Thursday, May 16, 2019

“Curious Incident” is a Great Story

Michael Krenning and Kathryn Van Meter in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Kitaoka)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Village Theatre
Everett: through May 19, 2019

Christopher didn’t kill the dog! But his neighbor, and Wellington’s owner, Mrs. Shears, thinks he did. So she calls the police. The policeman probably thinks Christopher killed the dog and makes a lot of warning noise at him, and then tries to touch him. Christopher hates being touched and he strikes out at the policeman. That gets him a written warning, a humiliation, and potentially a lot more trouble if he touches another policeman that way!

So begins the creative and absorbing story, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, currently at Village Theatre, Everett. The play does not specify that Christopher is not neurotypical, but makes it pretty clear that he thinks fairly differently and behaves differently than many people. What it does make clear is that the world does not accommodate Christopher’s differences very well and that he needs champions to help him succeed. The play makes the audience empathize so much that it’s likely most want to be his champion by the end! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

MDQ - Slamdunk from First Note to Last

The concert at the end of Million Dollar Quartet (Mark Kitaoka)
Million Dollar Quartet
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through June 23, 2019
Everett: June 28 – July 28, 2019

In 2007, Village Theatre debuted a fabulous new musical revue which was based on a real life night when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis walked into Sun Records. Twelve years later, Million Dollar Quartet has been to Broadway and awarded Levi Kreis, the virtuoso piano-playing Lewis, a Tony Award. Now, it’s playing regionally and Village decided it was time to remount their hit production.

It is December 4, 1956 and Sun Records had recently launched the careers of all but the new-and-brash Lewis. Sam Phillips (Matt Wade) is hoping to sign Cash to a new longer contract not knowing that Cash has already signed with another company. Phillips sold Elvis’s contract in order to salvage Sun from going under, but Elvis still trusts Phillips more than most people and wants Phillips to come work with him again. Perkins is angry that Phillips has paid more attention to others and has also signed with another company. It’s a moment of great transition.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Some Glorious Moments in “Nina Simone”

The cast of Nina Simone: Porscha Shaw, Shontina Vernon, Shaunyce Omar, Britney Nicole Simpson (Nate Watters)
Nina Simone: Four Women
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through June 2, 2019

The effect of watching four amazing women actors on stage in the Seattle Rep production of Nina Simone: Four Women is incredibly powerful. They pour all their committed energy and heart into their work.

Their energy and power almost allow this earnest script, that tries hard to give context to an iconic singer/activist that changed a lot of lives in the 1960s and ‘70s, Nina Simone, to succeed beyond its characterizations. Simone’s story is certainly worth staging. This script includes valuable information to audiences that have not grown up with her music or are not privy to areas of tension within Black America’s culture.

Playwright Christina Ham strives to educate audiences and to theatricalize a moment of change in an artist’s life. But educational theater is tricky and hard to pull off without limiting the expanse of drama and this script only partly wins that battle.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Seattle Women’s Chorus Rocked the House!

Sarah Rudinoff singing with the Seattle Women's Chorus (Conrado Tapado)

Seattle Women’s Chorus
Legends of Rock
April 28, 2019

Sarah Rudinoff and the entire Seattle Women’s Chorus rocked everyone’s socks off, Sunday, with their concert of “Legends of Rock”! The entire event was tight, energetic, fun, exciting, historical, educational, and … lots of other great adjectives.

Sarah Rudinoff was both “special guest star” and also the “host” of the evening, narrating the roughly chronological tour of songs of rock-and-roll women from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, and ‘10s. Rudinoff did several solos, including really challenging songs like Crazy on You (Heart) and Piece of My Heart (Janis Joplin)! She sounded amazing and hit every note squarely on the head while belting her face off.

Rudinoff was also a genial and assured narrator, introducing songs or catching us up on bits of historical data about each rocker. Other rocking songsters included Debbie Harry, Alanis Morissette, Joni Mitchell, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, and Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine).

