Thursday, April 28, 2016

Massive shows opening in May, 2016! (and lots of others, too)

Part of the cast of Bernie's Apt. (Maryssa Lagervall)
There are some “big” shows opening this month. A sprawling adaptation of a sprawling The Brothers K  at Book-It, and a huge effort for Billy Elliot at VillageIntiman’s  festival kicks off…  and plenty more. May is coming for ya!

The Brothers K, Part One: Strike Zones and Part Two: The Left Stuff, Book-It Repertory Theatre, 5/3/16-6/26/16 (in repertory)
This two-part adaptation (similar to Book-It’s work last year on Kavalier and Clay) encapsulates the sprawling tale of four brothers, influenced by a strong father, that spans the middle decades of the 20th century. The Chance family in Camas, Washington is baseball-immersed, but the story includes the interplay of faith and spirituality, war and politics, family, and love. The title also refers to notifying a ball thrown as a strike, with either a forward or backward “K”. A cast of 26 actors play 83 roles in two full-length parts. (Options for seeing both parts in one day are available.)

Romeo and Juliet, Seattle Shakespeare Company, 5/4-22/16 (at Cornish Playhouse)
You know Shakespeare’s doomed lovers. For a new take, Seattle Shakespeare Company will construct a playing space on the stage with audience members on both sides watching the game/play unfold. Director Vanessa Miller has added two characters to the production: Fate and Dream who operate outside the “game,” manipulating the action on the stage and serving as game masters.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"My Name is Asher Lev" packs a lot of life conflict into a small space

The cast of My Name is Asher Lev (Elise Bakketun)
My Name is Asher Lev
New Century Theatre Company
Through May 21, 2016

“My name is Asher Lev,” he begins, and assures us he is the painter of the “crucifix paintings.” We (apparently) know all about them. Thus begins the new play at New Century Theatre Company named My Name is Asher Lev that feels like an older story. It’s adapted from an acclaimed Chaim Potok book of the same title, though the adaptation by Aaron Posner is only several years old.

Coincidentally, we can see another Aaron Posner adaptation across town at ACT, Stupid Fucking Bird. It’s a unique opportunity that Seattle theaters sometimes accidentally give us to get to know a playwright more deeply by seeing two or more of his/her (but usually his) plays almost at once. Both plays focus on “art” and making it or living it or being compelled by it, but discuss “art” in very different ways.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Intimate production of "The Tempest" at New City Theater

Mary Ewald as Prospero in The Tempest (Shawn Hardison)
The Tempest
New City Theater
Through April 30, 2016

The tiny storefront venue of New City Theater can change just about any stage viewing experience dramatically, just because it’s so tiny. The intimate environment almost plunges one into the action of the play. So it is with their mounting of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which you have two more weekends to catch.

They’ve covered the playing area with fine white sand, since this island play deserves a beachy feel (designed by Nina Moser). The presentation is spare, except for fantasy-appropriate clothing (also by Moser).  The 14 players are mere inches away from the 49 seat audience!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Stupid Fucking Bird" - more Chekhov, less funny

Adam Standley in Stupid Fucking Bird (Chris Bennion)

Stupid Fucking Bird
ACT Theatre
Through May 8, 2016

When you see Stupid Fucking Bird at ACT Theatre, you’re going to see a play that hews very closely to its source material, Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. It’s a modern adaptation and has some amazing one-liners in it, but it very closely mimics the scene line-up of the Chekhov play. So, what you’ll see is almost a modern translation.

I thought it was a “take-off of” and not a “modern adaptation of” the original. That distinction is important. What the modern take by Aaron Posner does reveal more clearly is that a life is pretty essentially wasted if all one does is pine for a lost love, whether the love was ever requited or not.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Charming "Becky" shows off a great Dietz script

Veronica Tuttell and Jake Friang in Becky's New Car (Ted Jaquith)
Becky's New Car
Phoenix Theatre
Through May 1, 2016

Becky's New Car is a terrific script by Steven Dietz, a prolific playwright who spend half of each year here, so we can call him "local!" Part of its joy is that it showcases the life of a middle-aged woman. How many scripts can you think of, off hand, that have the main character be a woman, much less middle aged!? You can enjoy the play at Phoenix Theatre in Edmonds, a little theater that knows its comedy.

