Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Best Theater of 2014

Evelyn DeHais in Chaos Theory at Annex Theatre (Dangerpants Photography)


(as published in the December 26th issue of Seattle Gay News)

Here we are, again, at year’s end and I’m about to recap some of the highlights of the Theater Year. The year was more eclectic, I think, than some, and includes exciting developments, particularly in local writing. Of course, it is just not in me to call out only five or ten productions…

But before I plunge in too deeply, I want to acknowledge the tremendous writing of Robert Schenkkan and effort that is Seattle Repertory Theatre’s All the Way and The Great Society in performance. You can still see these performances through January 4th, though tickets are getting scarce. Since it is almost an import, it’s hard to claim it as completely “our own,” but it is important work and a chance to see work that has already received national acclaim. Jack Willis needs to be acknowledged as the hardest working actor on stage this year!

This might be called The Year of Local Playwriting! More world premiere plays were performed and, in my opinion, at a higher level of sophistication and polish than I think I’ve ever seen.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Off-beat and Off-the-beaten-path Christmas shows

Cast members of Judy's Scary Little Christmas (Michael Brunk)

There is still time (barely) to see a couple of Christmas-themed shows that end tonight or tomorrow: 

Tiny Tim is Dead is a very different kind of play about homeless street people on Christmas eve. It's being put on by Play Factory (recently known as Playwrights' Theatre) and is being performed at Hugo House. A strong cast, including several actors new to Seattle stages from elsewhere, reflect the mental illness, drug abuse, and poor veterans that are often to be found on the streets. The script by Barbara Lebow is uneven, but partly reflects the difficult and uneven lives she is portraying on stage. The message is strong: every night people are freezing outside could be Christmas Eve for them...and they need us.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Noir Christmas comedy makes light work of puns and parody at Seattle Public Theater

John Ulman and Amber Wolfe in Christmastown (Paul Bestock)

Christmastown: A Holiday Noir
Seattle Public Theater
Through December 24, 2014

Santa is missing! And Nick Holiday is the guy who has to find him. That’s the plot of the brand new Christmas play at Seattle Public Theater. Christmastown: A Holiday Noir is crafted by Wayne Rawley, talented local playwright, to be a cross between the standard noir mystery and a holiday parody.

Directed by Kelly Kitchens with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek, a cast of four limber actors take on mystery, danger, and candy canes. John Ulman portrays Nick Holiday, a washed up private eye. He keeps his eyes shrouded in shadow under the brim of the obligatory detective hat, and smokes multiple candy canes as he works. He is tasked with finding out if some photos of Big Red and a woman kissing under some mistletoe are real or not. The information could change some lives! (Dun dun DUN ß ominous sound effect)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reflections on “All the Way” and “The Great Society”

Jack Willis in All the Way and The Great Society Photo: Chris Bennion

The duet of plays at Seattle Repertory Theatre, All the Way and The Great Society (both still playing in repertory through January 4, 2015) are powerful and dense and meticulous works by Robert Schenkkan featuring Lyndon Baines Johnson’s presidency. Their scope is an arduous undertaking and the revelation to a modern audience (now 50 years removed from that history) works to reacquaint us with the mercurial, passionate, gruff, power-hungry, sometimes vicious visionary that was LBJ.

As a vehicle to bring a historical figure to life, it’s masterful. Clearly, any actor who inhabits the role will henceforth consider it a career-making move, and Jack Willis roars and whispers and rails about with the greatest finesse, showing his tremendous abilities on stage. It’s a pleasure to watch him work. Like Bryan Cranston, awards for his work should be forthcoming.

The plays delve deeply into Johnson’s personality and his canny grasp of political gamesmanship. However, in some ways, both plays undercut the drama, which is puzzling for stage work. All the Way was particularly underwhelming in the sound department, where underscoring of sound or music could have helped color the emotions of situations more effectively.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Second visit from "A Christmas Story" - more fun and more funny! (and more Local)

The talented kids of A Christmas Story (Mark Kitaoka)

A Christmas Story
The 5th Avenue Theatre
Through December 30, 2014

A Christmas Story was fun for all when it debuted at The 5th Avenue Theatre in 2010, and then moved East to end up on Broadway. It apparently got a few tweaks along the way and the current “set” version (the way it probably will stay forever, now) is reprised at The 5th with an all local cast and a home-grown director. And it’s even more fun for all than before.

For those who don’t know, it’s a reverie about a Christmas long ago and a nine year old boy’s desire for a particular bb gun which all the adults in his life tell him will cause him to shoot his eye out. He schemes and plots with all his might and even tries to ask Scary Santa and thinks he’s failed. But this is a Christmas story.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Hammiest Show in Town strikes again!

