Saturday, June 24, 2017

What’s Drag Got to Do With It?

 
Timothy McCuen Piggee and Adam Standley in The Legend of Georgia McBride (Chris Bennion)
The Legend of Georgia McBride
ACT Theatre
Through July 2, 2017

Adam Standley continues to show his considerable talent for captivating a theater audience in his latest outing: The Legend of Georgia McBride at ACT Theatre by Matthew Lopez. The show is a rollicking good time (though maybe a bit “old fashioned” by now) as it focuses on a straight man becoming a drag queen (gasp! how shocking!).

Casey is at his wits’ end when his boss, Eddie, fires him from being an Elvis impersonator in order to let the boss’s cousin perform a drag show. And right when he bounced the rent check and finds out his wife, Jo, is pregnant! He’s asked to bartend, but then suddenly a drugged out drag queen fails her duty and who else is there to step in? Hurry, hurry, you must put on that dress and mean it!

There’s not a lot of mystery to the show. There’s just a lot of good time entertainment! The small cast is clearly having fun and the costumes and wigs put the entire show over the top!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

“Braggsville” is Well Worth the Visit

The main characters in Welcome to Braggsville (Alabastro Photography)
Welcome to Braggsville
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through July 2, 2017

The book, Welcome to Braggsville, by T. Geronimo Johnson, is branded as a sharp, incisive, and funny satire. The play, as adapted by Josh Aaseng and Daemond Arrindell for Book-It Repertory Theatre, is not particularly funny, though it keeps appellations such as sharp and incisive, and it is definitely challenging. It is extremely current, especially given the newly tragic death in “liberal Seattle” of another black person at the hands of the police. As much as we want to believe in some kind of post-racial society, we keep being shown that we have a long way to go to become what we may wish.

The topic at hand is whether our white, liberal conceits are pierce-able by reality on the ground and whether we can allow ourselves to learn and grow after setting aside our self-congratulations. The community that is teased the hardest, in the novel and play, is Berkeley college students. It begins with a diverse group of freshmen going to a party where one is supposed to put a dot “where you’d like to be touched.”

When they all put the dot in the middle of their foreheads, other party-goers excoriate them as lacking the sensibility to realize they were mocking Indians (the dots that are used to denote married or single) and after they are sent packing, they declare themselves the “four little Indians – from different tribes.” The four are: small-town Georgia white boy, D'aron (Zack Summers), feminist, white woman, Candice (Sylvie Davidson), the “kung fu comedian” Asian-American, Louis (Justin Huertas), and the black inner-city Chicagoan, Charlie (Dimitri Woods).

Friday, June 16, 2017

NCTC's "Realistic Joneses" Well Done but Reality Bites

Peter Dylan O'Connor and Brenda Joyner in The Realistic Joneses (Danielle Franich)
The Realistic Joneses
New Century Theatre Company
Through July 1, 2017

There is a terrific four-hander cast doing some lovely acting work and it’s easy to appreciate them doing so. The big problem with New Century Theatre Company’s production of The Realistic Joneses is that they’re doing The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno.

Will Eno’s play, Thom Pain (based on nothing) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2005. It was produced at Seattle Repertory not long afterward in 2006 with stalwart actor Todd Jefferson Moore who has done many plays with great talent. However, my biggest memory of that experience was being yelled at by a solo actor for over an hour. I hated it. Not just didn’t like it…

That play is one of the number of times I have found a play to have won a Pulizter Prize or been a finalist and wondered just what the panel was smoking that caused them to make the choices they made.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

“Barbecue” is one hot show

Lamar Legend and Shaunyce Omar in Barbecue (Naomi Ishisaka)
Barbecue
Intiman Theatre
(at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute)
Through June 25, 2017

Nothing is quite what it seems in this Robert O’Hara play, Barbecue, mounted by Intiman Theatre and directed by talented Malika Oyetimein. Most anyone who writes about this play will have to sketch in oblique descriptions so we don’t give away too many plot twists – and saying that gives you too much information about plot twists!

O’Hara is deft with dialogue. He catches how people tease and express emotions with toss away lines. He plunges the audience into the middle of scenes and lets us catch up with what is going on. He also has a strong point of view. His plays – so far, Intiman and Oyetimein have done two including Bootycandy in 2015 – are part uproariously funny, and part disturbing, and always challenging the status quo.

Monday, June 05, 2017

“Lydia” Encapsulates the Border Between Reality and Poetry

Carolyn Marie Monroe and Sofia Raquel Sanchez in Lydia (John Ulman)
Lydia
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through June 24, 2017

Strawberry Theatre Workshop has chosen a more-than-worthy play to present: Lydia by Octavio Solis. It’s hard to write about because there is just so much that should not be said before anyone sees the play! Even the barest minimums reveal aspects that would be better discovered by an audience that has no idea what they’re going to see.

