Friday, February 28, 2020

Victorian Murder-Fest Takes Over Cafe Nordo


Creepy moment in The Angel in the House (Bruce Clayton Tom)

The Angel in the House

Café Nordo

Through March 15, 2020



You’re invited to the home of Mr. Edmund and Mrs. Amelia Brown (David S. Hogan and Angela DiMarco) for New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1899. They and their close friends Fletcher and Clara James (Ray Tagavilla and Ayo Tushinde) and Dorian and Bertha Williams (Robin Ian HallSmith and Tatiana Pavela) will lead you through a mysterious ceremony during the celebration.



You’ll meet their trusty servant Daisy (Maddie Brantz) as well. But when Amelia’s “cousin,” Henry Smith (Jordi Montes) arrives and is suddenly found dead, the evening turns dark and forbidding.



The story of the evening was written and directed by Sara Porkalob. She chose this Victorian theme of religious righteousness (with overtones of blasphemy) and includes a feminist retribution of pagan origins.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Artistic Dilemma – When No Stories Have Been Told, Who Tells Some?

The cast of XY, Festival of New Musicals 2019 (Sam Freeman)

We’re awash, these days, in commentaries about cultural appropriation and who gets to tell stories about marginalized populations. The book American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, sparked controversy as it was revealed that Cummins is not of Latinx heritage, though her book “tells the story of a Mexican mother whose husband is murdered by cartels and who flees to America with her son, “says an article in Daily Beast.

The article continues, “Despite the sky-high sales, the book has been dogged by claims of cultural appropriation for its representation of Latinos and the migrant experience. Author Jeanine Cummins is not Latina... Cummins, who is Irish-American, said she did hundreds of hours of research and interviews for the book but critics have said it simplifies and glosses over the reality of immigration.” (https://www.thedailybeast.com/myriam-gurba-author-who-sparked-american-dirt-controversy-placed-on-leave-amid-calif-teacher-abuse-probe)

But what exactly is cultural appropriation? A Huffington Post article states, “Cultural appropriation is defined as ‘the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.’ While this sounds simple enough, … the lines between something that's obviously offensive (blackface) and something that might be considered as embracing another culture (exotic cuisine) can be blurry.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/10/25/what-exactly-is-cultural-appropriation-heres-what-you-need-to-know_a_23253460)

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Solving Nuclear Disaster So “The Children” Don’t Have To?

R. Hamilton Wright, Jeanne Paulsen, Carmen Roman in The Children (Nate Watters)

The Children
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through March 15, 2020

Lucy Kirkwood’s contemporary play, The Children, includes unusual characters – retired nuclear scientists, and focuses on climate disasters with surprising ideas. Performing now at Seattle Rep, the play is both a kitchen sink drama, literally in the kitchen of a dingy decrepit farmhouse, and an exploration of a world-class dilemma.

It begins slowly and builds slowly. So, one must summon patience. We first see Hazel (Jeanne Paulsen) in this kitchen who is interrupted by Rose (Carmen Roman), an old friend/adversary. Rose has separated herself for years and it takes a fair while for her reasons for returning to fully emerge.

Hazel and her husband, Robin (R. Hamilton Wright), are living outside of an exclusion zone after a huge nuclear disaster. The area of the disaster, this time, is on the coast of some portion of the U.K. Kirkwood developed this play after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. So, their home and farm, inside the area, has become toxically irradiated. Electricity is regulated and scarce, so they can barely use devices like cell phones and computers and therefore are thrown back toward an older, non-technical way of life. But they’re coping.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Not much “Bliss” in new musical

Mario Cantone in Bliss (Mark Kitaoka)

Bliss
The 5th Avenue Theatre
Through February 23, 2020

The new musical at the 5th Avenue Theatre, Bliss, wants to turn fairy tales on their heads and to create a more modern and more feminist version. The writers, Emma Lively and Tyler Beattie, wrote about four princesses in one family who are all different and quirky, one from another.

Princess Carmella (Katy Geraghty) is a little rounder, a lot more gregarious than her sisters, and apparently a “good singer.” Princess Piper (Gizel Jimenez) is nerdy and scientific. Princess Faye (Kristolyn Lloyd) is the sword wielder and wants to slay dragons. Princess Holly (Claire Neumann) speaks to animals – even worms – and seems to be asexual or possibly non-binary, though no one ever speaks to her identity that way.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

One Woman on the Perils of Beauty – “Solo Fest” at ACT Theatre


Susan Lieu (Brett Love)

Over 140 LBS
Bread Crumbs
Left on Yellow Brick Road
ACT Theatre/ACTLab
Through February 16, 2020

ACT Theatre is producing its very first “Solo Fest” this month, anchored by a show by Susan Lieu that Lieu has done several times, in the area and then took it on the road to several other cities. Three other performances are also included and this weekend, you can potentially see three of the four, if you work quickly. Seats are limited.

