Thursday, December 14, 2017

Live Girls! Asks "If Abraham Lincoln Was Assassinated Before Inauguration, Would the U.S. Still Exist?"

The cast of SILON (Roberta Christensen)
SILON (The Secret and Impossible League of the Noosphere) in The Baltimore Plot
Live Girls! Theater
(at Theater Off Jackson)
Through December 16, 2017

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a sighting of the first play in a SERIES! Woot! Yay! How fun is that!

Ok, so there are a few more days to catch the world premiere Live Girls! Theater production of The Secret and Impossible League of the Noosphere) in The Baltimore Plot. Once you see the play, you’ll understand the outlines of a new series of SILON plays, all somewhat science-fantastical, all somewhat based in history. Not quite steampunk, but not quite not.

Darian Lindle has cooked up an engaging story of Nikola Tesla (Sherif Amin), Lord Byron (Daniel Christensen) and his daughter Ada Lovelace (Alyssa Kay) traveling along the side of Time as this Secret  and Impossible League, and realizing that they have a mission to prevent an anomaly that could disrupt History which could possibly destroy the United States of America! How? They have to prevent Abraham Lincoln from being prematurely assassinated in 1860, before he is first officially sworn in as President.

“The Humans” is a darkly funny slice of life

The cast of The Humans (Julieta Cervantes)
The Humans
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through December 17, 2017

Stephen Karam has filled his 2016 Tony-award-winning Best Play, The Humans, with a lot of human darkness, which then allows for some darkly funny commentary. The play, starting a national tour at Seattle Repertory Theatre, has a power-house cast (Richard Thomas, Pamela Reed, Daisy Egan, Lauren Klein, Therese Plaehn, Luis Vega) portraying an uneasy Thanksgiving family gathering.

In a somewhat stereotypical way, the family has: issues that complicate the holiday, secrets that get revealed, and sets of disappointed hopes and dreams of individuals. In less stereotypical ways, the family has: the oldest member suffering severe dementia that is dealt with in a loving way, a younger family member with gastrointestinal issues that will best resolve through surgery that results in an ileostomy – and some plain speaking about it, and a married couple as the sandwich generation who are in difficult financial straits.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Pleasing Show For All the Holidays

Cast of Holiday Inn (Mark Kitaoka)
Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn
5th Avenue Theatre
Through December 31, 2017

Ah, Lorna Luft! We are so happy you are gracing our local stage and bringing a lot of joy with you! You make Holiday Inn so much fun!

If you have never seen the 1942 oldy-but-goodie movie, Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Virginia Dale and Marjorie Reynolds, you probably know nothing about the new musical on stage at the 5th Avenue Theatre except the holiday-themed name. Jim Hardy, Ted Hanover and Lila Dixon (Eric Ankrim, Matt Owen, and Taryn Darr) are a song-and-dance trio working to make it big. Jim and Lila are engaged, but they have completely different goals.

Jim wants a quiet life in the country and Lila still has stars in her eyes. Jim finds an old farmhouse in Connecticut and snaps it up, but just then, they have a great six week offer. Lila wants to go and promises to come to Connecticut after, so they part. (This is a bit different from the movie, so if you know the movie, know that the musical won’t track exactly.) We’re not surprised that Lila doesn’t ever move there.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Heartfelt Play With Song Bites Off Too Much Story

Cast members in A Civil War Christmas (Robert Wade)
A Civil War Christmas – An American Musical Celebration
Taproot Theatre
Through December 27, 2017

An endearing and hard-working cast brings to life a tapestry of stories set around Christmas Eve, 1864. Figures of note in the Civil War are present, including President Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, General Ulysses Grant of the Union Army, General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army, and a whole host of then-notable and some completely unknown and fictitious characters.

The stories, chosen and interwoven by playwright Paula Vogel, are meant to acknowledge many issues present at that time of divided national interests. Slaves are being freed, North and South are still at war and full of enmity for one another, and Lincoln is under increasing threat of attack. There is much darkness, and the struggle for peace and for human connection is a difficult one to win.

