Friday, June 14, 2019

Searing “Pass Over” Can’t Be Just “Described”

Preston Butler III, Treavor Lovell, and Avery Clark in Pass Over (Chris Bennion)
Pass Over
ACT Theatre
Through June 23, 2019

Moses (Treavor Lovelle) and Kitch (Preston Butler III) are stuck on this one block. It’s not clear if they are homeless with nowhere else to go or stuck because violence ranges all around them and they’re afraid to leave or stuck because they’ve been told they must stay on this block (the audience hears commands to stay put). Perhaps it’s all of the above.

In playwright Antoinette Nwandu’s intense 80-minute play at ACT Theatre, Pass Over, these two are not waiting, like Didi and Gogo, for Godot to show up, they’re aching to leave. In frustrated, angry, hopeful, anticipatory, poetic, ‘n’-word-filled friendship-language, they’re waiting to leave.

Nwandu seems to be writing in a way that needs to penetrate White America. It’s not very subtle, for the most part. The entire piece is metaphor-heavy, trapping the two black men into scarcity and despair (there’s nothing to eat, see, read, do but make up games to pass the time), and sending in a tut-tutting Colonial-style (read “colonizing”) white man who unbends himself to graciously feed them and a white police officer to harass them for even thinking about leaving (both roles played by Avery Clark).

Sunday, June 02, 2019

June Flowers with Choices

Cast of The Agitators at West of Lenin (Josiah Epstein)
June is frontloaded with 9 shows opening in the same weekend! There is a ton of variety in choices from old-made-new to world premiere. Time to get your tickets!

Blackbird, White Rabbits Inc and Libby Barnard, 5/30/19-6/15/19 (at 18th & Union)
Ray, 56, has a new identity and has made a new life for himself, thinking that he cannot be found. Una, 27, upon seeing a photo of Ray in a magazine, arrives unannounced at his office. Guilt, rage, and raw emotions run high as they recollect the illicit relationship they had 15 years ago, when she was 12 and he was 40. Blackbird is a story about living with the consequences of abuse and trauma, and demanding a new future.

Don’t Call it a Riot, Ten Auras Productions and Trial and Error Productions, 5/31/19-6/23/19 (at 12th Avenue Arts)
Amontaine Aurore writes about the history of Seattle activism from the height of the city’s 1960s Black Panther Party to the 1999 WTO protests, uncovering the toll that a commitment to social justice can take on the day-to-day lives of activists. Reed, a 20-year-old college student who is expecting her first baby is also an active member of Black Panther Party. The effect that fighting for liberation has on the foundations of her home life flows through her 31-year journey. Turmoil challenged the Black Panther party and caused a dream deferred.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

“Take Me Out” is a Home Run!

Craig Peterson and Lamar Legend in Take Me Out (John Ulman)
Take Me Out
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through June 22, 2019

It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a play that might instill a love of baseball in even the baseball-hatingest person! It’s a cautionary tale that words really matter. It’s a microcosm of society’s attitudes regarding the LGBTQ community with an offhand, high-self-esteem lead character. It’s an intensely well-written play by Richard Greenberg that won the 2003 Tony Award.

All of this is Take Me Out, now performing on stage by Strawberry Theatre Workshop at 12th Avenue Arts. The tale tells of a superstar major league outfielder, Darren Lemming, played with pitch perfect swagger by Lamar Legend, whose contract is stratospherically high. In the middle of a normal press moment, Lemming casually implies that he’s gay, thinking it’s not really a big deal and nothing important will come from it. However, that casual utterance pings through the rest of the play like a pinball banging out crazy points.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

From Stage to TV Back to Stage - “Kim's Convenience” Charms

Lia Lee and James Yi in Kim’s Convenience (Robert Wade)
Kim’s Convenience
Taproot Theatre
Through June 22, 2019

You might wonder how a Canadian television show is playing on stage at Taproot Theatre. They’re presenting Kim’s Convenience. It happens that the play preceded the tv show and Netflix tv producers loved the idea and turned it into a show and included the efforts of writer Ins Choi to continue the story started in his play.

In a pre-show talk, Choi described several aspects of the play that were very intentional. He said that he wasn’t used to seeing a lot of Koreans on television and most of them were intense and angry and he really wanted to show humor and lightness. He described his own family as really funny and cracking each other up.

