Thursday, October 19, 2017

Light and Dark: "The World of Extreme Happiness"

A moment in The World of Extreme Happiness (John Ulman)
The World of Extreme Happiness
Seattle Public Theater
(with SiS Productions)
Through November 5, 2017

In The World of Extreme Happiness, by playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, the Chinese people are presented with two essential choices: to stay in the country and be penniless farmers or go to the City to work in factories to try to become someone more, someone famous, someone rich. 

This is a dark look at Chinese culture, but it easily resonates with any subculture, anywhere in the world, where people toil in thankless jobs that sap their courage, individuality, aspiration, belief, or health. If Cowhig wrote it about American field workers or factory workers, it would be no less applicable.

But if she did write it about America, it might be that audiences would be less open to consuming what she’s presenting. We don’t want to think about the unceasing toil that many people worldwide provide when we use what they’ve created, whether it’s Apple products or organic strawberries.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

BenDeLaCreme Brings Halloween

The entire cast of Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor (Kevin Heard)
Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor
(at ACT Theatre)
Through October 29, 2017

Just in time for Halloween, BenDeLaCreme has created a little silly morsel of a playlet that is clearly all about fun and barely about story. There’s a manor with a Count (Major Scales) who has a scary Mommy Skeleton (Sann Hall – puppeteer) who exhorts him to kill unsuspecting people who wander by.

Of course, BenDeLaCreme, as Patsy Jejune, wanders by and gets caught and subjected to being chased by dancing skeletons, and dancing ghosts, and a hunky weir wolf, so there’s a lot of running back and forth in ginormous heels while we all hold our breath to see if she falls down or not.

Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor is probably best seen slightly buzzed. Certainly there is no need to pay much attention to plot, but the singing, mostly by Major Scales, who writes original tunes for this, is fine, and the costumes are great (designed by Danial Hellman – and others? the program isn’t exactly clear).

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Powerful "Sycorax" Speaks to Racism

Demene E. Hall in Sycorax (Tom Chargin)
Snowflake Avalanche
(at 18th & Union)
Through October 14, 2017

There’s a Shakespeare play, The Tempest, that many people are familiar with. It has several “magical” characters, one of which is Caliban, who is described as a monster, and the offspring of a witch named Sycorax.

Prospero, a noble deliberately shipwrecked (by rivals) on an island with his daughter says Caliban is “a freckled whelp hag-born--not honour'd with a human shape” and calls him filth and a slave. When Prospero first came to the island, Caliban helped him learn how to survive there, but years later, Prospero treats him terribly.

Playwright Y York conceived of a new way of looking at Caliban through his mother. What if, she considered, Sycorax was dark-skinned? What if Caliban was also dark-skinned? What if their lives were considered immaterial and the reasons they are labeled a “witch” and a “monster” were because of skin color and not because of actual inhuman features?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Don’t Be “Prejudice”d Against Slapstick

Some case of Pride and Prejudice (Alan Alabastro)
Pride and Prejudice
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through October 29, 2017

I would never have thought that Pride and Prejudice and “slapstick” could go together in a sentence, but here we are! In the best possible way… The new adaptation by Kate Hamill, as directed by Amanda Dehnert, with a rockin’ cast that is ready to catch each other off-guard if they can for a laugh, is Slapstick Heaven!

Do not worry that this adaptation will make you compare it to Jennifer Ehle and the wonderful BBC production. Do not worry, either, that it misses the storyline in the actual book. Rather, it’s a whole new idea of how to present the exact story, only different.

The actors still speak in British accents, and dress more-or-less in period stylings. But they also blow bullhorns, wiggle thundersheets, dance to 21st Century tunes, and change characters while we watch by pulling off or on a jacket.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Is Einstein Relatively Great or Relatively Not? You Decide

Dennis Bateman and Candace Vance in Relativity (Erik Stuhaug)
Taproot Theatre
Through October 4, 2017

Many times, when we find out negative information about famous folk, that information might end up impacting our feelings about the contributions of those famous folk to our world. Often the negative information is about actions these famous folks took in their lives that changes our perceptions of them from heroic to “terrible human,” in the extreme.

We’ve seen that very recently with Bill Cosby, changing some from loving his shows and comedy albums to not being able to listen to them at all. In the past, media didn’t reveal things like infidelities about people like John Kennedy, Jr. or Martin Luther King, Jr. – and we know now that adultery was part of how they negotiated the world. But does that matter to people?

