Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Abba and Ryan are fun to watch, maybe in a comedy

Kiki Abba and Brandon Ryan in Belleville (Shane Regan)
Belleville
MAP Theatre
Through April 16, 2016

A loving couple, transplanted to Paris for the husband’s great job working with Doctors Without Borders, can have issues even after a long relationship spanning years. Maybe it’s because they’re in a foreign country, but slightly bigger cracks are developing between Abby (Kiki Abba) and Zack (Brandon Ryan) than they are used to.

The oh-so-very-American and “regular” couple at the heart of the beguiling Belleville, now staging by MAP Theatre, feels very accessible. The couple are cute and loving; their hassles seem on the edges of their relationship and not too threatening; maybe a good conversation will fix stuff.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

We’re All Going to “The Other Place”

Amy Thone, Ray Gonzales and Jocelyn Maher in The Other Place (John Ulman)
The Other Place
Seattle Public Theater
Through April 17, 2016

Have you started forgetting things you used to dependably know? Names? Words? While scientists say that this phenomenon, which often starts in early 40s, is a normal part of aging, we also might start wondering if something more sinister is happening in our brains.

In The Other Place, now staging at Seattle Public Theater, Juliana (Amy Thone), a brain scientist, is pretty convinced that she could have brain cancer – a terrifying idea. What is clear is that the ground is shifting under her feet and her brain is not working the way it should.

Playwright Sharr White seems to like to embed mysteries in his plays. We recently were treated to another of his 90 minute one-acts, Annapurna, by Theatre22, which also had a mystery drive its action forward. In some respects, that play, with a singular mystery, was easier to understand than this play. This play seems to have several mysteries to unravel.

Monday, March 28, 2016

New Plays Bloom in April - Theater Openings

Marissa Ryder in South Pacific at Seattle Musical Theatre (Nataworry Photos)
There are an astonishing amount of world premieres this month (seven), all locally written! Seattle seems to be in love with new plays as the buds bloom. April openings are listed below in date order.

The Hat, Bitter Single Guy Productions and Gay City Arts, 4/1-9/16
World Premiere. The romantic comedy, by local playwright Greg Brisendine, is about a group of gay men as they navigate dating and love in the world of Grindr, open relationships, and the intersection of relationship and friendship.

To Savor Tomorrow, Cafe Nordo, 4/7/16-6/5/16
Café Nordo takes flight with To Savor Tomorrow, an immersive comedy that parodies the 007 spy genre, set in the airplane lounge of a swank 1960’s Boeing Stratocruiser with craft-cocktails and retro-modernist cuisine woven into the experience. Food scientist Peter Proudhurst is transporting laboratory secrets. Professor Proudhurst's briefcase contains the revolutionary and potentially devastating secrets of modern convenience food and the controversial "Green Revolution." (Meal included)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Real African story loses the beat: My Heart is the Drum

Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako in My Heart is the Drum (Mark Kitaoka)

My Heart is the Drum
Village Theatre
Issaquah: Through April 24, 2016
Everett: April 29-May 27, 2016
There are many aspects of the production My Heart is the Drum at Village Theatre to really like. The technical elements are gorgeous. The set (Carey Wongas) and costumes (Karen Ann Ledger) are vibrant and beautiful. The music feels authentically and pulsatingly Ghanaian. The cast is winning, with Gypsy Rose Lee award-winner Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako in the lead.

Sonia Dawkins’ choreography is quite wonderful. And there is a tiny dancer, Lydia Delane Olson, who is a revelation at such a young age.

It is a world premiere, which means that it has never had a full production before – only workshops from which point the writers, composer Phillip Palmer, lyricist Stacey Luftig and librettist Jennie Redling, would continue to make changes. The creatives are all clearly earnest and well-researched in their efforts. One can almost tell, via the staging, just how much they want to tell a good story.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Smokin’ performance of "Mrs. Warren's Profession" at Seattle Shakes

Emily Chisholm and Bobbi Kotula in Mrs. Warren's Profession (John Ulman)
Mrs. Warren’s Profession
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through April 10, 2016

Take a bracing drag of cigar smoke and listen up: The GB Shaw production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession at Seattle Shakespeare Company is a cogent, smoking hot production!

The taut six-person cast, ably helmed by Victor Pappas, vigorously presents the story of a young woman, brought up with every advantage, finding out that her mother is actually a successful brothel owner. Raised by nannies and sent to boarding schools, Vivie Warren (briskly and independently played by Emily Chisholm) doesn’t really know her mother well, and is tired of the secrecy of her mother’s background.