Peggy Platt, Michael Oaks, and Lisa Koch in the Womb (Chris Bennion)


ACT Theatre
Through December 21

Every year at this time, those who know funny know to get their asses to wherever Ham for the Holidays will be performed. They know they will grin from beginning to end and laugh almost constantly. They know that they will leave feeling joy at the smart, talented crew and the amazingly punny and astute writing. They know their jaws will hurt.

Every year is different, though there are some reliable old friends to visit, such as the tiny Sequim Gay Men’s Chorus directed by Kenneth Dolman, and probably a “play” written by Mama Euomi Spudd to perform with her daughter Wynotta, who almost surprisingly never quite quits the act.

This year, at the comfortable environs of ACT Theatre, Fear the Bacon not only doesn’t disappoint, it even raises the bar a notch further in funny. You’ll visit The Waiting Womb, your local gynecology juice bar and spa! Where Dr. Dan plays the piano before your appointment and Nurse Julie sings about mammograms and vaginas. This year, you’ll play a game show (there is invariably a game show) called “What the Heck’s a Puget?” and watch Euomi’s take on the prequel to the Passion Play: Saturday Night Jesus!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Theater Anonymous’ One-Night-Only “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Amy Hill Danneker and Daniel Christensen in the 2013 performance (Truman Buffett)
For several years now, Theater Anonymous (from The 14/48Projects) has presented a very unique performance on only one night. They perform It’s a Wonderful Life (essentially the movie script) but never reveal the actors, even to all the actors!

This year, it is going to be December 6th at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. Those that know about it and have seen or participated in past years know to attend in costuming that makes it appear you might be an actor in the play. It helps confuse the audience and amps up the confusion over who exactly is going to act with whom. It even fakes out the actors, scattered in the audience, as well, if they see other actors they guess might be performing.

Daniel Christensen was last year’s George Bailey. I spoke to him about his experience. A funny fact for Daniel is that he had never, ever seen the movie before he put his hat in the ring to do the show. He says, “I wasn’t even sure who George was! I don’t know why. If there was one movie tradition, it was A Christmas Story, not that one.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Fangs" pulls Reality into Farce

Cast of Fangs (courtesy Jim Moran)
Fangs
Through December 6, 2014

A new play, Fangs, by local playwright Jim Moran is being presented at Eclectic Theater. It has an interesting political slant, showing a Republican state lawmaker in the middle of a campaign when his daughter charges him with hypocrisy. It’s comedic reality until it becomes farce.

Moran sets up a solid confrontation in a cabin in the woods during a snow storm. Riley Perkins (Chris Macdonald) and his aide, Toby Beale (Shane Regan), continue to work the phones on state business and campaign issues. They wheel and deal while Riley’s wife (Samantha Routh) gets drunk and snow falls.

Suddenly, Riley’s daughter, Madison (Rachel Anne Godbe), arrives after hitching a ride with a state wildlife official (Ashley Bagwell). She’s come to remind her father that she had an abortion when she was 16, and she thinks his stance against abortion is hypocritical, since he helped her obtain hers but would legislate against others doing so.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Mary Poppins" – Practically perfect in every way

Cayman Ilika and Greg McCormick Allen in Mary Poppins (Mark Kitaoka)

Mary Poppins
Issaquah: to January 4, 2015
Everett: January 9-February 8, 2015

Anticipation for Village Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins ran high, especially after casting was announced of Cayman Ilika as Mary Poppins and Greg McCormick Allen as Bert. Both have every attribute you would want for those roles, and each is as professional a pro can be in delivering the goods! And so it is no surprise at all that they do in spades!

Then you have some lovely casting choices like real-life-marrieds Christine Marie Brown and Andrew McGinn as George and Winifred Banks, the keep-your-eye-on youngster Mae Corley as young Jane Banks, other real-life-marrieds Connie Corrick (as the Bird Woman) and Hugh Hastings (as the Admiral) and the sure-to-be-comic-duo of Laura Kenny and Erik Gratton as the housekeeper Mrs. Brill and the butler Robertson Ay. Add the furious, chew the stage, anti-Poppins aria of Mary Jo DuGaw (as Miss Andrews) and a passel of dancers and you’ve brewed up a terrific, family fun show sure to please everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Intimate “Messiah” focuses on story says Inverse Opera’s director

Rob Scherzer directing rehearsal (courtesy Inverse Opera)

Handel’s Messiah
Inverse Opera (at Taproot Theatre)
December 5-20, 2014

Inverse Opera has been performing in performance venues and bars for a few years now, introducing non-opera folks to a more intimate experience of operatic voices. Last year, Rob Scherzer took on the task of directing a kind of “pocket” version of what people usually think of as a grand (read “large”) piece of holiday music, Handel’s Messiah.