Mark St. Germain, who seems to love to write plays about real people and real events, has written a play about Albert Einstein. He of the Theory of Relativity fame and the fuzzy white hair and German accent. A persistent interviewer shows up at Einstein’s home and refuses to be kicked out. She has a plausible story and even a contract that says anything she asks that he does not want published will be cut out of her story.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

October Openings Are Full of Brand-New Plays

Demene Hall in Y York's new play Sycorax (Tom Chargin)
If you’ve been bemoaning the lack of brand-spanking-new plays to see, October is YOUR MONTH. We have world premieres in spades about all sorts of topics. If that doesn’t float your boat, there are reinterpretations of classics, and more.

Pride and Prejudice, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 10/1-29/17 (opens 10/4)
Playwright Kate Hamill adapts this classic love story with a decidedly progressive take on the trials and travails of Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and the delightful Bennet clan. But empire waists and lavish Regency-era attire still abound in this familiar yet surprisingly modern west coast premiere adaptation.

Sycorax, Snowflake Avalanche, 10/6-14/17 (at 18&Union) (world premiere)
Demene E. Hall stars in this, Y York’s newest play, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A profound meditation on persecution, vengeance and forgiveness. Betrayed by a mother, a lover, her son’s lover, society, and the vicious lies that Prospero has foisted on the world, Sycorax makes an excellent case to the gods for revenge.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Forward Flux - Always (At Least) Interesting

The cast of las mariposas y los muertos (Joe Moore)
las mariposas y los muertos (world premiere)
By Benjamin Benne
Forward Flux Productions
Through October 7, 2017

Two sisters and a best friend, frustrated with the music on the indie-rock scene, decide to form a band. In this one-act, playwright Benjamin Benne shoves a boatload of subject matter and some original rock songs by Angie Citiali Vance into a short space.

First there is the rise and dysfunction of the trio, Elena (Sophie Franco), little sister Celestina (Jordi Montes), and Molly (Grace Carmack). They spar over what to name the band, deciding on Las Mariposas (The Butterflies) because butterflies live beautiful but short lives. They spar over whether to include Spanish in their lyrics. Elena writes most of their music until Celestina wants to write one song that suddenly becomes popular.

Elena, written as a whiny, bitchy, unself-aware ass, gets more and more bent out of shape about the one popular song, which uses Latinx iconography to ironic effect. Then it becomes Molly’s problem. Molly, after all, wanted the name, and the Spanish lyrics, and helped write the popular song, and….. Molly is WHITE! It doesn’t help that Molly speaks better Spanish than either sister and can communicate with their grandmother (Anabel Hovig) in her language.

The play does not seem to make Elena a joke, though. We’re supposed to take her seriously.

An area Benne does make a joke, to great effect, is how the band is evaluated by press, all of whom are random white men.

The songs seem inseparable from the play. They are a rock band, after all, so they should at least play and sing once, though it could be recorded, perhaps. But the songs take up a bit too much time given how much territory the play wants to cover.

The family drama is important and doesn’t get nearly enough time. There is a dead mother and tremendous angst about that that is not exploited. Also, Hovig speaks almost entirely in Spanish and it is not translated for the audience. It almost feels like a bulk of the theme of the play is said in Spanish. Those who spoke Spanish in the audience (I understand a tiny, tiny amount) laughed a lot and I was jealous.

Hovig makes a compelling grandmother stereotype with aspects of magical realism. Franco does a good job as lead singer, but can’t overcome the nastiness of her character. Carmack does a great job as a best friend and white apologist, in an unfortunate position. Montes is a good actor and played the drums well. But there is no way she’s a younger sister in this trio.

Lance Valdez and Kiki Abba in No More Sad Things (J Reese)
No More Sad Things (world premiere)
By Hansol Jung
Forward Flux Productions
Through October 7, 2017

No plays come to mind when thinking about Native Hawaiians. So, No More Sad Things is already unusual in featuring a young Hawaiian speaking in the patois of the islands. Lance Valdez does a great job of embodying Kahekili, the surfing, carefree young Hawaiian. He is not always easy to understand, but always engaging.

