Monday, January 22, 2018

WET Presents “Straight White Men”

Frank Boyd in Straight White Men (Chris Bennion)
Straight White Men
Washington Ensemble Theatre
Through February 2, 2018

Washington Ensemble Theatre just had something fairly unprecedented happen to them: their first show of 2018 was completely sold out for the entire run as of opening weekend! Straight White Men, by Young Jean Lee, had a couple of extra performances added but with that kind of demand, the only way you might see the production is if you choose to go and get on a wait-list for a performance.

Young Jean Lee is a genre-breaking playwright/performer who has come here on occasion with riveting shows hosted by On the Boards. Her pieces are exactly what On the Boards is famous for around here – like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Perhaps the sales are a reflection of her fame and draw. Perhaps it’s the topic – a hot one of white privilege.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Seattle Theater Writers announces the (7th Annual) 2017 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards!

Dreamgirls at Villlage Theatre (Mark Kitaoka)
Members of Seattle’s critics group, Seattle Theater Writers, announce the nominees of excellence in Seattle theatrical productions. This year’s nominee favorites include Ragtime from the 5th Avenue Theatre, Dreamgirls from Village Theatre, Hoodoo Love from Sound Theatre Company, Lydia from Strawberry Theatre Workshop and Teh Internet Is Serious Business by Washington Ensemble Theatre, with multiple nominations each.

Spanning dozens of theater companies and productions, from large and prominent to small and humble, the Gypsy Rose Lee Awards honor the excellence found in as much professional theater as we reviewers can attend in a year. Named in honor of the famed theater entrepreneur and Seattle native, Gypsy Rose Lee, and in a nod to the vast numbers or theater practitioners forced to travel the country to earn their living, the Gypsys seek to acknowledge the excellence of the Seattle theater community.

The winners will be announced January 26, 2018. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Timon of Athens Would be a 1%er Now

Mary Ewald and Peter Crook in Timon of Athens (John Ulman)
Timon of Athens
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through Feb 4, 2017

We all know that Oprah was born dirt poor and achieved the American Dream and is part of the 1%. Maybe some people like her because she’s rich and she’s generous and she might give them a car….. What if she suddenly ran out of money and could no longer be generous and it means you will definitely not get the car? Would you dislike her then?

Besides the “born poor” part of above, that is the situation that Shakespeare puts Timon (Tie-mun) in. Seattle Shakespeare Company is presenting Timon of Athens.

Timon thinks that generosity means to give and not to receive. I think a lot of us would agree in general with that sentiment, thinking that to turn generosity into a transaction – I give and then I get – would negate the generous nature of the gift. Timon thinks that by doing this giving, he is cementing his friendships. Then he finds out he’s spent himself into penury and everything is lost.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

What Was the Best Theater of 2017?

Carolyn Marie Monroe and Sofia Raquel Sanchez in Lydia (John Ulman)
It’s that time for the annual recounting of theater in the Seattle area. 2017 was a pretty great year for musicals. The 5th Avenue Theatre started off the year with a rousing version of Pajama Game with the by-now taken-for-granted wonderful local cast and then bookended the year with a warm, sweet Holiday Inn with another terrific local cast augmented by special guest Lorna Luft. They also provided a moving, historic and excellent production of Ragtime.

We sometimes need a reminder of just how strong our pool of musical performers is. Seattle has become a hub for new musical development and continues to strengthen as a “try out” venue for musicals heading for New York City. That brings more top talent to town to stay.

Village Theatre strengthened its already-strong new musical program by hiring Brandon Ivie to formalize his already created bi-coastal lifestyle and backing their new Beta Program (debuting this week with the next trio of developmental musicals). Their season provided my pick for Best Musical production of 2017: Dreamgirls! It was said to be on Steve Tomkins “bucket list” before he transitions from Village Artist Director and our fair community now has enough top African American talent that they can blow our socks off in productions such as these. Their vigorous productions of Newsies and Into the Woods were also a lot of fun.

Friday, December 29, 2017

What January Brings to Seattle Stages

From Crime + Punishment by Akropolish Performance Lab (Margaretta Campagna)
We’re off to an eclectic start to 2018 with all kinds of flavors of shows. We have musicals, and a new adaptation of Crime and Punishment, Shakespeare with a woman at the helm, David Frost and Nixon played by women, August Wilson and more!

Crime + Punishment, Akropolis Performance Lab, 1/5-13/18 (at West of Lenin)
Raskolnikov, a debt-ridden and disillusioned university drop-out, devises this theory … then acts upon it. After dehumanizing, robbing, and murdering a pawnbroker, Raskolnikov descends into a guilt-ridden fever dream where he is plagued by the ghosts of his crime and conscience. In this original adaptation of Dostoevsky’s master work, APL ventures into the lower depths of 19th-century St. Petersburg, where the mysteries of the Russian soul and intellect, crime and love are deeply, irrevocably entwined as we reveal the mind of a killer in his search for meaning and redemption.

