Friday, June 26, 2015

Pride Profile: Jennifer Jasper, a triple P, playwright, producer, performer

Kathie Whitehall and Jennifer Jasper (Beth Matthiessen)
This year’s Pride theater celebrity is Jennifer Jasper. She does so many presentations and is so busy around town that just a simple list is complex. Aside from performing a triplet of solo shows based on aspects of her unusual life, she also hosts monthly Family Affair cabarets at the Jewelbox Theatre (inside the Rendevous on 3rd Ave. in Belltown), each of which raises funds for a deserving theater community member who is having a crisis!

In 2014, she was one of six winning playwrights at the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival for her play “et•y•mol•o•gy” which was published in “Off Off Broadway Festival Plays, 39th Series” in 2015. A producer saw her play presented in New York City and decided to feature her in a whole evening of her plays. The showcase, entitled “Pressing Matters,” will run Off Broadway in New York during the 2016 season!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"Threesome" is challenging, different -- not a strikeout, nor gets to fourth base

Alia Attallah and Quinn Franzen in Threesome (Patrick Weishampel)
Threesome
ACT Theatre
Through June 28, 2015

Body politics are complicated to write about. Especially when one tries to incorporate the vast differences internationally, not just the billion dollar “beauty” industry in the United States or the way commercials have co-opted the female form to sell everything from soap to cars to … well, everything.

Yussef El Guindi’s new play, Threesome, tries to incorporate a lot of body politics into one script and then include some comedy and an underlying drama in with some exposition. It’s a laudable stretch. It’s also “new” in that few playwrights have yet delved deeply into Arab complexities where women are compelled, often, to cover up completely, and thought to be the root of sexual temptations that men are incapable of self-managing.

I enjoyed a lot of the play, a lot. There are many subtleties to contemplate when the play is over, and for those who like a play to linger in their thoughts, perhaps challenging them, this play has a lot to recommend it. There are also polarizing aspects that may have you liking it and your companion complaining.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Yep, "Are You There God? It's Me Karen Carpenter" is just about as fun as it sounds!

Abbey Roads (and EmilyRose Frasca and Shermona Mitchelll) in Are You There God? It's Me Karen Carpenter (Leanna Karg and Bob Snell)
Are You There God? It’s Me, Karen Carpenter
STAGEright (at Richard Hugo House)
Through June 27, 2015

The mash-up of the Judy Blume book, Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret, and Carpenter songs is an irresistible draw! And ticket sales show that and are going fast! Just the title lets you know you’re likely to have a lot of laughs.

Certainly, Are You There God? It's Me Karen Carpenter could also be a train wreck, but thankfully it’s not. It really is just about as much fun as it sounds like it should be. The kick ass cast, headed by talented EmilyRose Frasca as Margaret, she of many musical performances on stages around town, sings Carpenter songs and dresses in silly costumes and sillier wigs, and performs a story in front of a screen where Barbie dolls mimic all the action in front of you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Triumphant staging of “Slaughterhouse-Five” will return “So it goes” to your vocabulary!

Poster for Slaughterhouse-Five at Book-It Repertory Theatre
Slaughterhouse-Five
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through July 3, 2015

Kurt Vonnegut’s anti-war opus, Slaughterhouse-Five, is a wildly inventive, irreverent (mostly) and fantastical story of a hapless fellow named Billy Pilgrim. The last name hints at the character’s search for a fulfilling life, like the Pilgrims coming to America.

It’s a complicated and far-flung text that has been taken on by Book-It Repertory Theatre in a massive and fully-realized adaptation. The intrepid adaptor (and director), Josh Aaseng, took on this project and decided on a practical, yet ingenious, way to portray the character. He broke the character into a young man, a middle aged man, and an older man.

The key to the success of that decision is: Billy Pilgrim is unstuck from time. In fact, he is essentially in several different “times” at once. How can you portray that on stage without having an actor dash chaotically from one scene to another (not to mention change costuming dozens of times)? Make him into three parts.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The odd story of Centerstage and Federal Way - what would You do?

From For All That at Centerstage (Michelle Smith-Lewis)
Suddenly, at the end of May, people began hearing a plea to save Centerstage Theatre in Federal Way because their renegotiation to manage their Federal Way-owned facility had abruptly been halted by the City-side. The message was to let the City of Federal Way know how important Centerstage was to the community and to encourage the City to start negotiations again, OR Centerstage, if unsuccessful, would have to immediately close.

Many hundreds of people, including me, and numerous Seattle folks, used a simple email link to tell the City of Federal Way just that. Centerstage is a unique company in a very un-arts-filled area of the county with a high level of sophisticated theatrical endeavors.

But many sophisticated theater companies in the Seattle area survive un-homed and tweak their budgets accordingly. So, was there more to the story? 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

"Never the Sinner" - a tepid history play in a hot theater (bring a fan)

The cast of Never the Sinner (Shannon Miller)

Never the Sinner
LungFish Productions
At TPS4
Through June 20, 2015

The trial of Leopold and Loeb, in Chicago in 1924, was referred to as the Trial of the Century, at that time. The famed lawyer, Clarence Darrow was their defense attorney. So, Chicago was breathless at that time to hear every tiny detail from the trial. It had scandal, murder, and rich people!

Nathan Leopold, Jr. (with an anomalous name – Jews were expressly forbidden the habit of naming “juniors”), age 19, and Richard Loeb, age 18, were wealthy young men. Loeb was the charismatic, mercurial one, who was bored with life and obsessed with crime – one might say he would have been diagnosed in later years as a sociopath.

Leopold was the constrained and clearly homosexual of the two, an obsessively intelligent young man with a voracious appetite for detail. He knew at least some of 15 languages and was already, at his young age, a noted ornithologist!

"4 Dogs and a Bone": Movie Industry docu-drama fun to laugh at

Cast of Four Dogs and a Bone (Dave Hastings)
Four Dogs and a Bone
Theater Schmeater
Through June 27, 2015

Fame and money in the movies are the bones fought over in John Patrick Shanley’s play, Four Dogs and a Bone. Theater Schmeater is presenting a solidly acted and funny production of this scathing, behind-the-scenes slugfest.

It’s not Shanley’s finest play, and he is said to have written it “in a white hot fury in six days,” which doesn’t bode that well for great writing. But he is a master of fun dialogue and character development. This play is for watching four people with competing interests tear each other up to see who is standing less scathed at the end!

On a bare, flexible set (thankfully, most scene changes are short) by Kasia Rozanska, the play introduces producer Bradley (Paul Custodio), first-time movie actress Brenda (Brenda Joyner), 6-time movie actress Collette (Elinor Gunn) and first-time screenplay writer Victor (Ray Tagavilla). Bradley doesn’t know anything about movies or art, but says he knows money. Brenda doesn’t know anything about acting (!) but knows how to act like she’s acting. Collette knows enough to be wary of Brenda, and they both know enough to try to get each other’s role reduced screen time. Victor doesn’t know about screenplay development, but he knows to watch out for scheming, sex-using actresses.