Kahekili meets a 32-year-old tourist American, Jessiee (Kiki Abba), after they both have dreams of import pointing toward each other. Jessiee has so much difficulty in her life that she decides she must escape the Midwest and goes to Maui. She’s determined to try to keep the Sad Things out of her head and ends up on a quiet beach with only Kahekili, the sand, and the surf, and things take their course.

Only after spending several days together does Jessiee finally asks how old Kahekili is. She’s shocked to find out he’s only 15. So are we. Valdez doesn’t look anything like 15, of course, though 15 year olds do look more grown than we think, often.

Friday, September 22, 2017


Aaron Lamb and Katherine Strohmaier in The Last Five Years (Scot Whitney)
The Last Five Years
AK-L5 Productions
Through October 2, 2017

Lots of people have performed the musical The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown for many reasons: it's a two-hander (only uses two actors); often people who think it would be good to do are musical theater couples already; it doesn't need a lot of set; it doesn't need a lot of musicians; it can pretty much be done anywhere. Also, it has a cool kind of way to tell the story of a five year relationship: one person tells it "forward" and the other person tells it "backward."

ACT Theatre Presents Award-Winning Playwright Lauren Yee’s “King of the Yees”

King of the Yees (Chris Bennion)
King of the Yees
ACT Theatre
Through October 1, 2017

Lauren Yee, the inventive playwright of Ching Chong Chinamen, has just been named the recipient of the 2017 Kesselring Prize for playwriting from the National Arts Club. She will receive a $25,000 award and the opportunity to reside for two weeks in the historic clubhouse of the National Arts Club in order to develop her work.

She’s also got her play, King of the Yees, running at ACT Theatre, with a lovely cast including Khanh Doan, Stan Egi, Ray Tagavilla, Annelih GH Hamilton, and Joseph Ngo. She has brought her work to Washington State on numerous occasions, most often to do workshops and attend retreats for writing like Hedgebrook. She feels like a local writer.

King of the Yees is an inventive and pseudo-autobiographical play. We begin by meeting “Lauren” and her “father” (Hamilton and Tagavilla) and then immediately find out that they are playing in a play Lauren has written, when Lauren (Doan) shows up with her father (Egi) to rehearsal. The play separates into back-and-forth scenes with the actors taking a break and Lauren becoming wrapped up in a quest to find her father when he goes missing.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

WET Programs A Good One With “Teh Internet”

Some of the large cast of Teh Internet Is Serious Business (Jeff Carpenter)
Teh Internet Is Serious Business
Washington Ensemble Theatre
Through October 2, 2017

The press release blurb for Washington Ensemble Theatre’s mounting of Teh Internet Is Serious Business by Tim Price says, “Forward slash forward slash, angle bracket, quotation, command, dialogue, angle bracket, semicolon: it’s 2004, the year hacktivist group Anonymous emerged as a can’t-be-tamed digital authority with unexpected influence. This mercurial and irreverent tale follows the network’s pointed take down of the Church of Scientology and ponders the revolution of online global power. Called “liberating” and “enlightening” by The Guardian, Washington Ensemble Theatre will mount Tim Price’s smart and captivating play. Can you feel the lulz?”

I’m not sure what the description prepares you for, but embedded in the description is the fact that the play is “about” a real piece of actual Internet history. The way that playwright Price goes about telling that compelling history is incisive and interesting and, as produced by director Wayne Rawley and the team at WET, it’s a very entertaining story.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Spoofing Musicals and Shakespeare, "Something Rotten" Smells Like a Good Time

Cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)
Something Rotten
5th Avenue Theatre
Through October 1, 2017

If you love musicals, one of the fun parts of seeing the national tour of Something Rotten is the opportunity to listen hard for all the different musicals spoofed or mentioned or sung for one or two bars of music. In this YouTube video,, they'll show you which ones are mentioned in the song, A Musical. Musicals such as Fascinating Rhythm, Gypsy, Seussical, The Music Man, South Pacific, Les Miserables, RENT, A Chorus Line, Chicago, EVITA, Putting It Together, Annie, Guys and Dolls, Sweet Charity, Hello Dolly, Cats, Sweeney Todd, and Busby Berkeley-style dance moves.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

1964’s “Blues for Mister Charlie” Packs a Gut-punch

Cast of Blues for Mister Charlie (Bruce Tom)
Blues for Mister Charlie
The Williams Project
(at Franklin High School)
Through September 17, 2017

No matter that a piece of theater demands that the participants say the “n” word because it has to be said, it’s still a painful experience to me. How much more so might it be to people who have lived with the history of being labeled with such!