This is their second year doing this in an intimate, 12-performer version, which they will perform in street clothes, in a sort of “casual” atmosphere at Taproot’s black box theatre. However, Rob doesn’t want you to think that shrinking the cast or the musicians (from at least 18, often, if not a whole symphony, down to just one pianist!!!) means that the quality of the production is cut-rate in any way. “This production is rife with Seattle’s top musical talents. It’s an interesting distinction, where some folks are from a purely operatic background and some from a purely theatrical (musical theater) discipline and are top talents in each area.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

Arouet stumbles with "The Fierce Urgency of Now"

Evan Louis Thomas and Laura Crouch in The Fierce Urgency of Now (Michael Brunk)
The Fierce Urgency of Now
Arouet (at Stone Soup)
through November 22, 2014

I can see the interest Arouet had in a script with a gay man as lead. Unfortunately, The Fierce Urgency of Now is a tepid script that does not go beyond stereotyping of ad agencies, office politics, or much else. Also unfortunately, the production is also tepid and uninspiring.

Four of five actors are people I have seen many times and enjoyed very much. Their work here cannot be said to be their best work. The lead, Evan Louis Thomas, may be a genial fellow, but he is not up to the challenge of the lead and was not at all convincing in the role. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Entrancing "Dick Whittington" is perfect family fun for the holidays

Mike Spee and Fawn Ledesma in Dick Whittington and His Cat (Chris Bennion)

Dick Whittington and His Cat
Through December 21, 2014

The world premiere musical at Seattle Children’s Theatre, Dick Whittington and His Cat, is the perfect all-family holiday show this season! At a fast-paced hour and a half (including intermission), this magical adventure will entrance children as small as three and keep their parents, aunts, uncles and grands happy to be there.

Book and lyrics are by Jeff Church, currently producing artistic director at The Coterie Theater in Kansas City, and local multi-talented composer Richard Gray. The score is filled with ornate references to Irish drinking songs that augment the British flavor of the script. The theme focuses on giving a child a chance, since Dick Whittington starts life as an orphan and is dependent on people believing he can be trusted.

The hard-working cast of nine becomes travelling vagabonds, Londoners, sailors, foreign court dignitaries, pirates, and more. A fun activity might be to see if you can spot the single actor as he or she moves through as many as seven or more different characters.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Before "Rent" there was "Tick, Tick...Boom!" SecondStory Rep offers a great production, but hurry.

Faith Howes, Adam Minton, and Ryan Lile in Tick, Tick...Boom! (Michael Brunk)

Tick Tick … Boom!
Through November 22, 2014

In a terrific introduction to three newer-to-Seattle-stages musical theater performers, SecondStory Repertory is presenting Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…Boom! This musical preceded Larson’s blockbuster hit, Rent, so it is a historical curiosity, and an opportunity to hear Larson’s development as a musical writer. It’s also a precursor to more “rock” musicals.

The story focuses on Jon (Adam Minton) who is turning 30 in New York City in 1990 and is despairing of actually writing the Great American Musical and is on the cusp of thinking he maybe should just give it up. It is autobiographical and references an even earlier musical that Larson wrote called Superbia that is about to be presented as a workshop production. Nascent musicals often move from workshops to developments, if producers come to and like the workshop. A lot is hanging in the balance.

Jon’s current girlfriend, Susan (Faith Howes), is a dancer who wants to settle down and have a family and, more importantly, move away. Jon’s best friend is Michael (Ryan Lile), who has already left acting for a corporate job, enjoying the money and stability. So, Jon is surrounded by people who have changed their goals, and maybe he’s supposed to as well. After all, he survives by waiting tables.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Absurdist Play Starts Funny Ends Dark

Laurie Jerger and K. Brian Neel in I Never Betrayed the Revolution (Truman Buffett)
I Never Betrayed the Revolution
Through November 23, 2014

AJ Epstein directs a world premiere play that is absurd and deceptively simple. Playwright Christopher Danowski, a longtime associate of Epstein’s, writes short, simple, slightly humorous (at first) scenes of a pan-Slavic citizenry restive and oppressed by its government in I Never Betrayed the Revolution. We’re (overly) helped by scenic descriptor cards presented by a dour-faced, eyes black-lined, Kate Kraay, who exemplifies the severity of their mood. While the play could use more polishing, it has something important to say about governing.

