Thursday, September 22, 2016

For a spoof-­tastic good time see STAGEright’s "Toxic Avengers"

Jessi Little not eyeballing Brian Lange in The Toxic Avenger Musical (Galen Wicks)
The Toxic Avenger Musical
(at Ballard Underground)
Through October 1, 2016

Joe DiPietro and David Bryan created a musical version of the 1984 film Toxic Avenger in 2008. It’s basically a spoof-takeoff of cartoon stories like Spiderman and there are no real surprises once the introductions are done. But it is very fun, especially when performed by some of Seattle’s most spooftastic performers.

In STAGEright's production, we have Brian Lange, Seattle’s geek heartthrob, who turns from the mild-mannered Melvin Ferd the Third (and a thin, querulous vocal style) to the hunky but eyeball dropping Toxy (and a powerful, hunky vocal). We have Ann Cornelius, the mama with the mostest as Ma Ferd and the hatingest mayor of Tromaville ever. We have Jessi Little stumbling blindly around as the silliest librarian west of the Mississippi.

Then there are the two hard-working ensemble members who get to be everyone else, and crack us up in every iteration: Sara Henley-Hicks and Nick Michael Watson. They play cops, robbers, henchmen, doowap backup dancers, best friends, and many others.

Spend time with "A Tale for the Time Being" at Book-It

Mi Kang at Nao in A Tale for the Time Being (John Ulman)
A Tale for the Time Being
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through October 9, 2016

Book-It’s new production, A Tale for the Time Being, adapted from the Ruth Ozeki novel by Laura Ferri, is a heart-breaking and mesmerizing story. Book-It hired Desdemona Chiang to direct it, which was a great move, because she helps create a fluid and graceful rhythm to the production.

The tale has many flavors, including dark ones, but is all told first-person by Nao (Mi Kang), a sixteen year old in Japan, through her diary that has floated, carefully wrapped in plastic and a Hello Kitty lunchbox from Japan to the coast of Canada. A writer, Ruth (Mariko Kita) finds the package floating near her island home and becomes obsessed with the contents of the lunchbox.

Her husband, Oliver (a warmly geeky Michael Patten), contextualizes the lunchbox’s potential travel from the tsunami-wrecked Japan to Canada, and adds key moments of bird lore about various crow species that wind through the tale. Ruth reads passages of diary to Oliver as they try to unwind the mystery of Nao’s life.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"The Royale" perfection

The Royale (Chris Bennion)
The Royale
ACT Theatre
Through October 9, 2016

Sometimes, you can experience a stage production where everything is just about as perfect as it can be made. The Royale at ACT Theatre is one such production. This will be remembered for a long, long time if you get a chance to see it. I recommend it unreservedly for all people over about age 10!

This is a startlingly fast production at about 70 minutes that encompasses the challenge of Jay “Sport” Jackson (Jarrod M. Smith) to become the first African American heavy weight boxing champion of the world. The story is based on the real life Jack Johnson, who spurred many movies and documentaries of his accomplishments in the early 1900s.

We meet his trainer (G. Valmont Thomas), his promoter (R. Hamilton Wright), his sparring partner (Lorenzo Roberts) and his sister Nina (Zenobia Taylor). We are privy to the conversations and maneuvering to get him a fight with the white heavy weight champ that he longs to beat in order to break the color barrier. We hear about the formidable barriers, including the concerns of his sister, who is terribly afraid of what might happen to her and her children if he wins! This kind of concern is not the “usual fare” of under-dog plays.

This good Trump idea is trumped by production

Kevin Bordi in Trump the King (D. Hastings)
Trump the King or POTUS Drumph
Theater Schmeater
Through October 15, 2016

Trump the King or POTUS Drumph had a subtitle, when it was announced by Theater Schmeater, that seems to have been subsequently dropped: Another Sh**ty Adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi Which May or May Not Resonate with a Contemporary American Audience. This subtitle certainly augments the idea of the production at hand.

Adapted by Nick Edwards, an actor sometimes found on the Schmee stage and others around town, this play completely skewers the life of one Donnoh Trump, who is “orange.” All the names and associations of characters in this ensemble-scurrying play are smartly altered so as not to be confused with reality. Examples are: Candanida, not to be confused with the real Canada, Vananana, not to be confused with the real Ivana Trump, Koranistas, not to be confused with any real Muslims. You’ll meet Justin the True of Candanida, and the daughters of Nobama, too.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"The Winter's Tale" - an autumn delight

Jasmine Jean Sim and Rudy Roushdi in The Winter's Tale (John Ulman)

The Winter's Tale
Seattle Shakespeare Company
(at Seattle Repertory Theatre)
through October 2, 2016

An energetic and deeply considered production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is now on stage by Seattle Shakespeare Company. Director Sheila Daniels has pulled together a solid cast (as usual - Shakes always has a considerably talented cast on stage) with several actors showing their most adept performance selves.