And say it they must for a historic play by James Baldwin, crafted as a memorial to the murder of young 14-year-old Emmett Till and Baldwin’s friend, Medgar Evers. Written in 1964, it reflects the language of the time, where people in small southern towns still peppered their speech with it and segregation was virtually the law of the land.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

September Blossoms With Theater Openings

The cast of The Who and The What at ArtsWest (courtesy ArtsWest)
If it’s back-to-school, that’s the signal for Back to Theater. 26 productions are listed here and there are likely others. Get out your calendars – you have some work to do!

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Lamplight Productions, 9/1-17/17 (at Bathhouse Theatre)
Christopher Durang plays with Chekhov’s themes and comments on age, entitlement, and social media with ridiculous comedy. Siblings Vanya and Sonia live in the family home in Bucks County, PA spending their days doing nothing but lamenting. Masha, the third sibling (who is funding their life with her movie star career), returns home with a beautiful and very young boyfriend and life as Vanya and Sonia know it is threatened.

The Tempest, Fern Shakespeare Company, 9/1-16/17 (at Slate Theater)
Marooned on a deserted island with a child for twelve years, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, finds that those that conspired against him have shipwrecked and washed up on the same shore. Shakespeare asks difficult questions. What will happen when Prospero’s past and present life collides? What does it mean to be human?  Do we ever truly have control over the events of our lives and those we love? Or is the adage true, that if you truly love something you must let it go?

The Who & The What, ArtsWest and Pratidhwani, 9/7/17-10/1/17
Brilliant Pakistani-American writer Zarina is focused on finishing her novel about women and Islam when she meets Eli, a young convert to Islam, who bridges the gulf between her modern life and her traditional heritage. But when her conservative father and sister discover her controversial manuscript, they are all forced to confront the beliefs that define them. From Ayad Akhtar, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Disgraced.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Solid "August: Osage County" Reflects Harlequin Productions' Stature

Ellen McLain and Ann Flannigan in August: Osage County (courtesy Harlequin Productions)
Many folks in the Greater Seattle area don't get out to any theater location they think of as "boonies." That might include Renton, Bellevue, Redmond, Edmonds, Tacoma, the West Sound, Federal Way, Burien, Kent, and certainly Olympia.

I'll encourage you to consider venturing farther afield than Capitol Hill and Downtown Seattle because there are a lot of solid theater producers out there, including SecondStory Repertory (Redmond), Phoenix Theatre and Driftwood Theatre (Edmonds), Renton Civic, Burien Actors Theatre, Centerstage (Federal Way), Theatre Battery (Kent), Tacoma Musical Playhouse, and Harlequin Productions (Olympia).

It's not easy to consider driving 66 miles (from Seattle to Olympia), but those who do generally find productions that are equal to our midrange Seattle theaters like ArtsWest, Seattle Public, and Taproot.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Beautifully Mounted Fairytale at Sound Theatre Company

Goblin Market (Ken Holmes)
Goblin Market
Sound Theatre Company
Through August 27, 2017

Sound Theatre Company has provided us with a fairytale about sisterhood, based on a long poem written in the mid-1800s. Goblin Market, a cautionary tale about alluring Goblin Men who lure good girls into folly, which can kill them, has been turned into a burnished musical reverie performed with high gloss.

Let’s talk about the four talented women who take turns becoming Laura and Lizzie each night in a rotating fashion. Justine Davis and Claire Marx take turns as Lizzie and Kelly Mak and Miranda Trout become Laura. The alternating two become goblins, servants, whatever is necessary. When all four sing together, they make wonderful harmonies.

The harmonies are apparently newly arranged by local musical directer whiz-guy, Nathan Young. There is also a small band of musicians behind a semi-opaque scrim with conductor Aimee Hong on piano, Teresa Sandys on violin, and Rachael Beaver on cello. They sound heavenly and very Victorian. The piano is made to sound like a harpsichord sometimes, unless there is also one back there!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Will You Feel “Much Better”?