Chris Dietz is a political poet, Letkov, whose subversive writing causes his disappearance from his love, Daleka (Laurie Jerger). She and Henryka (Susanna Burney) and Josef (Matt Aquayo), Alina (Ty Bonneville) and Januscz (Andy Buffelen) keep the faith and long for a world that is free. They want food, security, and the ability to have or at least grow what they need. Isn’t that what we all want, essentially?

K. Brian Neel is General Chuchelow, played as a haphazard, Funky-Chicken-dancing, crazy administrator who loves his desk, but is under the power of unseen governors. He exemplifies the Peter-Principle-executive (rising to his level of incompetence), easily deposed and just as easily, eventually returned to power.

Blood Countess: Sophisticated, bloody fun (Annex)

Terri Weagant and Sarah Winsor in Blood Countess (Dangerpants Photography)
Blood Countess
Through November 22, 2014

A real live flesh-eating noblewoman is the subject of Kelleen Conway Blanchard’s latest production at Annex Theatre. Blood Countess is a poetic and evocative telling of Elizabeth Bathory’s life, from her childhood, marriage to a fellow sadist, up to her final captivity and end.

Blanchard wouldn’t write just any kind of biography, though. She picks key moments in a life to dramatize with effective dialogue and unique characterizations. Mary Murfin Bayley as the Mother is venal, crazy and abusive…Apple meet Tree.

Terri Weagant in the title role displays a full range of emotions and facially transmits all kinds of information through her expressions: dislike, bordering on hate for her mother, longing to be accepted for herself, developing awareness of her own powers and desires, and progressing into a raging, crazy and megalomaniacal fully grown woman.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Girls do love their horses! Playing off stereotype to great advantage...

Sascha Streckel and Horse Girls (Dangerpants Photography)

Horse Girls
Annex Theatre
through November 19, 2014

Young girls fall in love with horses. That is so ubiquitous it's almost more than a stereotype. Do young boys do the same? Not being one, I just don't know, but having three younger brothers who did not seem to be gaga about horses, while I was, my small sampling indicates, "no." Not that boys dislike horses, but girls seem to obsess about them.

This stereotype is on full display with Horse Girls by Jenny Rachel Weiner at Annex Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. A large cast (for a one-bedroom show) of seven young women takes the reins and gallops away with the script. (I just can't not do this.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Review: The Case of the Disappearing Laughter ("Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" at ACT Theatre)

Pamela Reed, R. Hamilton Wright and Marianne Owen (Chris Bennion)
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Through November 16, 2014

The reviews from New York productions of Christopher Durang’s new play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike pretty universally call it funny and even more. “Few Chekhov-inspired shows make you laugh out loud, and repeatedly at that. In fact there’s probably just one such rare bird on the planet,” says the New York Post.

So, if the current production of Durang’s play at ACT Theatre is not so funny, even with a cast one might expect truly humorous acting from, what might be the problem? This production has a few laughs in it, from time to time, but one does not experience an audience as the New York Times did … “The theater erupts in booming gusts of laughter that practically shake the seats.” Your faithful reviewer did not see any kind of indication of that in the slightest at ACT Theatre for the entire evening.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Carla Ching, playwright of "Fast Company," talks about the play, the Kilroys, writing for television

Brad Walker, Mariko Kita, Sara Porkalob, Kevin Lin in Fast Company (Roger Tang)

Fast Company
Theatre Off Jackson
November 1-22, 2014

Pork Filled Productions’ next play opens this weekend. Fast Company is by Carla Ching and is about a Chinese American family (specifically, as you’ll see her talk about below) of expert con artists, grifters and thieves. It portrays, with comedy and drama, the ins and outs of family dysfunction, even within a family criminal enterprise.

Ms. Ching is a playwright and also a staff writer on an edgy, current and very diverse tv cop show, Graceland. (Well, it’s federal agents, but that still basically makes it a cop show.) I talked to her about her play and writing for television and her involvement in The Kilroys, the group that made headlines this year when they collected a list of 46 plays written by women that theaters could use nationally if they wanted to increase the amount of women playwrights on their production schedule.

First up, her play, which is having its third production via Pork Filled, after having outings at South Coast Rep and Ensemble Studio Theater in New York. EST commissioned the play. Carla has worked with director Amy Poisson on tweaking the script so this script is not the same as either other production.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review: Thalia's Umbrella's beautifully rendered Fugard production

Pam Nolte, William Hall, Jr. and Terry Moore (John Ulman)

A Lesson from Aloes
Thalia’s Umbrella
(at Taproot Black Box)
Through October 26, 2014

Athol Fugard may not be a name you know well, or at all. However, he has earned his reputation well as a prolific playwright hailing from South African and often writing about people enmeshed in the consequences of their political and social systems of Apartheid. His beautifully written play, A Lesson from Aloes, is being produced by Thalia’s Umbrella – a company created by theatrical veterans Terry and Cornelia Moore to produce plays they feel an especial kinship with.

