Thursday, April 20, 2017

The stereotype of the delicate Asian flower - "Nadeshiko"

Mi Kang and Maile Wong in Nadeshiko (John Cornicello)
Sound Theatre Company
Through May 16, 2017

An ambitious, vigorously mounted production from Sound Theatre Company seeks to weave together Japanese societal-cultural after-effects of World War II with a family’s modern descendants. Adventurous local writer Keiko Green uses some unconventional theatrical devices in Nadeshiko, along with traditional storytelling.

The main character in the play is a 20-something young woman, Risa (Maile Wong), who is struggling with formulating her path in life, and affording it. Taking a cue from her cousin, Sue (Mi Kang), our first introduction to her is as a hired sex object to a “White Haired Man” (Greg Lyle-Newton). When she accidentally runs away with money after not completing the task, she comes back a bit later to offer an apology (but no money because she says she needs it).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Excellent Production (by The Horse in Motion) Can’t Overcome Script Flaws

Wellesley Girl (Colby Wood)
Wellesley Girl
The Horse in Motion
(at 18th & Union)
Through April 29, 2017

The Horse in Motion is probably a small theater company you have never or rarely heard of. It was started as a collective of UW theater grads a few years back and has produced ensemble-created shows in particular. Their mission is to “expand the traditional conception of theatre.” If you attended their staging of Attempts on Her Life at the University Heights Center, that was a promising debut.

Sometimes, though, ya just have to do a “regular” kind of theatrical production. Their choice, now on stage, is a brand new play (2016) by Brendan Pelsue, who has a very solid East Coast playwrighting background. He was brought out by the company to work on tweaks to his new play, Wellesley Girl.

I’m going to flip my usual pattern of writing “about the show” and then “about the production” for this review, and I’m going to use first-person much more than usual. Sometimes, I see productions that are well done, but the play is perhaps not as good as the production. That’s the case here. This production is excellent!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Discover the “Unseen” at Taproot

Most of the cast of Evidence of Things Unseen (Erik Stuhaug)
Evidence of Things Unseen
Taproot Theatre
Through April 29, 2017

These days, a lot of attention is beginning to be paid to people with “unseen disabilities” and maybe, to some extent, that might be any one of us. We have tendencies to look at people and judge what we see, for better or ill. Have you ever seen someone use a disabled auto tag for parking and then seem to walk quickly and easily away from the vehicle? But perhaps you saw them take the only 100 comfortable (maybe pain-free) steps of their day. We don’t know. We can’t tell.

We all carry baggage and stories around with us, most of which are unseen. The world premiere play at Taproot Theatre, Evidence of Things Unseen by local playwright Katie Forgette, cracks open the secrets of a small family for us to discover.

Sisters Abigail (Christine Marie Brown) and Jane (Jenny Vaughn Hall) have been dealing with the death of their mother in very different ways. Abigail has been pushed away from her religious background and Jane has been pushed toward it. Their relationship has become rocky from those shifts. Since this issue is one of the key issues of the play, it seems that it becomes part of the unseen “things” that we would never know by looking at these sisters.

Monday, April 03, 2017

"A Proper Place" - Pleasing musical if you don't mind the problematic themes

The cast of A Proper Place (Mark Kitaoka)
A Proper Place
Village Theatre
Issaquah: Through April 23, 2017, Everett: April 28-May 21, 2017

If you don’t think about the substance of the brand new musical, A Proper Place, making its world premiere at Village Theatre, you can enjoy the peppy songs and (as usual) impeccable cast and have a pretty good time.

The story is based on J.M. Barrie’s 1902 play, The Admirable Crichton. Barrie wrote the much more famous Peter Pan books and plays. An upper crust British family goes on a cruise in their pleasure boat with a skeleton servant crew. They’re blown off course and land on an island with little hope of rescue.

None of the wealthy family knows a thing about survival, so they depend on their butler and a scullery maid/turned resourceful ladies’ maid to manage shelter and food and everything else. How the butler and maid know how to survive is an open question, but again, if you don’t look at it very hard, it’s just a stereotype and can be fun.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Sleek production might not be enough

Dry Powder (Jenny Graham)
Dry Powder
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through April 15, 2017

A handsomely mounted and handsomely directed (by Marya Sea Kaminski) and acted production at Seattle Repertory ought to mean that the brisk 95 minute play, Dry Powder, is a no-brainer to put on the calendar. Indeed, it’s even somewhat funny, though it’s about high-flying executives of a company that invests in businesses to make a profit – and only a profit, which may mean taking a company over and gutting its operations and staff and remaking it overseas.

The dialogue is fast-paced, full of economic jargon, enough so that the program gives you language to understand before you watch the play. You learn, if you didn’t know, that “dry powder” is the amount of unspent capital the company has left to invest in another business.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Theater in April - Time for World Premieres?

Nadeshiko (John Cornicello)
If it’s April, it must be World Premiere Month? Well, in Seattle it is! There is a ton of original work debuting this month, along with more musicals in unusual places. Spring open your calendar and get your tickets!

The Fog Machine Play, Copious Love Prods., 4/1-22/17 (at Slate Theater)
Local theater guy Brendan Mack purchased a fog machine for a production in 2013 but never actually used it. Then he decided to write a series of short plays about a fog machine. While The Fog Machine Play explores the various uses of theatrical fog, it also explores what it is like to produce fringe theatre in this day and age. This show will truly be “unforgettable.”

Here Lies Love, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 4/7/17-5/28/17
Seattle Rep transforms into a wild dance party, where techno beats spin and tell the story of the People's Power Revolution in the Philippines. Follow the meteoric rise and dramatic fall of the controversial First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos.

Friday, March 24, 2017

"26 Miles" a rewarding journey of personal discovery

Klara Cerris and Alma Villegas in 26 Miles (Michael Brunk)
26 Miles
Latino Theatre Projects
(at West of Lenin)
Through April 8, 2017

In 2015, Theatre22 produced a play by Quiara Alegria Hudes, Water By the Spoonful, which garnered 10 Gypsy Rose Lee nominations and three wins. It had also won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. Director-nominee Julie Beckman directed a super production of that play and has returned to Hudes at a different company for her 26 Miles, produced by Latino Theatre Projects.

So, this production was much anticipated, and does not disappoint. Hudes’ style here is different from Water By the Spoonful, but still smart, thoughtful, and very true to life. This play is very personal to Hudes. It reflects her own life growing up in Philadelphia. It is set in 1986 with a 15 year-old girl protagonist. That’s one of the small differences that “fictionalizes” the play, since Hudes was born in 1977, not 1971.

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.