Friday, April 26, 2019

“Small Mouth Sounds” is Something to Smile At

Cast of Small Mouth Sounds (Annabel Clark)

Small Mouth Sounds
Thalia’s Umbrella
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through May 11, 2019

Six people walk into a silent retreat week…. It is kind of a joke, right? And there are definitely moments that are very amusing in both the set up and the small exchanges, either of uneasiness or stranger-interaction. That’s all part of the experience watching Bess Wohl’s quiet play, Small Mouth Sounds.

Since the retreaters are not supposed to talk, at all, you might wonder if you’ll be watching a play with no words… Does that mean it’s a … dance? Or a mime? If there is no speech, does that mean it’s not a play anymore? Well, if you didn’t wonder that, you’re better’n me, cuz I surely did. But actually there is definitely some speech and a very specific storyline.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

May Blooms on Seattle-area Stages

Christian Quinto and Naho Shioya in Office Hour at Artswest (John McLellan)

Musicals, old and new, vie with drama, and some comedy this month. Seattle companies excel in diverse offerings to tempt every palate. What do you want to see?

Office Hour, ArtsWest, 5/2-26/19 (opens 5/3)
(Written by Julia Cho) Alarmed by a troubled student’s grisly writings, a professor invites him to her office to shed light on - and build a bridge across - the dark clouds that surround him. As tensions rise, she learns that notions of "good" and "bad" are dangerous illusions. This searing play tackles thorny issues of gun violence, immigration, and "the other" to reveal our essential, human need for connection.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

“Urinetown” Makes You Laugh Till You Wanna….

Mikko Juan and Mari Nelson in Urinetown (Jeff_Carpenter)
Urinetown the Musical
ACT Theatre and 5th Avenue Theatre
(at ACT Theatre)
Through June 2, 2019

There is so much cheeky humor and sarcasm in this ACT Theatre/5th Avenue Theatre joint production of Urinetown the Musical! Bill Berry’s direction is sharp and pointed. He emphasizes both the humor and an ultimately dark message that hits you on the way out the door. The choreography by Charlie Johnson fits the bill with fun all-company movement that really entertains.

The multi-staircased set by Martin Christoffel helps the audience get different scenes to watch without almost any large scene changes. Lighting by Robert Aguilar is particularly effective in helping us know where we should be looking.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

“Marie, Dancing Still” Still Needs Steps, But Beautiful Design Work

Cast of Marie, Dancing Still (Paul Kolnik)
Marie, Dancing Still
5th Avenue Theatre
Through April 14, 2019

It’s very apparent why young Tiler Peck was cast to dance the lead role as 14-year-old Marie, the piquant young ballet dancer, in the new musical, Marie, Dancing Still. She is energetic, charismatic, and extraordinarily watchable. Peck makes ballet dancing look easy! (There’s a line in the book – the script – about art/ballet looking easy when you don’t know anything about it, and it being very hard to do when you’ve practiced it forever…)

Peck, who is in just about every scene in this long musical, plays a poor ballet dancer whose mother had also danced but not been able to afford to stay in it long enough to “succeed” (meaning make a living that way). Her older sister, Antoinette (Jenny Powers) also didn’t succeed and now it’s Marie’s turn to try. Their hardscrabble life, with hard-drinking laundress mother (Karen Ziemba), is a precarious existence where small problems could spiral them into even worse circumstances.

Stunning "Returning the Bones" returns to stun again

Gin Hammond in Returning the Bones (John Ulman)
Returning the Bones
Written and performed by Gin Hammond
Book-It Repertory Theatre
(at Erickson Theatre)
through May 14, 2019

I saw an iteration of this production in 2010, as Gin Hammond was developing it. It was so solid then that I think much of her current production is similar to that stunning event. I truly regard her as one of our country's best solo artists. Here, she has created a play using a fascinating character in her own family.

Based on the life and times of her aunt, Dr. Carolyn (Bebe) Hammond Montier, it’s about Montier’s struggle, as an African-American, to achieve everything anyone might dream of, a medical degree, and her extraordinary opportunity, in 1946, to represent Howard University at a medical congregation in Europe following World War II. Montier also went to the concentration camp, Auschwitz, in Poland, where she saw bones of recent camp internees.