Sherif Amin created Left on Yellow Brick Road, for which the description reads, “When a boy from Egypt unexpectedly finds himself in the Land of Oz, he travels to a place past the Emerald City where he stays. Soon he starts to wonder, is it better to stay in Oz or find his way back?”

Jasmine Joshua created Bread Crumbs which is an exploration of how they discovered, over many years, that they were non-binary. I have seen a couple of their iterations of this work and each time it is interesting, emotional, revealing, and thought-provoking. I expect no less from this outing.

Joshua’s journey encompasses the fact that they have twin girls and a husband and also developed a drag persona named Harvey Gent for which they now dress up as half Harvey, half themselves in a visual representation of that exploration.

Lieu’s autobiographical show was generated by the effect of the death of her mother from a botched tummy tuck by a doctor who should have had his license yanked far before he met Lieu’s mother! Lieu was eleven. It was entitled 140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother. The weight refers to both her mother’s and her own weight. Apparently, after her mother died, no one in her family, not her father, not her siblings, not her aunts or grandparents, wanted to speak about it. It was as if her mother poofed off the earth.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Apply Yourself to SPT’s “Admissions” – Smart, Funny, Mind-blowing

Benjamin McCormach in Admissions (John Ulman)
Admissions
Seattle Public Theater
Through February 23, 2020

Playwright Joshua Harmon is a fearless writer. As demonstrated in his play, Bad Jews, and again, clearly, in his play, Admissions, now at Seattle Public Theater, he seems to take a topical subject and aim his pungent thoughts at just about every aspect of it! And he’s funny and writes smart dialogue that fill his characters with complicated, human feelings.

Director Annie Lareau pulls out all the complications imbedded in this story of an “admissions counselor,” Sherri (aptly and sensitively played by stage veteran Anne Allgood), who has worked tirelessly over that last 15 years to increase diversity at a very white, very old New England prep school. She is finally on the verge of gaining the coveted 20% mark for minorities which she and her husband, Bill (a lovely, acerbic Kevin McKeon), want to celebrate. Bill is also a school administrator.

But then, at the same time, their only child, high school graduating senior Charlie (Benjamin McCormack, who pulls out all the stops), receives the news that he has been “deferred” at his dream school, Yale. He also finds out that best friend, Perry, has been accepted! They dreamed of going together. Suddenly, Charlie is not so happy about his friend’s acceptance and wants to chalk it up to Perry’s being “Black” (Perry’s family is “mixed race”) because Charlie’s high school achievements are better than Perry’s and he “should” have priority acceptance!

Saturday, February 01, 2020

February 2020 Theater Openings

Susan Lieu in her solo show 140 LBS (Brett Love)

February doesn’t know if it wants to be classic or brand-new. So, it looks like both. Look at what’s peeking out to invite you in as we run down theatrical productions opening this month.

Snow White, Seattle Children’s Theatre, 2/6/20-3/15/20
Deep in the forest, a classic tale emerges and is then radically transformed. Two dynamic actors morph into a multitude of characters – including a princess, her evil queen, a magical mirror, a huntsman, and the humorous seven dwarfs. Lively and imaginative, this new adaptation will update this classical story with an entirely fresh perspective and ask: How did they do that? (Recommended for 5 years and older)

The Children, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 2/7/20-3/15/20
Playwright Lucy Kirkwood gained a Tony nomination in 2018 for her Broadway play. In a cottage on England's beautiful rocky coast, two retired nuclear physicists live a peaceful existence; however, the world around them has been crippled by an environmental disaster. The surprise visit of an old friend brings a shocking proposition.

You’ll Love “She Loves Me”!

Randy Scholz and Taryn Darr in She Loves Me (Tracy Martin)
She Loves Me
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through February 23, 2020
Everett: February 28 – March 22, 2020

A perfect music box of a musical with a cast to match. That’s what Village Theatre gives you with their production of She Loves Me!

The Sheldon Harnick lyrics are some of the very best in any musical and match Jerry Brock’s musical compositions like soft kid gloves. The book adaptation by Joe Masteroff of the short story about a Budapest couple who work together and don’t know they’re pen pals is just enough talking to keep everyone on the same page.

I have to opine that this musical is pretty much bullet-proof, so it’s hard to do it badly. Thank-fully, Karen Lund, usually directing both comedies and musicals at Taproot Theatre, inserts and pulls out many, many moments of fun. She and choreographer Scott Brateng also come up with more moments of choreography than many productions and that increases the delightful moments.

Friday, January 31, 2020

And the Award Goes To... the Winners of the 2019 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards

The Last World Octopus Wresting Champion (courtesy ArtsWest)

The winners of the 2019 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards are announced by the Seattle theater reviewers circle, Seattle Theater Writers!

This year, several productions were clear critical favorites, with multiple nominations and multiple wins. Gaining the most recognition among the winners were Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre and Village Theatre’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time in the Large theater division, and Sound Theatre Company and The Hansberry Project’s Citizen and Sheathed by Macha Theatre Works in the Small division.