Friday, March 30, 2018

Theatre22 Presents “The Happiest Song Plays Last”

Michael D. Blum and Aida Leguizamon in The Happiest Song Plays Last (Dangerpants Photography)
The Happiest Song Plays Last
Theatre22
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through April 14, 2018

Quiara Alegria Hudes is one of our country’s powerful, female playwrights and her work is becoming more ubiquitous in production. Theatre22 brought us a gorgeous (and Gypsy-award winning) production of Water By the Spoonful in 2015 which was the second part of a trilogy. Now, they’ve mounted the third part, The Happiest Song Plays Last.

Cousins Yaz (Aida Leguizamon) and Elliot (Joshua Chessin-Yudin) are separated in two different worlds here. It’s an uneasy pairing of circumstances and in some ways that makes the play feel uneven. Elliot has gone to the country of Jordan to work on a war film, using his background as an Iraq War vet. He stumbles into a starring role as an action hero, having been hired initially to be the boot camp trainer for the actors, helping them feel the reality of their roles.

Yaz has moved back to her aunt’s North Philadelphia home to try to make their old neighborhood a better place, literally feeding the neighbors to develop community connection. Both Yaz and Elliot are lonely souls and a bit hardened against romantic relationships, but in this “episode,” love creeps into their lives in unexpected ways.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

“Ride the Cyclone” Might Be a Fun Ride – Or Might Not

The Amazing Karnak in Ride the Cyclone (Mark Kitaoka)
Ride the Cyclone
ACT Theatre and 5th Avenue Theatre
(at ACT Theatre)
Through May 20, 2018

Someone said that the co-productions chosen by ACT Theatre and the 5th Avenue Theatre in their annual outing of togetherness have always been a bit dark and/or quirky and I ran my memory back over Assassins, Grey Gardens, Vanities, Little Shop of Horrors, and First Date, and yup, I agree. Now we add Ride the Cyclone, perhaps the darkest and quirkiest of them all.

Ride the Cyclone checklist: Intriguing and entertaining set: Check. Super cool cast: Check. Check. Fun factor: Yep. Fun. Story: um…. Summary: Cotton candy – sweet, fun to eat, not very filling.

Director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell directs and choreographs the hell out of this piece. There is no doubt at all that it would not be the fun ride it is without all the whiz and the bang added here. The rhythm is steady and all-hands-on-deck, and the choreography is modern, fun, sometimes funny, and definitely attractive.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Family Drama “Big Rock” Makes Solid Connection

Moore, McLynn and Whitfield in Big Rock (Chris Bennion)
Big Rock
Onward Ho Productions
(at West of Lenin)
Through March 31, 2018

Several years ago, Onward Ho Productions mounted Sonya Schneider’s Royal Blood, which was a funny family dramedy with some dark overtones. Starring an irascible Todd Jefferson Moore, it addressed aging relationships and difficulties with adult children. Moore again stars in Schneider’s new world premiere production of Big Rock, now at West of Lenin. Again, his character is irascible and idiosyncratic, but different from the caustic character in the former play.

Again, Moore’s character, Harris Sands, grapples with an adult child, Signe. But this version unfolds more quietly and with more subtle backstories. Harris is a famous poet who feels that he has lost his ability to write and has hibernated into a small cabin on a spit of island off the Pacific Northwest. Signe (Meg McLynn) is an artist who works in “found” materials, and apparently makes “boxes” of some kind, but has also found a fair amount of success. However, she has long been estranged from her father.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Thalia’s Umbrella delivers brilliant world premiere of “The Impossibility of NOW”

Playwright Y York with Terry Edward Moore (Annabel Clark)
The Impossibility of NOW
Thalia’s Umbrella
At 12th Avenue Arts
Through March 31, 2018

A new play can make me giddy, especially if I can’t guess where it’s headed and its subject area is “about” the human condition in a new and interesting way. We in Seattle are lucky to see a world premiere, being produced by Thalia’s Umbrella, before it inevitably goes out into the world and probably wins some cool award somewhere. Y York’s The Impossibility of NOW is an unexpected delight, a delicious and magical moment.

The plot is fairly simple. Carl (Terry Edward Moore), a very successful writer, comes home from the hospital. He’s had an accident with severe head trauma and woke up remembering little to nothing about his prior life. Miranda (Betsy Schwartz), his wife, has been coaching him in all the life skills that he’s forgotten and is hoping he’ll get his memory back in time.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Irving Berlin Comes to Life at Seattle Rep!

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin (courtesy Hershey Felder Presents)
Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through March 18, 2018

Oy gevalt! (Holey moley!) So much meshugah schmaltz in this story! (So much crazy chicken-fat!) A schlemiel (a nobody) turns into one of the great American song writers and Hershey Felder tells you all about Israel Beilin growing up to become Irving Berlin.

There is a bit of a rocky start to the biographical one-man show as you get used to Hershey Felder’s delivery. It’s very New York and a bit odd, as sometimes his voice gets elliptical and weirdly low and at first his piano-playing is uneven. But then… But then, a kind of hypnotic charm flows from him and the character deepens and the storytelling and the unbelievably good music of Irving Berlin peeks out and starts working its magic.

Felder is a connoisseur of one-man biographical presentations. He’s created evenings about George Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein and is creating one about Claude Debussy for an April, 2019 production. He has toured this evening of Irving Berlin music since 2014.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

March Starts City-Wide Shakespeare Fest

Alexandra Tavares in Ironbound (photo John Ulman, design Shannon Loys)

You may notice a lot of Shakespeare coming up this month and next month, because theater companies big and small are having a Festival! Shakespeare “straight up” or musically or twisted into individual shapes. It’s all because this town apparently just loves good ol’ Will! And besides that, it’s another month filled with world premieres that no one has ever seen before except for YOU, when you go check them out!

Bye Bye Birdie, SecondStory Repertory, 3/2-25/18
In this Tony-Award-winning favorite, superstar Conrad Birdie arrives in Sweet Apple, Ohio to give a lucky girl "one last kiss" before his induction into the Army. Set in a bygone world of soda fountains, screaming fans and Ed Sullivan, the nostalgic Bye Bye Birdie overflows with comedy, romance, and songs like "Put on a Happy Face," "A Lot of Livin' To Do" and "The Telephone Hour."

The Impossibility of Now, Thalia’s Umbrella, 3/8-31/18 (at 12th Avenue Arts) (world premiere)
Locally (and nationally recognized) playwright Y York debuts a play about what you do when your spouse gets conked on the head and wakes up with a terrifying new personality: optimistic happy person. Miranda and amnesia-stricken husband, Carl, embark on the fractured and funny adventure of starting over. The Impossibility of Now is a lovely, word-drunk romantic comedy that celebrates rediscovering the joy of life through words.