Now that Vivie is grown and finished with university, she intends to make a new life for herself in actuarial work. Vivie eschews romance and art and leisure and loves to work. She thinks that will conflict with her mother’s ideals for her, and in some ways she is correct. But Kitty Warren (empathetically played by force-of-nature Bobbi Kotula) is more complex than that, finally revealing most of her background to her daughter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Seattle Rep presents Rebecca Gilman's “Luna Gale”

Anne Allgood and Pamela Reed in Luna Gale (Alan Alabastro)

Luna Gale
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through March 27, 2016

Playwright Rebecca Gilman is an “issues-oriented” writer. She takes on hot-button, current, modern issues and writes plays about them. Her ability to have her characters speak in real-people dialogue is terrific and admirable. That is all on display with Seattle Rep’s mounting of Luna Gale, a Gilman play about the foster-care system with all sides of the dilemma on stage.

There is much to appreciate in the staging. Pamela Reed, as Caroline – the long-time social worker who has seen so much that her instincts kick in when evidence doesn’t, is terrific in the role. Practical, worn down, but also hiding a heart of gold, Reed’s character is able to fill in all kinds of information about how the system works or doesn’t in state programs that have seen all kinds of budget cutting over the last decade.

Monday, March 14, 2016

"Parade" - March for truth and justice!

The cast of Parade (Ken Holmes)
Parade
Sound Theatre Company
(at 12th Ave Arts)
Through March 26, 2016

Parade is such a cheery name for a musical! However, it is the wry, unsettling, ironic title of a true-life musical story of Southern small-town bigotry and a still-unsolved murder mystery! Written by Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry, this 1998 Tony winner is being presented by Sound Theatre Company and is the first musical mounted at 12th Avenue Arts.

First, the history: In 1913, Leo Frank (Jeff Orton), a New York Jew who moved and married in Marietta, Georgia, is a town outsider. When 13 year-old Mary Phagan (Delaney Guyer ) is found murdered in the basement of the pencil factory Leo runs, the night watchman is questioned, and Leo. With virtually no evidence and a town full of people willing to lie to convict someone, town prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (Brian Lange) gets a death sentence for Leo’s supposed crime.

After Georgia’s governor, John Slaton (Jordan Jackson) looks into the case and commutes Leo’s sentence from death to life imprisonment and transfers Leo to another prison, a mob breaks in and hangs Leo back in Marietta.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Charming “Brooklyn Bridge” offers community to a lonely girl

Rudy Roushdi and Analiese Emerson Guettinger in Brooklyn Bridge (Chris Bennion)

Brooklyn Bridge
Seattle Children’s Theatre
Through March 20, 2016

An enchanting play is onstage now at Seattle Children’s Theatre, suitable for ages 6 or 7 and up. Brooklyn Bridge, by Melissa James Gibson, focuses on a bright and articulate 5th grader, Sasha (charmingly played by Analiese Emerson Guettinger) who has a very important research paper due and has struggled to get it onto paper.

The script is full of sparkling dialogue and is meant to address aspects of a lonely latchkey child and the isolation that can create. Sasha is portrayed as a very resourceful child, but in this instance, she must disobey her mother, in order to get the very important paper done by tomorrow. She doesn’t have a pen, at home, and is compelled to leave her apartment, contravening her mother’s instructions, to visit neighbors she doesn’t know to find one.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Have fun working: "9 to 5" at SMT!

Natalie Moe as Roz in 9 to 5 (Jeff Carpenter)

9 to 5
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through March 13, 2016

9 to 5, the musical based on the hugely popular 1980 movie starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, is now performing at Seattle Musical Theatre. Their production is fun, peppy and with a solid tongue-in-cheek atmosphere. There are also several stand-out talents among a solid cast.

The musical had a fairly short run on Broadway in 2009 and came to Seattle on tour in 2010 (with our homegrown talent Ryah Nixon understudying the Doralee role). The songs, including the hit wonder 9 to 5, all written by Dolly Parton, are fun but not significantly successful. The entire effort seems tailor made for regional and high school productions, with a strong feminist message. Young women, in particular, might feel encouraged and supported to reflect on how far we have come from the setting of the movie, a sort of 1970s-ish male-dominated business culture.