He also didn’t want to sugarcoat the flaws of the family on stage. He said there were many Koreans with a lot of prejudices against non-Koreans. This particular characterization made its way firmly into aspects of the main character, Appa (father in Korean). It’s not meant to be acceptable; it’s meant to be true to real, complex individuals.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

“Curious Incident” is a Great Story

Michael Krenning and Kathryn Van Meter in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Kitaoka)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Village Theatre
Everett: through May 19, 2019

Christopher didn’t kill the dog! But his neighbor, and Wellington’s owner, Mrs. Shears, thinks he did. So she calls the police. The policeman probably thinks Christopher killed the dog and makes a lot of warning noise at him, and then tries to touch him. Christopher hates being touched and he strikes out at the policeman. That gets him a written warning, a humiliation, and potentially a lot more trouble if he touches another policeman that way!

So begins the creative and absorbing story, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, currently at Village Theatre, Everett. The play does not specify that Christopher is not neurotypical, but makes it pretty clear that he thinks fairly differently and behaves differently than many people. What it does make clear is that the world does not accommodate Christopher’s differences very well and that he needs champions to help him succeed. The play makes the audience empathize so much that it’s likely most want to be his champion by the end! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

MDQ - Slamdunk from First Note to Last

The concert at the end of Million Dollar Quartet (Mark Kitaoka)
Million Dollar Quartet
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through June 23, 2019
Everett: June 28 – July 28, 2019

In 2007, Village Theatre debuted a fabulous new musical revue which was based on a real life night when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis walked into Sun Records. Twelve years later, Million Dollar Quartet has been to Broadway and awarded Levi Kreis, the virtuoso piano-playing Lewis, a Tony Award. Now, it’s playing regionally and Village decided it was time to remount their hit production.

It is December 4, 1956 and Sun Records had recently launched the careers of all but the new-and-brash Lewis. Sam Phillips (Matt Wade) is hoping to sign Cash to a new longer contract not knowing that Cash has already signed with another company. Phillips sold Elvis’s contract in order to salvage Sun from going under, but Elvis still trusts Phillips more than most people and wants Phillips to come work with him again. Perkins is angry that Phillips has paid more attention to others and has also signed with another company. It’s a moment of great transition.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Some Glorious Moments in “Nina Simone”

The cast of Nina Simone: Porscha Shaw, Shontina Vernon, Shaunyce Omar, Britney Nicole Simpson (Nate Watters)
Nina Simone: Four Women
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through June 2, 2019

The effect of watching four amazing women actors on stage in the Seattle Rep production of Nina Simone: Four Women is incredibly powerful. They pour all their committed energy and heart into their work.

Their energy and power almost allow this earnest script, that tries hard to give context to an iconic singer/activist that changed a lot of lives in the 1960s and ‘70s, Nina Simone, to succeed beyond its characterizations. Simone’s story is certainly worth staging. This script includes valuable information to audiences that have not grown up with her music or are not privy to areas of tension within Black America’s culture.

Playwright Christina Ham strives to educate audiences and to theatricalize a moment of change in an artist’s life. But educational theater is tricky and hard to pull off without limiting the expanse of drama and this script only partly wins that battle.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Seattle Women’s Chorus Rocked the House!

Sarah Rudinoff singing with the Seattle Women's Chorus (Conrado Tapado)

Seattle Women’s Chorus
Legends of Rock
April 28, 2019

Sarah Rudinoff and the entire Seattle Women’s Chorus rocked everyone’s socks off, Sunday, with their concert of “Legends of Rock”! The entire event was tight, energetic, fun, exciting, historical, educational, and … lots of other great adjectives.

Sarah Rudinoff was both “special guest star” and also the “host” of the evening, narrating the roughly chronological tour of songs of rock-and-roll women from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, and ‘10s. Rudinoff did several solos, including really challenging songs like Crazy on You (Heart) and Piece of My Heart (Janis Joplin)! She sounded amazing and hit every note squarely on the head while belting her face off.

Rudinoff was also a genial and assured narrator, introducing songs or catching us up on bits of historical data about each rocker. Other rocking songsters included Debbie Harry, Alanis Morissette, Joni Mitchell, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, and Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine).

Friday, April 26, 2019

“Small Mouth Sounds” is Something to Smile At

Cast of Small Mouth Sounds (Annabel Clark)

Small Mouth Sounds
Thalia’s Umbrella
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through May 11, 2019

Six people walk into a silent retreat week…. It is kind of a joke, right? And there are definitely moments that are very amusing in both the set up and the small exchanges, either of uneasiness or stranger-interaction. That’s all part of the experience watching Bess Wohl’s quiet play, Small Mouth Sounds.