This three-hander, starring Terry Moore, Pam Nolte and William Hall, Jr., is a play you must pay careful attention to. The layers are geothermic (if you’d rather, we could go back to onions, though that’s boring), and call for careful mining. Moore and Nolte are a white couple, Piet or Pieter and Gladys, who had found fellowship and common cause with the black movement toward freedom and equality. But we meet the two of them after some difficult events.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Zinzanni's "Hacienda Holiday" warms up the winter rains

Don't be fooled! That's Christine Deaver in black and Kevin Kent in red in Hacienda Holiday (Alan Alabastro)

Hacienda Holiday
Through January 31, 2015

It’s a good time in the tent tonight! The new show at Teatro Zinzanni, Hacienda Holiday, brings back oldies but goodies Christine Deaver and Kevin Kent as the five-times-married couple Beaumount and Caswell, who have travelled south of the border to renew their wedding vows. But there are secrets that bedevil their event and almost derail their plan. Horrors! Of course, all is well in the end…

This intimate mini-“cirque” is always a special event combining upscale food and carefully paired wines with gorgeous aerial, juggling, dance and song acts. If it’s your first time, you’re amazed and enthralled. If it’s your fifth or twenty-fifth, you know there will be something stunning and something heart-warming every time.

Headliners Deaver and Kent are consummate performers in this kind of venue, and their songs and Deaver’s solos are deftly delivered. They also have plenty of experience managing audience interaction and calling people up from their tables to have some light-hearted fun.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"The Vaudevillians" is a lighthearted, boozy romp

The Vaudevillians (Nate Watters)
The Vaudevillains
Seattle Repertory Theatre
through November 2, 2014

(as posted on Seattle Gay Scene)

If talent were the only criterion to be on the Seattle Repertory Theatre stage, then Richard Andriessen (aka Major Scales) and Jerick Hoffer (aka Jinkx Monsoon) should certainly be on their stage. If having fun were the only criterion for a play to be on the Seattle Repertory Theatre stage, then certainly, The Vaudevillians should be on their stage. Of course, anyone reading this article on Seattle Gay Scene is likely to want to immediately get tickets to see The Vaudevillians for the talent and the fun!

It’s a bit less likely, given a set of statistics, that a majority of current subscribers of the Seattle Repertory Theatre would think that the only criteria that counts is talent and fun. That is pretty much the open question.The Vaudevillians stars two brilliantly talented young men who have developed a storyline that is a hoot: a married vaudeville couple has been frozen in the Antarctic for dozens of years and having been recently thawed and revived have resumed their vaudeville performances.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coming Up! Mary Ewald to play Hamlet at New City Theater

Mary Ewald as Hamlet (John Kazanjian)

Hamlet
New City Theater
October 22 – November 15, 2014

Did you know that many heralded women have played Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play? That the first recorded woman to play Hamlet was Fanny Furnival in Dublin, 1741? She was followed by many renowned (often middle aged, often Lesbian) actresses over the centuries. It’s no surprise that women have longed to play such meaty roles on stage; but perhaps more of a surprise is to learn just how many women, including Sarah Bernhardt at age 55, and (Dame) Judith Anderson at age 72, have played Hamlet on stage and screen.

Artists have found an internal conflict of the masculine and the feminine within Hamlet, and that conflict has served as an interpretive blueprint and approach to the character for Mary Ewald and John Kazanjian at New City Theater. Their upcoming production stars Mary Ewald as Hamlet.

I spoke to Mary about why she is willing to tackle the role as she prepares to take the stage. Mary says, “I've read a fascinating book on women playing Hamlet. Many of the women playing Hamlet were lesbians looking for a better challenge than most plays gave them. Most interesting is reading about different interpretations, and what a woman may bring out in the role that rings differently than a male actor playing it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

It wouldn't be horrorble if you missed this

Garrett Dill and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako in The Rocky Horror Show (Jeff Carpenter)
The Rocky Horror Show
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through October 18, 2014

I’d like to be kind. I want Seattle Musical Theatre to have great big hits and lots of people attending. Aspects of The Rocky Horror Show are fun (costuming is good, lights and set are good), but overall, the musical, especially the steamless second act, is pretty much a mess.