How to Break, Village Theatre, 1/5-14/18 (Part of the Beta Series – developmental musical)
Book and Lyrics by Aaron Jafferis, Songs and Lyrics by Rebecca Hart, Beatbox Score by Yako 440
Ignited by an electric collision of theatre, breakdancing, and lyrical flow, this new musical follows two teenage hip hop dancers as they battle not only their disease, but also the hospital caregivers, for control over their own bodies. With a score backed by a beatboxed soundscape of the patients’ breaths and IV beeps, tensions rise as race, class, and language create life-threatening rifts between the patients and their treatment team.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

SPT Presents Charming “The Flight Before Xmas”

Cast of The Flight Before Xmas 
The Flight Before Xmas
Seattle Public Theater
Through December 24, 2017

A sweet, family-friendly new Christmas-time play is performing at Seattle Public Theater, penned by versatile local playwright Maggie Lee. SPT has retired it’s perennial Best Christmas Pageant, and is trying this new show. The Flight Before Xmas brings disparate humans into contact with each other as they all wait for a flight that must be delayed by weather.

It’s a nightmare that can bring out either the worst in people or the best. In this case, it’s a little of both. It’s a situation we can all identify with: the sinking feeling of being out of control of events while wishing desperately to get to the next thing.

It’s Christmas Eve at SeaTac Airport and we meet a family headed to Hawaii, all in matching shirts, a businesswoman trying to make an important meeting, a young couple of Lesbians, two sets of kids traveling between family households in their now-obligatory need to share visitation, a complaining older woman, a single man, and an airport airline employee who tries hard to provide great customer service.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What Could Happen if Trump Were President…? Oh, Yeah, He Is.

Shermona Mitchell and Tim Gouran in Building the Wall (Richard Sloniker)
Building the Wall
Azeotrope
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through December 23, 2017

Robert Schenkkan’s blistering play, Building the Wall, is not a play of nuance. He wrote it in an apparent white-hot fury on the eve of the 2016 election and it’s been refined, slightly, since Trump won, to account for more real-time events. Since most of Schenkkan's career writing is of historic events and conversations that propel events rather than “dramatic” scenes, he has become a master at building energy in conversation.

This 75 minute play presents Rick in prison. Rick (Tim Gouran) has done something awful and Gloria (Shermona Mitchell), a professor of history (it seems), wants to understand how he got to this point. Her letter to Rick asking to interview him appealed to him, he says, because of its honesty, and so he allows her to visit.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Live Girls! Asks "If Abraham Lincoln Was Assassinated Before Inauguration, Would the U.S. Still Exist?"

The cast of SILON (Roberta Christensen)
SILON (The Secret and Impossible League of the Noosphere) in The Baltimore Plot
Live Girls! Theater
(at Theater Off Jackson)
Through December 16, 2017

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a sighting of the first play in a SERIES! Woot! Yay! How fun is that!

Ok, so there are a few more days to catch the world premiere Live Girls! Theater production of The Secret and Impossible League of the Noosphere) in The Baltimore Plot. Once you see the play, you’ll understand the outlines of a new series of SILON plays, all somewhat science-fantastical, all somewhat based in history. Not quite steampunk, but not quite not.

Darian Lindle has cooked up an engaging story of Nikola Tesla (Sherif Amin), Lord Byron (Daniel Christensen) and his daughter Ada Lovelace (Alyssa Kay) traveling along the side of Time as this Secret  and Impossible League, and realizing that they have a mission to prevent an anomaly that could disrupt History which could possibly destroy the United States of America! How? They have to prevent Abraham Lincoln from being prematurely assassinated in 1860, before he is first officially sworn in as President.

“The Humans” is a darkly funny slice of life

The cast of The Humans (Julieta Cervantes)
The Humans
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through December 17, 2017

Stephen Karam has filled his 2016 Tony-award-winning Best Play, The Humans, with a lot of human darkness, which then allows for some darkly funny commentary. The play, starting a national tour at Seattle Repertory Theatre, has a power-house cast (Richard Thomas, Pamela Reed, Daisy Egan, Lauren Klein, Therese Plaehn, Luis Vega) portraying an uneasy Thanksgiving family gathering.

In a somewhat stereotypical way, the family has: issues that complicate the holiday, secrets that get revealed, and sets of disappointed hopes and dreams of individuals. In less stereotypical ways, the family has: the oldest member suffering severe dementia that is dealt with in a loving way, a younger family member with gastrointestinal issues that will best resolve through surgery that results in an ileostomy – and some plain speaking about it, and a married couple as the sandwich generation who are in difficult financial straits.