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.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

"Dreamgirls" is a Dream of a Production

The Dreams and Jimmy in Dreamgirls (Mark Kitaoka)

Village Theatre
Issaquah: through July 2, 2017
Everett: July 7 – 30, 2017

Best Musical Production of 2017 – so far for sure! Village Theatre has a bona fide hit on its hands with its final production of the season: Dreamgirls! The production is exciting, visually gorgeous, with a cast that is palpably having fun doing the show. It works on every level.

Steve Tomkins said it’s one of his “bucket list” musicals, one that he’s been wishing to do for a long time. Well, his choice to do it now speaks, also, to the growth of Village and its ability to field a sophisticated cast of mostly African-American talent who are mostly all located here, now, to accomplish this intense operetta (much of the dialogue in this musical is sung).

If you have never seen the 1983 stage musical or the 2006 movie, the plot takes inspiration from the real-life history of Motown founder Berry Gordy and the Supremes. A trio of naïve singers arrives in New York to make it big. A somewhat-shady “operator” takes them under his wing and defies expectation by finding a way to make R&B more palatable to “white” radio stations and helps them become stars. But only after pushing the larger, better singer to a supporting role to the one he thinks is prettier and with more star quality.

The musical demonstrates a lot of the seedy history of our country where white singers like Elvis and others heard a song and appropriated it into a hit by singing it themselves. The energy of change and civil rights in the 1960s and ‘70s did allow for breakout black stars to get the recognition they deserved.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

June Theater Openings are Busting Out in the Beginning of the Month

Ben Gonio as Sweeney Todd at ArtsWest (John McClellan)
Seven shows are opening in the beginning of June on our local stages! But the back half is pretty quiet. Maybe that will give you a chance to catch up with all the stuff you’d love to see but can’t fit into two weekends! While there’s a lot of great stuff many have been waiting for, you may want to make a special effort to catch ArtsWest’s Sweeney Todd, with an multi-ethnic cast you won’t often see.

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, ArtsWest, 6/1/17-7/1/17
Stephen Sondheim's bloody masterpiece tells the tale of an unjustly exiled barber returning to 19th century London to seek vengeance against the lecherous judge who framed him and ravaged his young wife. The road to revenge leads Todd to Mrs. Lovett, a resourceful proprietress of a failing pie shop, where her integration of an ingredient into her meat pies has the people of London lining up. An exemplary cast of people of color adds to what will transpire.

Lydia, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, 6/1-24/17
Lydia centers on two young women who move across borders—one between nations, and one across metaphysical borders between unknown, unseen worlds. Although technically hired as a maid, Lydia's primary responsibility is caring for the family's near-vegetative teenage daughter named Ceci, who was left in a coma after a mysterious accident that occurred right before her quinceanera, or 15th birthday. Unlike the family that surrounds her, Lydia is able to translate Ceci's thoughts—an adolescent stew of childhood memories, criticism and carnality.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Seattle Men’s Chorus at the Symphony

A rehearsal photo from Broadway Rocks (courtesy Seattle Symphony Orchestra)
Broadway Rocks
With the Seattle Men’s Chorus
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Benaroya Hall
May 19-21, 2017

Seattle Men’s Chorus had a wonderful opportunity this last week to join the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in concert. About fifty of the members augmented three absolutely top-notch Broadway talents in a “Broadway Rocks” concert. This is part of the Symphony’s “Seattle Pops” concert series.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Times the Charm - Money & Run Trilogy at The Schmee

Money, Take Run (Dave Hastings)
Money & Run –
Money, Take Run
Of Nuns and Ninjas
Save the Last Dance For Run
Theater Schmeater – in repertory
Through June 10, 2017

Wayne Rawley really got his opportunity to begin seeing plays he wrote at Theater Schmeater in 1999. He told me, in a brief conversation in a marathon night of seeing all three of his Money & Run shows in one evening, that he wrote the very first episode of Money & Run for a Schmee late night run. Late night shows were on fire back then and got huge audiences. Usually, they are funny and made more funny by drinking a few before and during the show.