The performers all seem invested, and it seems fun for them. So, that’s a good start. The video featuring Peggy Platt as the narrator and Lisa Koch as her butler is a great addition. There are a few performers who stand out, including Joel Domenico as Frank (though his flagging energy in the second act is part of the problem), Hisam Goueli, a surprisingly effective Rocky, and the game-for-anything talented Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako as Janet. But Nako can’t be the whole show.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Excellent acting in "Slip/Shot" overshadowed by technical shortcomings and disappointing script

Treavor Boykin and Faith Russell in Slip/Shot (PaulBestock)

Slip/Shot
Through October 12, 2014

(As printed in Seattle Gay News)

Seattle Public Theater often combines great technical design (especially for a mid-sized theater) and challenging and well-done productions. Some of the best in town. It’s easy to see why they might choose to do the play Slip/Shot by Jacqueline Goldfinger: A security guard shoots an unarmed African-American teen and claims it is an accident. It sounds like it would be an extremely topical and challenging play.

Though written around 2012, Goldfinger sets the action in 1960s small town southern America. Some dialogue is poetic, some sociologically relevant (women were expected to stay home and take care of their husbands), and the script probably reads well. Unfortunately, it disappoints.

However, the production at SPT is well-cast with excellent actors, with not a false acting note among them.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Introducing Forward Flux – The Salon: a reading series for new plays

Dan Connor, Leslie Windom (obscured), Mollie Corcoran, and Brian Lange read Green Whales (J Reese)

Despite people sometimes opining that there is a lack of play reading opportunities in Seattle, there are more reading series than you might think. And in recent months, a few more have cropped up. One of the opportunities is the new Forward Flux Salon.

Forward Flux Productions started in New York City in 2010 and launched a new play in 2012, FriendAndy.com, written by Wesley Frugé, about a blogger whose work starts to go viral. Another new play in 2013, Robot Songs, is about a robot who would rather write pop songs than destroy the human race. But not all of their work is technology-based. Their mission is to “connect people with art in unexpected ways. We challenge the boundaries of tradition by reimagining the audience experience.”      

The creators, Wesley Frugé, Karesia Batan, and Rafael Landeiro expanded to Seattle in 2014 when Wesley moved here and efforts continue in NYC.

The Salon is the first event in Seattle, with more developments to come. Wesley says, “I moved to Seattle one year ago after living in NYC for eight years. I'm so excited to be a part of this vibrant community, and I really feel that there is an amazing opportunity in this city to invest in new art. We are now operating from both coasts.”

Oh, the Horror! Rocky lands at SMT for only Two Weeks!

Nathan Brockett as Riff Raff and Stephanie L. Graham as Magenta
in The Rocky Horror Show (Steven Fogell)

The Rocky Horror Show
Seattle Musical Theatre
October 9-18, 2014

Seattle Musical Theatre celebrates the 40th anniversary of the iconic musical, The Rocky Horror Show, starting tomorrow, October 9 through October 18. This production boasts a steampunk/circus atmosphere helmed by Steven Fogell.

Another special feature, though one that is destined to be a surprise, is the inclusion of comedy mavens Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt, also known as Dos Fallopia, and the creators of the annual Ham for the Holidays sketch series, upcoming at ACT Theatre around Thanksgiving. Koch and Platt will not play characters written into the script, but will add to the outrageous atmosphere (some mysterious way)!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Quick Take: "The Mountaintop" at ArtsWest

Reginald André Jackson and brianne a. hill in The Mountaintop (Michael Brunk)


The Mountaintop
ArtsWest
through October 5, 2014

This intriguing two-hander, The Mountaintop, looks at a fictional last night in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. The script, by Katori Hall, focuses on a tired, fractious, chain-smoking King, who chafes at times at his life of travel and being away from his family, but also likes to flirt with, and probably bed with random attractive women who are willing.

In other words, it's an attempt to stop us from making him a saint and focusing on the price the man took in his journey to bring a dream of equality and economic freedom to "his" people. Since it is fictional, Hall has the luxury of having him say whatever she wants, though I imagine there were boundaries she had to walk not to overstep into some outright bawd or conman or other negative portrayal that is belied by what many people know of the real man.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Mary's Wedding is a dreamlike experience to embrace

Maya Sugarman and Conner Neddersen in Mary's Wedding (Chris Bennion)

Mary’s Wedding
New Century Theatre Company
(at West of Lenin)
Through October 11, 2014

(printed in Seattle Gay News)

Two shy teenagers at the start of World War I fall in love and cope with class, war, first crushes, honor, and duty in New Century Theatre Company’s production of Mary’s Wedding by Stephen Massicotte. This production is a shift for the small company in that the actors, Maya Sugarman and Conner Neddersen, have not been company members. This moves New Century Theatre Company into a producer mode, then.