An ensemble cast of 13 plays multiple roles. There are, I hear, 60 scenes, which is a lot of scenes. This is apparently less than the published version, and was cut by permission. Still, the tumultuous tales don’t blend easily and following their paths takes a lot of attention from audience members.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

December Shows to Lift the Gloom

Cast of The Secret and Impossible League of the Noosphere in The Baltimore Plot (Roberta Christensen)
December brings gifts of world premieres, and options of holiday cheer and a few options that can provide some relief from holidays, if you choose.

A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration, Taproot Theatre, 12/1-30/17
It’s a bitterly cold Christmas Eve on the banks of the Potomac River where the lives of abolitionists, assassins, soldiers, enslaved and free are woven together in an American tapestry. In their darkest hour, when peace seems impossible, the promise of Christmas breaks through despair in this musical celebration of compassion and hope by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Zinzanni Still Rocks the Tent in Marymoor

Ms. Ariana Savalas as Madame Zinzanni (Michael Doucett)
Teatro Zinzanni
Marymoor Park
Through April 29, 2018

Teatro Zinzanni has moved, for at least six months, to Marymoor Park. The spiegeltent is set up, the doors are open, and the merriment is ongoing. If you have been to the Seattle location, be reassured that everything is exactly the same as you remember, except the parking is MUCH easier (though a bit pricey at $15/car).

This time, the story encompassing the night’s antics is that a food critic has come to evaluate the menu and the cast is in a tizzy to please her. Madame Zinzanni, an incandescent Ariana Savalas, commands the staff to make Ms. Pleasant’s visit an outstanding one.

Most Madame Zinzannis are outstanding talents, but Savalas brings the usual singing talent, an appropriate imperiousness, and also an amazing whistle! I haven’t heard such beautiful whistling to a song in a very long time! It’s a special treat!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Village Theatre’s recent production of "Into the Woods" deserves recognition

Christine Marie Brown, Trey Ellett, (Eric Polani Jensen peaking through) and Mari Nelson in the beautiful Witch costume (Mark Kitaoka)
Into the Woods
Village Theatre
Through November 19, 2017

If you have never seen the movie of Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim or the stage play, you may not know that Sondheim took five different fairy tales, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, the Baker and his Wife (a version of Thumbelina, of sort), Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstalk and wove them together so that they all know each other and live in the same small village.

So, Red visits the Baker and Wife to get food for Grandma, next doorish to Jack and his Mother, and they live in Cinderella’s village with her Stepmother and StepSisters and the same Prince, who is brother to the Prince who falls in love with Rapunzel – and then he throws in a Witch and some curses needing lifting. It’s pretty ingenious, but then – he’s SONDHEIM!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Stop the Presses: Newsies Takes Over Village!

Cast of Newsies (Mark Kitaoka)
Disney’s Newsies
Village Theatre
Issaquah through December 28, 2017
Everett: January 5-28, 2018

There is a pack of muscular male singers and dancers taking over the stage at Village Theatre! They are demanding that audiences pay more attention and stop reducing it, in an effort to make a living! If audiences do not pay more, they may well strike! And we really do not want that because they are extremely effective at what they do.

A robust, energetic and rousing production of the musical, Newsies, which details the Newsboy Strike of 1899 against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers, brings Issaquah audiences to their feet. The very large cast is called upon to dance huge numbers in sync, including a major tap number at the top of the second act.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Strong Women Take Over "Coriolanus"

Nike Imoru in Coriolanus (John Ulman)
Coriolanus – Fight Like a Bitch
Rebel Kat Productions
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through November 18, 2017

Coriolanus is said to be a real general in Rome around the 5th Century. Caius Marcius attacked the Volscians of the city of Corioli viciously, and won. For that win, he was awarded the name “Coriolanus”. Some time later, during a grain shortage in Rome, Coriolanus advocated for a policy that would harshly affect the plebeians and the populace caused him to be put on trial and he was thrown out of Rome.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

November Theater Openings - Plenty of Entertainment

Leads in Holiday Inn at 5th Avenue Theatre (Mark Kitaoka)
You can tell it is holiday season when theatrical productions starting having a lot of holiday content in them. There is lots of music to be had this month and a couple of very-much anticipated dramas that hit the local boards. Check these out:

The Inappropriate Suitor, Ghost Light Theatricals, 11/3-18/17
Ghost Light presents a classic “us against the world” love story about a wild boarding school girl and a city boy, and the strange and oppressive world around them. Inspired by German Expressionism, boarding school gothic, and Medieval super-science, The Inappropriate Suitor is a show that will appeal to fans of melodrama, old New York, Tim Burton, doppelgangers, and ice skating.