So, he wrote this episode about a young man named Run and a young woman named Money who “meet cute” by sticking up a bar at the same time – not planned together! And then they go count the money and fall in love. He ended up writing eight more episodes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tragically Small Audience for Impeccable Solo Show - "Ode"

Nike Imoru (front) in Ode (Navid Baraty)
Ode: A Stage Song
West of Lenin
Through May 20, 2017

Nike Imoru has many hyphenates. She teaches and casts the TV show Z Nation and produces and directs and coaches and writes and acts. She has a PhD and has worked around the world. So, to get to know her in an autobiographical solo show is to find out a little more about how she came to be the many parts of who she is.

Her solo show, at West of Lenin, is called Ode: A Stage Song. She performs it with actor-dancer Simone Bruyere Fraser. Fraser is mostly silent, but in many ways becomes the emotional center of Imoru's narration.

Friday, May 12, 2017

1930s "Midsummer" Musical Is Most Fun When It's Shakespeare's Script

The "mechanicals" from A Midsummer Night's Dream (Chris Bennion)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Seattle Shakespeare Company
(at Cornish Playhouse)
Through May 21, 2017

Did you know that Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most performed play in the world? It’s a comedy and it’s Shakespeare and apparently that’s the golden ticket. Seattle Shakespeare Company is mounting it again, as we can certainly bet that they will continue to do, every four or five years. There’s always a new way to try, and audiences love to come.

This year’s production is in the style of a 1930s movie musical. There’s singing and dancing, the Busby Berkeley kind – they even use lighted props!! (thanks to the ideas of choreographer Crystal Dawn Munkers who also plays Hippolyta). There are a few head scratchy types of decisions by director/Theseus George Mount, like the entire play being performed “back stage” of a theater. “It’s a play within a play, see.” That and some other ideas don’t help, but then mostly they don’t hurt that much either.

Mount and his actors have a very firm grasp of the comedic elements, which are a joy. MJ Sieber, last year’s Gypsy Rose Lee Award nominee for a similar comedic master turn in A Winter’s Tale, also a Seattle Shakes production, is wonderful as Bottom, the simple man turned into a donkey by magic. Most of the common folk in the play-within-a-play (now –within-a-play!) are great fun. Steven Davis, a soon-to-be graduate of Cornish, is quite hilarious as Starveling, the Moon.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Cherdonna Plays House Until She Doesn't - And It's Kinda Great

Cherdonna's Doll's House (Jeff Carpenter)
Cherdonna’s Doll’s House
Washington Ensemble Theatre
Through May 15, 2017

Cherdonna Shinatra is a unique presence on the Seattle arts scene. She is the creation of performer Jody Kuehner who was awarded one of The Stranger’s Genius Awards in 2015. She might be described as a clown dancer. Her lithe body is ready to contort into many a dance move as her performance entity enlarges and amplifies her feelings.

She has teamed up with Washington Ensemble Theatre and Ali Mohamed el-Gasseir to create a unique experience of the Henrik Ibsen play, A Doll’s House. There are so many aspects of this evening that are intriguing and beguiling, at least from the beginning on toward the end.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

May Stage Flowers a'Bloomin'

Rehearsal photo for Skin by Deaf Spotlight (Patty Liang)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Seattle Shakespeare Co., 5/3/17-5/21/17 (at Cornish Playhouse)
This version of the classic “who loves who” comedy is placed in the realm of 1930s movie musicals about show business. George Mount says, “They're called backstage musicals. They’re movies about people on Broadway putting on plays. So we're going to do a play, based on the movie genre.” A band of local tradespeople gets mixed into the madness when one member is transformed into a donkey. The fairy Puck, who initiated the foolery, sorts it all out in time for a grand wedding and a nutty comic skit.

Skin, Deaf Spotlight, 5/4-7/17, 5/12-13/17 (at 12th Avenue Arts)
Deaf Spotlight is pleased to this story, which follows four Deaf Queer women who are struggling to make sense of violence, sex, love and friendship amidst a changing landscape, Seattle’s Capitol Hill. This will be performed in ASL and subtitled English.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

“Love” is not all there is

Here Lies Love (Navid Baraty)
Here Lies Love
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through June 18, 2017

So many “why?” questions… The huge, immersive production of Here Lies Love at Seattle Repertory Theatre has the company investing tens of thousands of dollars (maybe hundreds?). Why? What makes this idea, this musical so worth the money? The company has invested months in the making of it, remaking their largest theatrical space into a “nightclub” atmosphere with a movable light-up stage. Why?