Much Better (photo Zoe Burchard)
Much Better
Really-Really Theatre Group
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through September 2, 2017

Is it better to feel too much or too little? If you are tormented by your feelings and if you pour your feelings all over your life and if people are exhausted by your feelings and want to avoid too much time with you, is the answer to get your feelings surgically lessened?

This is the essential question in a science fiction play by Elisabeth Frankel, now being presented by new theater company, Really-Really Theatre Group. Much Better debates Ashley’s dilemma as a hyper-empath. Ashley not only feels her own feelings, she feels other people’s too!

But there is a solution, she finds. A technology called “Neuroclear” will lower her ability to feel, and perhaps bring her a measure of relief. It’s pretty clear, though, that it’s permanent, and like all technologies, there could be unintended consequences.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Writers Go Through Musical-Writing Development in Festival

Kirsten DeLohr Helland and Janet Krupin in Afterwords (Sam Freeman)

The second weekend in August has become an annual summer ritual in Issaquah, Washington. Village Theatre produces the Festival of New Musicals. This weekend was the 17th such festival. After a rigorous process of winnowing down hundreds of submissions from all over, even a few other countries, they bring together writers of new musicals and top singing/acting talent from the region (and sometimes New York and Los Angeles among others) for what are termed “29 hour workshops.” They provide directors and music directors and it all culminates in a three-day celebration of musical creation.

This year, there was a musical about Nikola Tesla, one about a little-known burial island in New York City (Hart Island), a developing fantasy musical to be staged by Book-It Repertory Theatre this winter (Howl’s Moving Castle) and a zombie musical.

I was able to interview the women behind a new musical called Afterwords, focusing on a young woman’s quest to uncover more about a suddenly-killed mentor’s secret love life. When she inherits his journals, she then discovers the woman has also suddenly died, and is driven to connect with the woman’s two daughters. The musical has many themes about family and connection and legacy.

Friday, August 04, 2017

“Statements After An Arrest” - a Timely and Compelling Drama

Darian Upshaw in Statements.... (Dave Hastings)
Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act
Theater Schmeater
Through August 12, 2017

A production of the Athol Fugard play, Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act, is a kind of must-see production. It reminds that there was a time not that far in the past where intermingling and romance and sex between folks of different shades of melanin were declared illegal. This happened in South Africa with national laws, but also in the United States in various areas.

The play includes an even more difficult emotional situation because Errol Philander, a "colored" South African is married when he sneaks into the local library at night to meet librarian, Frieda Joubert. His immorality is doubly deep, in that aspect. Once the couple is arrested, they expose to community judgment both themselves and his family.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Café Nordo Presents “Sundown at the Devil’s House”

Rebecca M. Davis in Sundown at the Devil's House and band (Joe Iano)
Sundown at the Devil’s House
Café Nordo
Through August 6, 2017

“It's the Devil's last night on Earth, and she and her cohorts will titillate, beguile, and entertain the audience with stories of the Devil's greatest triumphs and darkest secrets.” So says the website information. If there is a reason in there, somewhere, why it’s the Devil’s “last” night, it escaped notice, but the cast of players certainly did their best to titillate, beguile and entertain.

They sing some songs, and tell a lot of stories. There are pseudo-Biblical tales with completely different, though recognizable components. One of the strongest aspects of the script is the explanation of the Devil as the Fallen Angel, though the description of the jobs that angels do in “Heaven” might not match almost any ideas you ever thought would be done in Heaven, including “doing God’s taxes.” That one is a not-very-appropriate job choice, since God probably is not financially beholden to any country’s laws, no matter which kind of God you believe in.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Check Out What’s Opening in August

Cast of Goblin Market at Sound Theatre Company (Julia Nardin)
There are still plenty of shows to see in August, especially in neighborhood parks, but only a few debuting this month. Including a show that didn’t make the July cut off, here is a list of productions opening in August.