Teatro Zinzanni, 11/1/17-4/29/17 (official opening 11/9/17) (at Marymoor Park)
It's opening night of the new Teatro ZinZanni, and the staff anxiously awaits the arrival of a world-renowned restaurant critic.  They are trying to put their best foot forward, without stepping on each other's toes! Getting swept up in the madness is the magical Maître d', who has staffed his restaurant with mechanical waitresses, chefs that defy gravity, and an amorous busboy who has finally met his match. With an aim to impress, the crew literally bends over backwards to give this critic the experience of a lifetime.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

“The Government Inspector” Hits the Funnybone and Misses the Commentary

A moment from The Government Inspector (John Ulman)
The Government Inspector
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through November 19, 2017

There was a ton of laughing by the audience at the opening night of The Government Inspector at Seattle Shakespeare Company. I laughed some myself. Just, unfortunately, not nearly enough or maybe even too much.

Nikolai Gogol wrote this now-classic play in 1836. It is an ironic and subversive play (for the powers-that-be of Imperial Russia of the time) pointing out the rampant greed, governmental abuses, political corruption, and commenting on the public’s essential stupidity.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

"Burn This" at Theatre22 May Be Too Dated

Cast of Burn This (Margaret Toomey)
Burn This
Theatre22
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through November 18, 2017

Lanford Wilson was a fairly prolific playwright in the 1970s and ‘80s and into the ‘90s who was known for a heightened realism with a touch of poetry in the dialogue. He was an openly gay man who included gay characters in his plays, which for that period was considered a challenging act.

Wilson also liked to write about characters on the fringes of society. He also dug deeply into the Talley family in a series of plays about the family and its small town characters.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Cross Bridges to Go Hear Beautiful "Bridges of Madison County"

Megan Renae Parker and Randy Scholz in Bridges of Madison County (Chris Bennion)
Bridges of Madison County
Showtunes Theatre Company
(at ACT Theatre)
through November 5, 2017

Showtunes Theatre Company is giving us a holiday gift - their usual practice of one weekend shows is extending to two, which means you absolutely can read this and still plan on going next weekend!

Maybe this will be a new normal, but no matter right now, because now you have to make tracks to see this staged musical and their two amazing leads. You may be familiar with the book by Robert Waller or the movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. It's the weepy romantic story of a tired Iowa housewife who has a life-changing affair with a magazine photographer. Wipe those iterations from your brain. 

The musical, with a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, hews closely to the story of an Italian war-bride who makes a marriage of convenience and a life as a farm wife, eventually with two teenagers. An accidental meeting with a photographer on assignment who is taking shots of covered bridges in Madison County lures her into a surprise love affair.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How Theater Brings Historic Content to Current Life – “Ragtime” and “The Crucible”

Scene from The Crucible (Chris Bennion)
Ragtime
Through November 5, 2017

The Crucible
Through November 12, 2017

Seattle has a unique opportunity for the next few weeks to see two top-notch “best theater” productions that not only are wonderful evenings of theater but exemplify the specific way that theater can provide political commentary through historic examples. With meticulous technical support and very large casts of some of Seattle’s best, these productions demonstrate the power of theater to penetrate into people’s feelings in a most unique art form.

The beautiful musical, Ragtime, at The 5th Avenue Theatre, tells us some history, both good and bad, of the turn of the 20th Century and the difficulty of melding gentrified whites, struggling blacks whose artistic innovation (Ragtime music) was being appropriated even as they were overtly treated as second-class citizens, and immigrants, many who were very poor Jews from Eastern Europe and Russian.

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
BenDeLaCreme
(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)
Sycorax
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)
Relativity
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

It's THE DEFINITIVE L5Y

Aaron Lamb and Katherine Strohmaier in The Last Five Years (Scot Whitney)
The Last Five Years
AK-L5 Productions
http://l5yseattle.com/
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, https://youtu.be/LfVCMAmLxuw?list=PLG4bJvKx7lBvcXH_hTS-3jcNMNHiSch5Z, 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.