There are many ways to construct a nightclub. Why have they built something that limits their usual 800+ seats to less than 300? Why must the stage move? That must have cost an enormous amount more. It shrinks the allowable dance floor by a lot!

They must believe in what they’re doing. That also has to mean that doing so is worth all of it. The experience of attending Here Lies Love is different, somewhat, if you’re sitting in the balcony above or the sides of the nightclub or on the floor where you have to stand for most of the 90-plus minute show. If you’re standing, perhaps wanting to dance the night away, you might get to dance a bit, but for most of that time, you’re watching a fairly standard musical theater production with set songs – many of them power ballads, not terribly danceable to.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The stereotype of the delicate Asian flower - "Nadeshiko"

Mi Kang and Maile Wong in Nadeshiko (John Cornicello)
Sound Theatre Company
Through May 16, 2017

An ambitious, vigorously mounted production from Sound Theatre Company seeks to weave together Japanese societal-cultural after-effects of World War II with a family’s modern descendants. Adventurous local writer Keiko Green uses some unconventional theatrical devices in Nadeshiko, along with traditional storytelling.

The main character in the play is a 20-something young woman, Risa (Maile Wong), who is struggling with formulating her path in life, and affording it. Taking a cue from her cousin, Sue (Mi Kang), our first introduction to her is as a hired sex object to a “White Haired Man” (Greg Lyle-Newton). When she accidentally runs away with money after not completing the task, she comes back a bit later to offer an apology (but no money because she says she needs it).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Excellent Production (by The Horse in Motion) Can’t Overcome Script Flaws

Wellesley Girl (Colby Wood)
Wellesley Girl
The Horse in Motion
(at 18th & Union)
Through April 29, 2017

The Horse in Motion is probably a small theater company you have never or rarely heard of. It was started as a collective of UW theater grads a few years back and has produced ensemble-created shows in particular. Their mission is to “expand the traditional conception of theatre.” If you attended their staging of Attempts on Her Life at the University Heights Center, that was a promising debut.

Sometimes, though, ya just have to do a “regular” kind of theatrical production. Their choice, now on stage, is a brand new play (2016) by Brendan Pelsue, who has a very solid East Coast playwrighting background. He was brought out by the company to work on tweaks to his new play, Wellesley Girl.

I’m going to flip my usual pattern of writing “about the show” and then “about the production” for this review, and I’m going to use first-person much more than usual. Sometimes, I see productions that are well done, but the play is perhaps not as good as the production. That’s the case here. This production is excellent!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Discover the “Unseen” at Taproot

Most of the cast of Evidence of Things Unseen (Erik Stuhaug)
Evidence of Things Unseen
Taproot Theatre
Through April 29, 2017

These days, a lot of attention is beginning to be paid to people with “unseen disabilities” and maybe, to some extent, that might be any one of us. We have tendencies to look at people and judge what we see, for better or ill. Have you ever seen someone use a disabled auto tag for parking and then seem to walk quickly and easily away from the vehicle? But perhaps you saw them take the only 100 comfortable (maybe pain-free) steps of their day. We don’t know. We can’t tell.

We all carry baggage and stories around with us, most of which are unseen. The world premiere play at Taproot Theatre, Evidence of Things Unseen by local playwright Katie Forgette, cracks open the secrets of a small family for us to discover.

Sisters Abigail (Christine Marie Brown) and Jane (Jenny Vaughn Hall) have been dealing with the death of their mother in very different ways. Abigail has been pushed away from her religious background and Jane has been pushed toward it. Their relationship has become rocky from those shifts. Since this issue is one of the key issues of the play, it seems that it becomes part of the unseen “things” that we would never know by looking at these sisters.