Since the retreaters are not supposed to talk, at all, you might wonder if you’ll be watching a play with no words… Does that mean it’s a … dance? Or a mime? If there is no speech, does that mean it’s not a play anymore? Well, if you didn’t wonder that, you’re better’n me, cuz I surely did. But actually there is definitely some speech and a very specific storyline.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

May Blooms on Seattle-area Stages

Christian Quinto and Naho Shioya in Office Hour at Artswest (John McLellan)

Musicals, old and new, vie with drama, and some comedy this month. Seattle companies excel in diverse offerings to tempt every palate. What do you want to see?

Office Hour, ArtsWest, 5/2-26/19 (opens 5/3)
(Written by Julia Cho) Alarmed by a troubled student’s grisly writings, a professor invites him to her office to shed light on - and build a bridge across - the dark clouds that surround him. As tensions rise, she learns that notions of "good" and "bad" are dangerous illusions. This searing play tackles thorny issues of gun violence, immigration, and "the other" to reveal our essential, human need for connection.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

“Urinetown” Makes You Laugh Till You Wanna….

Mikko Juan and Mari Nelson in Urinetown (Jeff_Carpenter)
Urinetown the Musical
ACT Theatre and 5th Avenue Theatre
(at ACT Theatre)
Through June 2, 2019

There is so much cheeky humor and sarcasm in this ACT Theatre/5th Avenue Theatre joint production of Urinetown the Musical! Bill Berry’s direction is sharp and pointed. He emphasizes both the humor and an ultimately dark message that hits you on the way out the door. The choreography by Charlie Johnson fits the bill with fun all-company movement that really entertains.

The multi-staircased set by Martin Christoffel helps the audience get different scenes to watch without almost any large scene changes. Lighting by Robert Aguilar is particularly effective in helping us know where we should be looking.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

“Marie, Dancing Still” Still Needs Steps, But Beautiful Design Work

Cast of Marie, Dancing Still (Paul Kolnik)
Marie, Dancing Still
5th Avenue Theatre
Through April 14, 2019

It’s very apparent why young Tiler Peck was cast to dance the lead role as 14-year-old Marie, the piquant young ballet dancer, in the new musical, Marie, Dancing Still. She is energetic, charismatic, and extraordinarily watchable. Peck makes ballet dancing look easy! (There’s a line in the book – the script – about art/ballet looking easy when you don’t know anything about it, and it being very hard to do when you’ve practiced it forever…)

Peck, who is in just about every scene in this long musical, plays a poor ballet dancer whose mother had also danced but not been able to afford to stay in it long enough to “succeed” (meaning make a living that way). Her older sister, Antoinette (Jenny Powers) also didn’t succeed and now it’s Marie’s turn to try. Their hardscrabble life, with hard-drinking laundress mother (Karen Ziemba), is a precarious existence where small problems could spiral them into even worse circumstances.

Stunning "Returning the Bones" returns to stun again

Gin Hammond in Returning the Bones (John Ulman)
Returning the Bones
Written and performed by Gin Hammond
Book-It Repertory Theatre
(at Erickson Theatre)
through May 14, 2019

I saw an iteration of this production in 2010, as Gin Hammond was developing it. It was so solid then that I think much of her current production is similar to that stunning event. I truly regard her as one of our country's best solo artists. Here, she has created a play using a fascinating character in her own family.

Based on the life and times of her aunt, Dr. Carolyn (Bebe) Hammond Montier, it’s about Montier’s struggle, as an African-American, to achieve everything anyone might dream of, a medical degree, and her extraordinary opportunity, in 1946, to represent Howard University at a medical congregation in Europe following World War II. Montier also went to the concentration camp, Auschwitz, in Poland, where she saw bones of recent camp internees.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Rain or Shine, April Theater Obliges

Miranda Troutt in The Diary of Anne Frank at Seattle Children's Theatre (Zach Rosing)

Theatrical productions this coming month touch on politics, history, multicultural and multimodal performances, and include musicals and Shakespeare and Shakespearian interpretations. There’s drama and humor and everything inbetween, it looks like. Got your calendar up? Let’s get shows planned!

Represent! A Multicultural Playwrights Festival, Hansberry Project, eSe Teatro, SIS Productions and Pratidhwani, 3/31/19-4/3/19 (at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute)
Local Playwrights Showcase, 3/31, 4:00 PM, In Braunau by Dipika Guha, 3/31, 7:30 PM, Two Big Black Bags by Julieta Vitullo, 4/1, 7:30 PM, We, Too! by local Asian American performing playwrights, 4/2, 7:30 PM, Riverwood by Andrew Lee Creech, 4/3, 7:30 PM.

