Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tails of Wasps stings So Good!

(Paul Morgan Stetler and Sylvie Davidson. Photo by Chris Bennion)
Tails of Wasps
New Century Theatre Company
(at ACT Theatre/Central Heating Lab)
Through April 27

A taut, world premiere morsel of explosion just opened via New Century Theatre Company in ACT’s Buster’s Event Room. Tails of Wasps is a new play by their “resident playwright,” Stephanie Timm. It is the next “must see” moment in a month of key moments, here in Seattle! It is exquisite and exquisitely painful. It truly is as good as good theater can get.

Timm has been known for some pretty far out playing, including On the Nature of Dust, where a teenage girl devolves from human into tinier and tinier animal species, and mining fairytales and myths for Sweet Nothing and part of ACT’s production of Ramayana. This is nothing like any of those. It is a direct, real-human to real-human mining of power and relationship and self-justification and self-delusion.


The setting is a hotel room and the audience, in a bit of “immersion” is lined up to sign in at the “desk” and led to their “room” by a hotel employee, though you don’t have to tip. New Century loves to create a more immersive experience where possible.

Scene designer Peter Dylan O’Connor didn’t have to build much for his chosen design. Buster’s is an odd space in the Eagle’s Building housing ACT Theatre that occasionally hosts plays. It has huge windows facing 7th Avenue, downtown, that would ordinarily be covered with thick black curtains, but in this instance, they become the perfect hotel room setting. Opening night included people yelling outside, an ambulance and honking, gratis from the real world.

We are introduced to Frank (Paul Morgan Stetler), a newly elected politician and his campaign chief, Rachel, a young, ambitious political staffer (Brenda Joyner). They are keenly aware that she will move on to a new campaign and their daily interactions are abruptly at an end. Rachel feels free to admit to a huge crush on Frank, even though she is newly engaged and he is married.

In the next three scenes, in this 80 minute 4-scene play, we also meet Frank’s wife (Betsy Schwartz) and two other women (Sylvie Davidson and Hannah Mootz). It is sufficient to conclude that Frank has issues with women. It might also occur to you that this sounds very stereotypical and even unenticing.

In this, you would be wrong. Timm’s play allows for very real emotions and justifications with strong responses. Every one of these actors crushes his and her roles. They are pitch perfect in their unfolding realizations and Timm has gotten deeply into each character’s needs and desires. She helps us understand them thoroughly, even in a very short time.

It’s true that women are unfortunately attracted to men’s power, and politicians often get groupies, like rock stars. It’s also true that politicians and rock stars begin to think of that attraction as their due and then their need and their right. If you have ever wondered, “What was he thinking??” about Clinton and Weiner and Sanford and Ensign and Edwards…this play might give you a tiny bit of insight.

Brilliantly, sparely directed by Darragh Keenan, you just have to trust me and see it. For more information on Stephanie Timm, go to http://stephanietimm.me/ and for tickets, go to http://www.wearenctc.org/ or http://www.acttheatre.org/Tickets/OnStage/TailsofWasps or call 206-292-7676.