American Archipelago, Pony World Theatre, July 27-August 12 (at 12th Avenue Arts)
This new play examines the joys and heartaches of being an American today. The script was collaboratively composed by Holly Arsenault, Kelleen C. Blanchard, Tré Calhoun, Vincent Delaney, Brendan Healy, Maggie Lee, Sara Porkalob, and Seayoung Yim. We welcome you to a quaint little neighborhood called the United States of America. Upscale and working class, where suburban streets wind through packed city blocks, this neighborhood feels like a community - and a powder keg. White picket fences will blur and the American tapestry will start to unravel. Eight next door neighbors from Nashville and New York and Montana and San Francisco will gather at the big block party cookout to grill hotdogs, share recipes, fall in love, murder chickens, and finally tell each other what they think. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

eSe Teatro Reaches Out to Less Fortunate

Cast of MUD (Maryssa Lagervall)
eSe Teatro
(at Slate Theater)
Through July 30, 2017

eSe Teatro is producing MUD (or Barro), by Maria Irene Fornes, as both a Spanish-language and English-language production at the versatile Slate Theater (in the INS Building). The three actors, Monica Cortes Viharo, Marco Adiak Voli, and Fernando Cavallo, perform in both languages.

The play is a plaintive drama about three people surviving in poverty and depravation who still have desires and aspirations like all of us. The effort by director (and formidable power behind eSe Teatro) Rose Cano is clearly to open our minds and hearts to those who live on the edges and who strive to find joy. The company’s dedication to elevating those who have little to none was written about recently in The Seattle Times as Cano was shown reaching out to the local homeless shelter to invite clients to come to her production.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

“Alex and Aris” Has a Dual Audience

Alex & Aris (Chris Bennion)
Alex & Aris
ACT Theatre
Through August 6, 2017

I expect large chunks of people to like something I might not and vice versa – nature of criticism… But sometimes when I feel very intrigued, I get startled when I become aware of others who don’t feel the same way. Attending opening night of ACT’s world premiere play, Alex & Aris, I heard about a fair amount of intermission-leavers and people who just plain didn’t care about the characters.

I understand it and therefore will focus this review around what “they” (the playwright, Moby Pomerance, and director John Langs) may be attempting to demonstrate in this play about the historical but murky period of time, four years, that the great philosopher, Aristotle, spent tutoring the young man who would go on to become Alexander “the Great”. 

The genesis of the play was essentially a “commission,” where Langs asked Pomerance, who had a play chosen as ACT’s New Play Award, The Piano Men, if Pomerance had any more to look at. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Beautiful Blues of “Hoodoo Love”…

Porscha Shaw, Andre G. Brown, Corey Spruill in Hoodoo Love (Margaret Toomey)
Hoodoo Love
Sound Theatre Company/Hansberry Project
(at Armory Theatre)
Through July 30, 2017

The atmospherics of Sound Theatre Company/Hansberry Project’s new production of Hoodoo Love are beautifully rendered with two shanty shacks and Depression era props by designer Margaret Toomey, lots of blues music interludes by designer Ben Symons (and music played by Chic Street Man), and moody, depressed lighting by Matthew Webb.

It is a tough and tough-minded play by Katori Hall (The Mountaintop) that demonstrates the kinds of daunting challenges and outrages that women, black women in particular, had to overcome and find a way to thrive through. Director Malika Oyetimein clearly feels this play clear through (partly from having directed it already before she went through grad school at UW) and uses every moment to make the theme shine.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

“Fun Home” Has a FuneREAL Sense of Humor! See It!

Kate Shindle as 'Alison,' Abby Corrigan as 'Medium Alison' and Carly Gold as 'Small Alison' in Fun Home  (Joan Marcus)
Fun Home
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through July 30, 2017

You may not know about Alison Bechdel, or her graphic novel that took the graphic novel world by storm, as she drew about her unique family growing up in a funeral home. They called it the “fun home” for short, giving rise to her title. 

If you love theater and watch the Tonys, you might have seen a snippet of the musical, Fun Home, that is based on her not-so-fun life growing up with a tortured father who tried hard to give her everything he had but also passed along his self-hatred as he lived his own difficult life as a gay man in the closet.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

If You Love Jane Austen and Musicals Or Maybe Even Just Musicals, See What's Opening at Taproot!

Cayman Ilika (and Nick DeSantis) and Matthew Posner in Persuasion (Erik Stuhaug)
(World Premiere musical)
Taproot Theatre
July 12 to August 19, 2017

Taproot Theatre is undertaking a brand new effort for their company, but one that is already looking to pay off solid dividends. Friday night, they will open a world premiere musical in their “summer musical” spot. Tickets are already getting difficult to buy on select popular dates!