But the panache with which the production is mounted and presented is well within the NCTC esthetic. The setting is a barn and set/light designer Brian Sidney Bembridge, and the company, found a real old demolished barn and recreated a chunk of it inside West of Lenin. Adding incandescent bulbs to represent stars and lightning and sunlight is a beautiful touch. Director John Langs brings a delicate sensibility to the play including minimal staging that turns hay bales into horses and a few sandbags into an army bunker.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Coming Up: "Kinky Boots!" Spotlight Night whets the appetite at 5th Avenue

Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Steven Booth in Kinky Boots (MatthewMurphy)

Kinky Boots
October 7-26, 2014

The 5th Avenue Theatre has whet the appetites of thousands of attendees already with their Spotlight Night focused on Kinky Boots. Executive producer and artistic director David Armstrong moderated the evening, giving a taste of what is in store by introducing two of the stars of the show and explaining the musical’s history and development.

But first, Armstrong introduced some performances from developing musicals from the 5th’s robust New Works program. Their redoubled efforts began in 2012 with the appointment of resident music supervisor Ian Eisendrath being named the Alhadeff Family Director of New Works.

Eisendrath, along with producing artistic director Bill Berry, introduced Beautiful Poison, written by Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn and Duane Poole. It was commissioned by the 5th and sounds a bit like The Secret Garden for grownups. It’s based on the Nathaniel Hawthorne story "Rappaccini's Daughter."

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Meticulous production highlights the huge size of tiny, quiet moments (The Bunner Sisters)

Marty Mukhalian and Annette Toutonghi in The Bunner Sisters (Paul Lippert)

The Bunner Sisters
(in a co-production with Theatre Off Jackson)
Through October 5, 2014

Two sisters in turn of the 20th Century clothing move effortlessly around a tiny storefront/apartment sewing, crimping, serving customers, stopping for tea, in a meager, but comfortable life. They remind of the careful attention to detail, and small moments, that is exemplified in tv’s Downton Abbey. They, too, have little to say to each other, a way of behavior that is so foreign to our “say anything you feel to anyone” age.

These sisters are actors Marty Mukhalian and Annette Toutonghi, in the new adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The Bunner Sisters, adapted by and directed by Julie Beckman for her new occasionally-producing theater company, Athena Theatre Project. The meticulous storefront/apartment was designed by Phillip Lienau and the actors look like they could have lived there for years.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Don't miss The Play of the Year (so far): "The Invisible Hand" at ACT Theatre

Erwin Galan (back), Elijah Alexander, Connor Toms (seated) in The Invisible Hand (Chris Bennion)
The Invisible Hand
ACT Theatre
Through September 28, 2014


(printed in Seattle Gay News)

If terrorists ever decide to imitate "Art" instead of having "Art" imitate "Life" - and they see the play The Invisible Hand by Ayad Akhtar - well... the world is in big trouble! This intense, smart, gripping drama at ACT Theatre has a plot that includes describing how financial markets work, and it drives to a conclusion that makes the blood drain out of your face and dread fill your soul. 

The play begins some period of time into Nick Bright's (Connor Toms) captivity in a Pakistani cement block house. While we don't quite know how long he has been there, it has been long enough for him to teach a little English to the young guard, Dar (Erwin Galan) and help the guard make some money for his village selling potatoes. 

Suddenly, Bashir (Elijah Alexander) a lieutenant of the Imam (William Ontiveros) reminds Nick and Dar, both, that this is captivity, and fear and tension grip the stage. While actual violence is sparse, the threat of it remains a potent force throughout the remainder of the play. While journalist Daniel Pearl's beheading is referred to, the audience is quick to think of the recent beheadings in the news. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The dulcet tones of a barbershop quartet teach a lesson in tolerance in Taproot's "The Fabulous Lipitones"

Brad Walker, John Patrick Lowrie, Greg Stone and Jeff Berryman in The Fabulous Lipitones (Erik Stuhaug)

The Fabulous Lipitones
Through October 18, 2014

(printed in Seattle Gay News)

Oh, no! The tenor member of a barbershop quartet has died, just before the national finals! What do the other three do? Between arguing about disbanding (and other petty squabbles), they hear a great new singing voice on the phone and set about having an audition, right away. But the guy who shows up is “not like them.” He’s wearing a turban. Hilarity ensues.

This sweet production of The Fabulous Lipitones at Taproot Theatre is a new work by John Markus and Mark St. Germain (former writers on The Cosby Show), and is disarmingly light. It’s kind of a small town story, set in a farm town outside Columbus, Ohio, where people do small town kinds of things, like develop a passion for barbershop quartet music.