Having said that, while it’s an intense, challenging, sometimes difficult journey, it’s a stellar effort and is definitely one of the most important plays you will see this year! If you like a play that sticks to you for weeks like glue, you will love seeing this one! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it on stage.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

"Dreamgirls" is a Dream of a Production

The Dreams and Jimmy in Dreamgirls (Mark Kitaoka)


Dreamgirls
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through July 2, 2017
Everett: July 7 – 30, 2017

Best Musical Production of 2017 – so far for sure! Village Theatre has a bona fide hit on its hands with its final production of the season: Dreamgirls! The production is exciting, visually gorgeous, with a cast that is palpably having fun doing the show. It works on every level.

Steve Tomkins said it’s one of his “bucket list” musicals, one that he’s been wishing to do for a long time. Well, his choice to do it now speaks, also, to the growth of Village and its ability to field a sophisticated cast of mostly African-American talent who are mostly all located here, now, to accomplish this intense operetta (much of the dialogue in this musical is sung).

If you have never seen the 1983 stage musical or the 2006 movie, the plot takes inspiration from the real-life history of Motown founder Berry Gordy and the Supremes. A trio of naïve singers arrives in New York to make it big. A somewhat-shady “operator” takes them under his wing and defies expectation by finding a way to make R&B more palatable to “white” radio stations and helps them become stars. But only after pushing the larger, better singer to a supporting role to the one he thinks is prettier and with more star quality.

The musical demonstrates a lot of the seedy history of our country where white singers like Elvis and others heard a song and appropriated it into a hit by singing it themselves. The energy of change and civil rights in the 1960s and ‘70s did allow for breakout black stars to get the recognition they deserved.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

June Theater Openings are Busting Out in the Beginning of the Month

Ben Gonio as Sweeney Todd at ArtsWest (John McClellan)
Seven shows are opening in the beginning of June on our local stages! But the back half is pretty quiet. Maybe that will give you a chance to catch up with all the stuff you’d love to see but can’t fit into two weekends! While there’s a lot of great stuff many have been waiting for, you may want to make a special effort to catch ArtsWest’s Sweeney Todd, with an multi-ethnic cast you won’t often see.

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, ArtsWest, 6/1/17-7/1/17
Stephen Sondheim's bloody masterpiece tells the tale of an unjustly exiled barber returning to 19th century London to seek vengeance against the lecherous judge who framed him and ravaged his young wife. The road to revenge leads Todd to Mrs. Lovett, a resourceful proprietress of a failing pie shop, where her integration of an ingredient into her meat pies has the people of London lining up. An exemplary cast of people of color adds to what will transpire.

Lydia, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, 6/1-24/17
Lydia centers on two young women who move across borders—one between nations, and one across metaphysical borders between unknown, unseen worlds. Although technically hired as a maid, Lydia's primary responsibility is caring for the family's near-vegetative teenage daughter named Ceci, who was left in a coma after a mysterious accident that occurred right before her quinceanera, or 15th birthday. Unlike the family that surrounds her, Lydia is able to translate Ceci's thoughts—an adolescent stew of childhood memories, criticism and carnality.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Seattle Men’s Chorus at the Symphony

A rehearsal photo from Broadway Rocks (courtesy Seattle Symphony Orchestra)
Broadway Rocks
With the Seattle Men’s Chorus
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Benaroya Hall
May 19-21, 2017

Seattle Men’s Chorus had a wonderful opportunity this last week to join the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in concert. About fifty of the members augmented three absolutely top-notch Broadway talents in a “Broadway Rocks” concert. This is part of the Symphony’s “Seattle Pops” concert series.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Times the Charm - Money & Run Trilogy at The Schmee

Money, Take Run (Dave Hastings)
Money & Run –
Money, Take Run
Of Nuns and Ninjas
Save the Last Dance For Run
Theater Schmeater – in repertory
Through June 10, 2017

Wayne Rawley really got his opportunity to begin seeing plays he wrote at Theater Schmeater in 1999. He told me, in a brief conversation in a marathon night of seeing all three of his Money & Run shows in one evening, that he wrote the very first episode of Money & Run for a Schmee late night run. Late night shows were on fire back then and got huge audiences. Usually, they are funny and made more funny by drinking a few before and during the show.

So, he wrote this episode about a young man named Run and a young woman named Money who “meet cute” by sticking up a bar at the same time – not planned together! And then they go count the money and fall in love. He ended up writing eight more episodes.