Why? It seems a whole lot of people like Jane Austen stories and the fact that local musical-writers Chris Jeffries (music and lyrics) and Harold Taw (book) have chosen to musicalize her novel, Persuasion, is making a lot of folks very excited.

Persuasion is Austen’s last book, published just after she died in 1817, and is the moodiest of her canon. Her heroine begins the book as a kind of “past her prime” older sister who had been persuaded (see the word, here, suggesting the title of the book and musical?) to dump a suitor, Wentworth, at the usual marriageable age of 19, because her godmother Lady Russell convinced her that he was not an appropriate alliance and it would haunt her and her children to be brought socially low by the match. However, ever since, she has regretted her choice.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Kevin Lin Mows Down “Greensward”

Greensward (Shane Regan)
MAP Theatre
(World Premiere at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through July 29, 2017

Kevin Lin is fast becoming one of the go-to solid actors in our little town. Last year, he had two prominent roles in two very good productions. In Caught, at Seattle Public Theater, he played an artist and in Book-It’s adaptation of A Tale for the Time Being, he played a man forced to become a soldier even though he could not kill. In Ghostlight Theatricals’ January production of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, he played three different Watsons with very different personalities.

Now you can catch him in the middle of a sci-fi dystopian thriller-comedy by MAP Theatre. It’s also a world premiere by R. Hamilton Wright called Greensward. Lin stars as scientist Dr. Timothy Hei who has invented a most amazing kind of grass – it never needs watering or fertilizer or weed-killer or thatching or even any particular soil, and it only needs mowing once a year!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Donald Byrd, Could You Do (IM)PULSE Again, Please?

(IM)PULSE (Nate Waters)

Spectrum Dance Theater
(at Seattle Repertory)
June 15 to July 2, 2017

Mia culpa! I apologize to myself and to readers for not going to see (IM)PULSE earlier and letting you know how great it was so you would be motivated to go. This effort by Donald Byrd and his company, Spectrum Dance Theater, was a direct gut punch of excellence!

Byrd wanted to create a performance response to the shootings last June at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida. He wanted to make the point that it involved not just gay people and allies, but gay people of color in particular that were the predominant attendees. To do so, he created dance around two written pieces – a short verbal description of a horrific gay-bashing of a friend (by David Wojnarowicz who died of AIDS in 1992), repeated over and over, and a longer play by Brian Quirk, Marrow, that was adjusted to be performed by a solo performer.

The effect folds in aspects of historic gay-bashing and AIDS issues, and the effects on the internal struggles with anyone discovering s/he is LGBTQ and therefore not quite part of the mainstream America zeitgeist.

Friday, June 30, 2017

July Theater is HOT

Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act (Dave Hastings)

Persuasion (Erik Stuhaug)

It’s July, so that means the Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival, at Volunteer Park, July 15th and 16th. It’s an opportunity to try to see all the “park shows” in one weekend, if you’d like. 16 performances by nine local theater companies on three stages over two days. Participating companies are GreenStage (Richard II and The Comedy of Errors), Seattle Shakespeare Company's Wooden O (Pericles and Much Ado About Nothing), Last Leaf Productions (The Comedy of Errors), Theater Schmeater (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe), The 14/48 Projects (Coyote Tails), Freehold Theatre (Hamlet –Engaged), Jet City Improv (The Lost Folio), Young Shakespeare Workshop (Hamlet), and Shakespeare Northwest (Once Upon a Shakespearean Time). The full schedule for the festival is online. Of course, all these shows will be at other parks throughout July and into August.

There is also a lot of other really exciting theater to see this month, so take a look at this list and plan to catch some amazing entertainment.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What’s Drag Got to Do With It?

Timothy McCuen Piggee and Adam Standley in The Legend of Georgia McBride (Chris Bennion)
The Legend of Georgia McBride
ACT Theatre
Through July 2, 2017

Adam Standley continues to show his considerable talent for captivating a theater audience in his latest outing: The Legend of Georgia McBride at ACT Theatre by Matthew Lopez. The show is a rollicking good time (though maybe a bit “old fashioned” by now) as it focuses on a straight man becoming a drag queen (gasp! how shocking!).

Casey is at his wits’ end when his boss, Eddie, fires him from being an Elvis impersonator in order to let the boss’s cousin perform a drag show. And right when he bounced the rent check and finds out his wife, Jo, is pregnant! He’s asked to bartend, but then suddenly a drugged out drag queen fails her duty and who else is there to step in? Hurry, hurry, you must put on that dress and mean it!