The revelation that the tenor they need in order to go to nationals is a Sikh almost sends Phil the gym owner (Jeff Berryman) into paroxysms of fear and racism. Wally the pharmacist (John Patrick Lowrie) and Howard (Greg Stone) are far more interested in going to nationals to worry too much about terrorism from Baba Mati Das – otherwise known as “Bob” (Brad Walker). Eventually, they browbeat, wear down and bargain with Phil to get him to move forward with Bob as their fourth singer.

There are lots of jokes, a few groaners, and some familiar stock kinds of characters (though with unique characteristics that help) and the production, helmed by Scott Nolte, feels like a dessert, all silly and amusing. Embedded in there, though, is a big topic of accepting those who are different than we are, learning about cultures that are not our own, and finding ways of overcoming obstacles to inclusion.

The four actors all perform the barbershop quartet arrangements with dispatch and professionalism. They sound great. They are all terrific singers.

The set by Mark Lund allows for transformation from a funeral parlor to the crowded basement of Howard’s small house. Costuming by Nanette Acosta is appropriately serviceable until fun and gaudy performance gear is added. Some Bollywood-style dance steps are provided by Gurvinder Pal Singh with additional choreography by Beth Orme.

This is exactly the type of production that would appeal to Taproot’s subscribers. There is a message, but it is clearly stated and swaddled in great humor. It’s kind of like eating ice cream and then finding out that they used soy milk or almond milk and healthy ingredients and you thought it tasted great anyway.

Also, Walker’s performance is tender and honorable to the Sikh traditions and values. He is funny (he has a terrific grin), but never makes fun of, or denigrates, his character’s upright sense of righteousness.

For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org or call 206-781-9707. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Village Theatre’s "In the Heights" hits the heights for dancing and excitement

(from top left in circle)
Naomi Morgan, Iris Elton, Jennifer Paz and Tanesha Rass in In the Heights (Mark Kitaoka)

In the Heights
Issaquah: through October 26, 2014
Everett: October 31 – November 23, 2014

(printed in Seattle Gay News)

Did you know that In the Heights is a dance musical?! It is! It’s also a rap musical, and a hip hop musical, and a heartwarming story of the residents of Washington Heights, New York City, bonding through song, and an electrical blackout.

Did you know that the cast of Village Theatre’s production of In the Heights is insanely good? It is! Village has brought back some ex-Seattle residents along with a few guest visitors that ratchet up the talent on stage to unbelievable…heights. (Yup, I said it.)

This musical is so much fun. The music reflects the Latin influences of Washington Heights and even though people are struggling and low-income, they still have self-esteem and drive and dreams of making it. We meet corner-store proprietor Usnavi, who wants to leave the Heights and open a store in the Dominican Republic, home of his deceased parents. In the meantime, he takes care of his father’s store and his cousin, Sonny, and his adopted grandmother nearby.

The other story is about Nina, the smart girl who managed to get a scholarship to Stanford University, but has had to drop out after working two jobs and losing the scholarship due to dropping grades. Her family owns a car transportation service and a young worker, Benny, consoles her about having to disappoint her parents.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

15 plus companies help create city-wide Beckett Fest - Best known play "Waiting for Godot"

Darragh Kennan and Todd Jefferson Moore in Waiting for Godot (John Ulman)

Waiting for Godot
Seattle Shakespeare Company
(At ACT Theatre's Central Heating Lab)
Through September 21

From the brains of George Mount, artistic director of Seattle Shakespeare Company, and then A.J. Epstein proprietor of West of Lenin and a few other theater practitioners, sometime back in 2013 or 2014, there came a decision to have a citywide festival celebrating Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. Having thus decreed it, they bustled about making it so with fundraising and recruiting other companies to choose pieces of Beckett's writings and create productions. There are over 15 companies participating in the festival!

Beckett (1906-1989) was a practitioner of the "theater of the absurd" and prized minimalism. He grew to adulthood in Dublin and then taught in France and spent most of his life between the two countries. He often wrote in French and then made his own translations.

The festival has a website: www.seattlebeckettfest.org that includes a list of productions and companies and links to help you find them and buy tickets. There is also a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/seattlebeckettfest.

Life=Play and other events
A few events have already taken place. West of Lenin produced an evening of four short pieces, entitled Life=Play. Act Without Words, Part 1 starred Ray Tagavilla in a kind of humorous mime play where a man tumbles onto stage and the stage itself directs him to try to grab a vial of water hung from the ceiling, and mysteriously provides boxes for him to climb on to reach the vial. Ultimately, though, the vial is pulled too high to reach.