Becky doesn't have a terrible life, it's fairly ordinary. She's got a demanding but fairly ordinary job in a car dealership. She's got a loving, fairly ordinary husband who, less-ordinarily, pays attention to little things she likes and listens to her. She has a young adult son who lives at home, still, and so poses a fairly ordinary problem.

She also doesn't think of herself as a person who would do unusual things, like fall into an affair. Yet, here she is, meeting a rich widower, letting the rich widower mistake her for a widow, and somehow she's sitting in a car, driving to a party, wondering how she got here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Café Nordo: To Savor Tomorrow – A gastrosongical delight!

The cast of To Savor Tomorrow (Bruce Clayton Tom)
Café Nordo: To Savor Tomorrow
Through June 5, 2016

Challenging noshes, creative cocktails, some singing and dancing, and a clichéd-to-laugh-at storyline are on available for an affordable price as Café Nordo reprises and revises one of its earlier ventures, To Savor Tomorrow.

It’s 1962. This James Bond knock-off flies you overseas on a transcontinental flight from Asia to Seattle, just in time for the World’s Fair. We meet several spies loading aboard as flight crew. Chinese spies Jiang Ping (Sara Porkalob) and her henchman (Richard Sloniker) are bar crew. Russian spy Svetlana Romanova (Opal Peachey) is a stewardess (no “flight attendants” yet). CIA agent Bob (Mark Siano) is a supposed pilot. They are all trying to get their hands on Professor Peter Proudhurst’s briefcase.

The professor (Evan Mosher) is educating passengers about new technology, genetically alterned grain, that will enable crops to feed thousands of more people as they become resistant to pesticides. Of course, in 2016, we have many opinions about whether that development by Monsanto and others made for better crops or much worse ones. The spies look at the seed technology in the briefcase as either a terror to avoid or a way to destroy America from within!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Episodes of BRASS - nuggets of good stuff amid a bit of chaos

Fatal Footsteps (Dave Hastings)
BRASS: Fatal Footlights
Theater Schmeater
Through April 30, 2016

There is a media conglomerate building, called BRASS. The brainchild of writers John Longenbaugh and Louis Broome, it includes radio and podcast episodes (via KIXI 880AM), stage presentations like the episode Fatal Footlights, now appearing at Theater Schmeater, and film. Their website is www.battlegroundproductions.org.

The stage presentation at The Schmee has some charming elements, including a lot of fun stage jokes. An example, the narrator, George Bernard Shaw (Matthew Middleton), questions what the audience would think of such a bare set without various pieces of furniture and even a door, and then instructs the audience to imagine them.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Let us not forget Tray’s “brownsville song” (Seattle Rep)

brownsville song (b-side for tray) (Chris Bennion)

brownsville song (b-side for tray)
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through April 24, 2016

The 21st century internet has made most of us much more aware of the tragedies occurring routinely in poor neighborhoods, riddled with gangs, and poorly policed. While it’s not “fun” to go see a sad story about a murder of a bright young man with a compelling future, Kimber Lee’s play, brownsville song (b-side for tray), layers in a beguiling central character, Tray (played adorably by Chinaza Uche) and a perhaps-cliché’d difficult family life to tell the story.

Lee’s play wants to shed light on the multitudes of young people killed each year in hard-to-police neighborhoods. Her subtitle, referencing the lesser side of records, the “b” side, reflects the desire to bring attention to people that don’t make the news and don’t get attended to. Lee started with a real person, Tray Franklin, who lived and died (in 2012) in Brownsville, a community in New York City. In an article in the program, Claire Koleske says that Franklin’s name wasn’t even included in news articles about his death.

I imagine those saying, “Another young man was gunned down in Brownsville today.” It’s a collective shrug. So, I admire Lee’s impulse to help us meet this aspiring boxer who dreamed of attending college.