The Winter's Tale combines aspects of many other Shakespeare plays, and is currently thought of as a later work. If, as some later works display, Shakespeare cribbed from himself, liking aspects of earlier work and replicating them into "new" plays quickly, this makes sense as one that could feel new, but be made of cut-and-paste parts.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rhinoceros: good thought, not as good execution

Scene from Rhinoceros (John Ulman)
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through October 8, 2016

Rhinoceros is a famous absurdist play by Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco, written in 1959. Certainly, Strawberry Theatre Workshop chose to mount the play now because it was originally written to reflect Ionesco’s experience of the rise of “group think” during Nazism, and Strawshop is making a comparison to today’s Trump politics.

For more background, I will quote from about the play. “Over the course of three acts, the inhabitants of a small, provincial French town turn into rhinoceroses… The only human who does not succumb to this mass metamorphosis is the central character, Bérenger, a flustered everyman figure…The play is often read as a response and criticism to the sudden upsurge of Communism, Fascism, and Nazism during the events preceding World War II, and explores the themes of conformity, culture, mass movements, mob mentality, philosophy and morality.”

Bérenger, in this production is played by Carol Louise Thompson, who has done some excellent work around town on various small stages. Translating a man into a woman here doesn’t change much. There is a love story and so, obviously, it becomes a same-sex one, but that changes little else about the trajectory of the play.

Monday, September 12, 2016

"Bad Apples" - important story, bad musical

Kate Morgan Chadwick and Carlton Byrd in Bad Apples (Jeff Carpenter)
Bad Apples
Co-produced by ACT Theatre/ACTLab, Artswest, and Circle X Theatre
(at ACT Theatre)
Through September 25, 2016

Bad Apples, the new musical at ACT Theatre (co-produced by Artswest and the originating theater in Los Angeles, Circle X Theatre), is bound to get mixed reviews and stir controversy. After all, it is a musical about the most egregious torture and debasement the public is aware of during the 2003 Iraq War aftermath at Abu Ghraib prison. We might as well have someone write a musical about the My Lai Massacre, the 1968 killing of hundreds of civilians by American soldiers.

If you are not aware of what happened at this notorious Iraqi prison, nor the government cover-up of torture (waterboarding, electric shock, hanging from the wrists-behind-the-back, withholding food and water, and sexually debasing prisoners), this musical doesn’t exactly educate you well. Vice President Dick Cheney is on record as saying he would torture again “in a minute.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dinner with unicorns - "The Glass Menagerie" Nordo-style

The Glass Menagerie (Jeff Carpenter)
The Glass Menagerie
The Williams Project and Café Nordo
Through September 3, 2016

I have never eaten with the Wingfield family, so it was with hope for a unique experience that I went to the Culinarium, Café Nordo’s home, to experience what eating with the Wingfield’s would be like. If you don’t know who they are, they’re the family in the play, The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams.

The Williams Project, a group of east coast actors who seem to be coming to Seattle for summer residencies, focus a lot of their attention on their namesake’s work. They also seem, in the experience I’ve had with two Williams plays they’ve done here, to work particularly hard at deconstructing and reconstructing Williams in a fresh and far from stereotypical way.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The most explosive September in memory!

Dedra Woods in a rehearsal of Wedding Band at Intiman Theatre (Alex Garland)
It’s that time of year again! Theater in Seattle explodes and there are too many wonderful productions to see at once! Anyone up for a contest? Who will see the most September performances? How many can you fit into a week? Some of the most anticipated shows of the year are opening now….

The 39 Steps, Lamplight Productions and KTO Productions, 9/1-11/16 (at Bathhouse Theatre)
Based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock spy/romance film, this hit play is sure to please anyone who enjoys spies, hi-jinks, handcuffs, murder, missing fingers, kissing, secrets, chase scenes, more kissing, trains, planes and yes, automobiles. A cast of four actors tackle over 100 characters in what is guaranteed to be a good time.

Scab, Many Hats Theatre, 9/2-10/16 (at Ballard Underground)
In this unconventional comedic-drama, Anima's sphere of desperation and self-destruction is invaded by the arrival of her perky new roommate, Christa. Prompted by a malevolent talking statue of the Virgin Mary and a bloodthirsty houseplant named Susan, Anima and Christa enter into a friendship that incurs traumatic results.