There’s not a lot of mystery to the show. There’s just a lot of good time entertainment! The small cast is clearly having fun and the costumes and wigs put the entire show over the top!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

“Braggsville” is Well Worth the Visit

The main characters in Welcome to Braggsville (Alabastro Photography)
Welcome to Braggsville
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through July 2, 2017

The book, Welcome to Braggsville, by T. Geronimo Johnson, is branded as a sharp, incisive, and funny satire. The play, as adapted by Josh Aaseng and Daemond Arrindell for Book-It Repertory Theatre, is not particularly funny, though it keeps appellations such as sharp and incisive, and it is definitely challenging. It is extremely current, especially given the newly tragic death in “liberal Seattle” of another black person at the hands of the police. As much as we want to believe in some kind of post-racial society, we keep being shown that we have a long way to go to become what we may wish.

The topic at hand is whether our white, liberal conceits are pierce-able by reality on the ground and whether we can allow ourselves to learn and grow after setting aside our self-congratulations. The community that is teased the hardest, in the novel and play, is Berkeley college students. It begins with a diverse group of freshmen going to a party where one is supposed to put a dot “where you’d like to be touched.”

When they all put the dot in the middle of their foreheads, other party-goers excoriate them as lacking the sensibility to realize they were mocking Indians (the dots that are used to denote married or single) and after they are sent packing, they declare themselves the “four little Indians – from different tribes.” The four are: small-town Georgia white boy, D'aron (Zack Summers), feminist, white woman, Candice (Sylvie Davidson), the “kung fu comedian” Asian-American, Louis (Justin Huertas), and the black inner-city Chicagoan, Charlie (Dimitri Woods).

Friday, June 16, 2017

NCTC's "Realistic Joneses" Well Done but Reality Bites

Peter Dylan O'Connor and Brenda Joyner in The Realistic Joneses (Danielle Franich)
The Realistic Joneses
New Century Theatre Company
Through July 1, 2017

There is a terrific four-hander cast doing some lovely acting work and it’s easy to appreciate them doing so. The big problem with New Century Theatre Company’s production of The Realistic Joneses is that they’re doing The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno.

Will Eno’s play, Thom Pain (based on nothing) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2005. It was produced at Seattle Repertory not long afterward in 2006 with stalwart actor Todd Jefferson Moore who has done many plays with great talent. However, my biggest memory of that experience was being yelled at by a solo actor for over an hour. I hated it. Not just didn’t like it…

That play is one of the number of times I have found a play to have won a Pulizter Prize or been a finalist and wondered just what the panel was smoking that caused them to make the choices they made.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

“Barbecue” is one hot show

Lamar Legend and Shaunyce Omar in Barbecue (Naomi Ishisaka)
Intiman Theatre
(at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute)
Through June 25, 2017

Nothing is quite what it seems in this Robert O’Hara play, Barbecue, mounted by Intiman Theatre and directed by talented Malika Oyetimein. Most anyone who writes about this play will have to sketch in oblique descriptions so we don’t give away too many plot twists – and saying that gives you too much information about plot twists!

O’Hara is deft with dialogue. He catches how people tease and express emotions with toss away lines. He plunges the audience into the middle of scenes and lets us catch up with what is going on. He also has a strong point of view. His plays – so far, Intiman and Oyetimein have done two including Bootycandy in 2015 – are part uproariously funny, and part disturbing, and always challenging the status quo.

Monday, June 05, 2017

“Lydia” Encapsulates the Border Between Reality and Poetry

Carolyn Marie Monroe and Sofia Raquel Sanchez in Lydia (John Ulman)
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through June 24, 2017

Strawberry Theatre Workshop has chosen a more-than-worthy play to present: Lydia by Octavio Solis. It’s hard to write about because there is just so much that should not be said before anyone sees the play! Even the barest minimums reveal aspects that would be better discovered by an audience that has no idea what they’re going to see.

Having said that, while it’s an intense, challenging, sometimes difficult journey, it’s a stellar effort and is definitely one of the most important plays you will see this year! If you like a play that sticks to you for weeks like glue, you will love seeing this one! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it on stage.