the production by force of will.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Benne’s "Terra Incognita" has something to crow about

Gretchen Douma and Lillian Afful Straton in Terra Incognita (Shane Regan)

Terra Incognita
Annex Theatre
Through August 20, 2016

Annex Theatre’s current theatrical opening is a world premiere. That’s not unusual for the tiny (only in physical space), volunteer collective. What’s a bit unusual is that this play, Terra Incognita, by Benjamine Benne, only has four actors. Some of their recent world premieres have had a dozen or more characters.

This is Benne’s first fully-mounted production, but he’s been extremely busy generating product over the last several years, getting noticed by Eugene O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference, and will be leaving us to serve for a year in Minneapolis’ Playwright Center as a Many Voices Fellow. That’s not to say that more of his plays may well be produced here! He has a unique energy and commitment to his craft.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Here are your August Theater Openings!

Cast in Do It For Umma at Theatre Off Jackson (Ian Johnston)
You can still get out and enjoy many free outdoor Shakespeare and other plays in the parks, but here are the productions opening in August.

Girl, Annex Theatre, 8/2-17/16 (Tue/Wed)
Think of the classic hero’s quest: a rousing call to adventure, legendary challenges and temptations, a road full of trials and perils, transformation, atonement, and an ultimate resolution. The heroes here are young women in modern-day Seattle, who must navigate a male-dominated world and fight their battles in a society that imposes constraints on their gender and generation. This devised ensemble adventure asks, what does it take to be a modern heroine?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Consummate performer Porkalob opens full length solo show

Sara Porkalob and her grandmother The Dragon Lady (Joe Iano)

The Dragon Lady
Theatre Off Jackson
Through July 30, 2016

Sara Porkalob has been extremely busy lately. She’s been acting and directing up a storm, despite fears of racist barriers in casting due to being an American of Filipino descent. She is a consummate performer, and I’ll bet, just on seeing her perform, that she’s got a bit of OCD tendency. Every detail is thought about and chosen carefully.

She first came to (non-school) notice in Seattle Public Theater’s 2013 production of Edith Can Shoot Things And Hit Them where she was part of a Gypsy Rose Lee Award-winning ensemble. She was pitch-perfect as a young, uncertain teen, and brought all the pathos and humor out of her character.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

“Daisy’s” considerable potential not unleashed

Michael Gotch in Daisy (Dawn Schaefer)
ACT Theatre
Through August 7, 2016

The very first “attack television commercial” is now thought of as an iconic ad. It was created to support LBJ’s first run for the presidency after becoming “the accidental president” when Kennedy was shot. The commercial had a little girl pulling petals off a daisy and counting them (upwardly) and then a countdown of some official sort from 10 and a bomb exploding. It was meant to take advantage of people’s innate fear of getting bombed and was supposed to make people fear Barry Goldwater – the upstart Republican who many felt was extreme and rash.

That topic, particularly when another rash Republican is running for election, now, is a compelling and potentially fascinating idea. Playwright Sean Devine has been working on a play, Daisy, for a number of years and decided he would focus on the ad agency, itself, that developed the concept and created the ad. They won awards for it, later, too (the Cleo). That particular choice might have undercut the ability to exploit the excitement of that topic…

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Third Guirgis play this year shows he is a genius, and so is Sound Theatre Company!

Shermona Mitchell and Jose Abaoag in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Photo by Ken Holmes)
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Sound Theatre Company
(at Seattle Center’s Armory Theatre)
Through July 31, 2016

I am officially in awe of Stephen Adly Guirgis. This now Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright (2015 for Between Riverside and Crazy) has had four of his plays done fairly recently in Seattle. Three of them so far have been met with critical and popular acclaim, with several Gypsy Rose Lee Award nominations and wins (many for Jesus Hopped the “A” Train, produced by Azeotrope).

This year alone, we had Motherfucker with a Hat and In Arabia (Washington Ensemble Theatre/Hansberry Project/eSe Teatro) and In Arabia, We’d All Be Kings (Theater Schmeater). Now, newly opened, we have a fantastic full-throated, killer-casted production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Sound Theatre Company reliably produces solid and well-chosen plays each summer. This is absolutely up there with their best! This is now one of the best of the year for me, no question.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Exquisite “Gentleman” will murder your funny bone

Kristen Beth Williams and Kevin Massey in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (Joan Marcus)

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
The 5th Avenue Theater
Through July 31, 2016

The Tony Award winning best musical, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, just opened at The 5th Avenue Theater with the national tour. If you’ve been wondering why it got such smashing reviews on Broadway, what earned it a Tony, well, it is absolutely a barrel of fun and well worth checking out.

It’s got the new-fangled device of having one actor play all the people who get killed. Possibly a good budget support, but the one actor has got to be on his game. John Rapson is absolutely up to the daunting task, though some of his costume changes must be magic. His turn for clowning is an opportunity to study a master. His timing is perfect.

Wait, what? One guy gets killed 9 times? Starting over: Montague Navarro (Kevin Massey) has just lost his mother and an old friend arrives who helps him find evidence that he is a far-down-the-line heir to an enormous Dysquith fortune. Indeed, he has a birth certificate with that name in the middle. But there are 9 people in his way. It’s not long before the idea of helping them die pops into his fertile brain.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Things You Can Do omits actual advice

Things You Can Do (Roberta Christensen)
Things You Can Do
Live Girls! Theater
(at ACTLab)
Through July 31, 2016

Things You Can Do is a world premiere play by Kristen Palmer, a playwright with a solid list of produced plays who is also the artistic director of a theater for young people in Connecticut. The play includes three intelligent women, an intelligent girl, and a street-smart guy. Live Girls! Theater has been working on the script for quite a while, starting with public readings in 2013.

The big theme in the play is glacial ice, permafrost, and climate change. The small theme is whether you can do much about the big issues in life when your individual life is pretty much falling apart. Stevie (Hannah Ruwe) is a scientist, writing her PhD thesis on permafrost. But something has driven her to leave her school and suddenly appear back in her small Virginia town, even before she’s called her mother to say she’s back.