Monday, April 03, 2017

"A Proper Place" - Pleasing musical if you don't mind the problematic themes

The cast of A Proper Place (Mark Kitaoka)
A Proper Place
Village Theatre
Issaquah: Through April 23, 2017, Everett: April 28-May 21, 2017

If you don’t think about the substance of the brand new musical, A Proper Place, making its world premiere at Village Theatre, you can enjoy the peppy songs and (as usual) impeccable cast and have a pretty good time.

The story is based on J.M. Barrie’s 1902 play, The Admirable Crichton. Barrie wrote the much more famous Peter Pan books and plays. An upper crust British family goes on a cruise in their pleasure boat with a skeleton servant crew. They’re blown off course and land on an island with little hope of rescue.

None of the wealthy family knows a thing about survival, so they depend on their butler and a scullery maid/turned resourceful ladies’ maid to manage shelter and food and everything else. How the butler and maid know how to survive is an open question, but again, if you don’t look at it very hard, it’s just a stereotype and can be fun.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Sleek production might not be enough

Dry Powder (Jenny Graham)
Dry Powder
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through April 15, 2017

A handsomely mounted and handsomely directed (by Marya Sea Kaminski) and acted production at Seattle Repertory ought to mean that the brisk 95 minute play, Dry Powder, is a no-brainer to put on the calendar. Indeed, it’s even somewhat funny, though it’s about high-flying executives of a company that invests in businesses to make a profit – and only a profit, which may mean taking a company over and gutting its operations and staff and remaking it overseas.

The dialogue is fast-paced, full of economic jargon, enough so that the program gives you language to understand before you watch the play. You learn, if you didn’t know, that “dry powder” is the amount of unspent capital the company has left to invest in another business.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Theater in April - Time for World Premieres?

Nadeshiko (John Cornicello)
If it’s April, it must be World Premiere Month? Well, in Seattle it is! There is a ton of original work debuting this month, along with more musicals in unusual places. Spring open your calendar and get your tickets!

The Fog Machine Play, Copious Love Prods., 4/1-22/17 (at Slate Theater)
Local theater guy Brendan Mack purchased a fog machine for a production in 2013 but never actually used it. Then he decided to write a series of short plays about a fog machine. While The Fog Machine Play explores the various uses of theatrical fog, it also explores what it is like to produce fringe theatre in this day and age. This show will truly be “unforgettable.”

Here Lies Love, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 4/7/17-5/28/17
Seattle Rep transforms into a wild dance party, where techno beats spin and tell the story of the People's Power Revolution in the Philippines. Follow the meteoric rise and dramatic fall of the controversial First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos.

Friday, March 24, 2017

"26 Miles" a rewarding journey of personal discovery

Klara Cerris and Alma Villegas in 26 Miles (Michael Brunk)
26 Miles
Latino Theatre Projects
(at West of Lenin)
Through April 8, 2017

In 2015, Theatre22 produced a play by Quiara Alegria Hudes, Water By the Spoonful, which garnered 10 Gypsy Rose Lee nominations and three wins. It had also won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. Director-nominee Julie Beckman directed a super production of that play and has returned to Hudes at a different company for her 26 Miles, produced by Latino Theatre Projects.

So, this production was much anticipated, and does not disappoint. Hudes’ style here is different from Water By the Spoonful, but still smart, thoughtful, and very true to life. This play is very personal to Hudes. It reflects her own life growing up in Philadelphia. It is set in 1986 with a 15 year-old girl protagonist. That’s one of the small differences that “fictionalizes” the play, since Hudes was born in 1977, not 1971.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ACT Theatre's "Tribes" explores deaf culture

Joshua Castille and Lindsay W. Evans in Tribes (photo by Chris Bennion)
ACT Theatre
Through March 26, 2017

Deaf culture gets a hearing (oh, oof) in ACT Theatre’s newest play, Tribes, by Nina Raine. The production is a solid one, with all six actors taking strong positions as well-constructed characters with vivid points of view.

Directed in the round by John Langs, a busy but effective homey set by Shawn Ketchum Johnson greets the audience as the home of Christopher and Beth (Frank Corrado and Anne Allgood) who still live with their three adult children, Daniel, Ruth, and Billy (Adam Standley, Kjerstine Rose Anderson, and Joshua Castille).