The Diary of Anne Frank, Seattle Children’s Theatre, 4/4/19-5/19/19 (opens 4/5)
This sobering true story of two families hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II, is based on the real diary of young teen Anne Frank.  Anne’s words reach out to us over the generations, inspiring us to never forget, to never give up on the power and goodness of the human spirit, and to always “fill life with living.”

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Failures of “A Dolls House Part 2”

Pamela Reed and Michael Winters in A Doll's House, Part 2 (Alan Alabastro)

A Doll’s House, Part 2
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through April 28, 2019

Ordinarily, a strong cast of well-known Seattle thespians, like Pamela Reed, Michael Winters, Laura Kenny, and Khanh Doan lends itself to an anticipation of a great production. Ordinarily, a script that garnered 8 Tony award nominations, including for Best Play, would augment that anticipation. That would be the case for Lucas Hnath’s play, A Doll’s House, Part 2, that opened at Seattle Repertory Theatre last week.

Following along as a sequel to the celebrated Henrik Ibsen play, A Doll’s House, Hnath imagines what happened after the famous “door slam” in Ibsen’s play. It’s incumbent, for this play, that you know and understand, already, the preceding play, in order to pull from it all its meaning.

Friday, March 22, 2019

“Always” Go See Ilika and Jaeger in “Always…Patsy Cline”

Cayman Ilika and Kate Jaeger in Always...Patsy Cline (Robert Wade)
Always…Patsy Cline
Taproot Theatre
Through April 6, 2019

“Anytime” I can hear Cayman Ilika sing like Patsy Cline and watch Kate Jaeger worship her in adorably fanciful ways, “I Fall in Love” and go “Crazy” and want to “Come On In and Sit Right Down” and give them both “True Love!”

Seriously folks! This is the shit! These two did the expertly-crafted musical homage, Always…Patsy Cline by Ted Swindley, back in 2009 and were terrific. I have remembered it very fondly over the years, and I’m pretty sure it was my first exposure to Ilika and her luscious, smooth, and warmly comforting voice.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sugartime Trio sings in sweet harmony

Sugartime Trio (courtesy Sugartime Trio)
If you're ever having an event where you wished to yourself, "If only the McGuire Sisters were still around to serenade our guests!" then I have a great surprise for you! A local trio of performers have mastered the tricky three part harmonies and smooth delivery of those famous sisters.

Recently, the newly constituted trio, Meg McLynn holding down the low ranges, Caitlin Frances standing strong in the middle, and Kim Maguire soaring mostly toward the high notes, performed at University Heights to an enthusiastic crowd. They took on recognizable songs such as Blue Skies, Banana Split, Good Night Sweetheart, Makin' Whoopee, and Sincerely.

Ooh Ooh "Trevor" is the MAPpiest!

Teri Lazzara and Brandon Ryan in Trevor (Shane Regan)
MAP Theatre
(at 18th & Union)
Through March 30, 2019

MAP Theatre loves themselves play-oddities! You'll never see a "kitchen-sink" drama from them unless the kitchen sink is really a spaceship and the family is aliens that look like giraffes.

Their current play, Trevor, by Nick Jones, features Brandon Ryan in the kind of role that Ryan and few others can master with abandon - that of an adult chimpanzee! While adults around him pretend that he can understand Human and that he behaves in ways they understand, Trevor obsesses about his one chance at tv-stardom when he performed in a commercial with Morgan Fairchild of long-ago tv-hit Falcon Crest

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

“Sheathed” Fulfills Sci-Fi Fantasy On Stage!

A moment in Sheathed (Joe Iano Photography)
Macha Theatre Works
(at Theatre Off Jackson)
Through March 24, 2019

An epic struggle of philosophies – vengeance versus reconciliation – plays out on stage at Theatre Off Jackson in Maggie Lee’s world premiere play, Sheathed! Powerful women, highly trained in sword combat, debate and spar, verbally and physically, about whether it’s better to follow through with the honor-code of vengeance or if the world is better off trying to accept prior battle-strife and the thousands of dead combatants in order to build a more lasting peace.

The feeling of the play is akin to the science-fiction fantasy on the shelves of your local bookstore. By the end of the play, you’re pretty sure that Lee’s premise is that vengeance doesn’t work out so well, but the journey is one great ride, with a lot of laughs sprinkled in to leaven the debate.

Ren (Ayo Tushinde) is a young woman on a quest to find and duel the last of five generals who she believes conspired to betray her father-general during an epic war. She meets Bala (Sunam Ellis), a veteran fighter from the recent war, who can hardly be bothered to associate with the young quester, but grudgingly agrees to travel “in the same direction.”

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Great Staging Makes You Jump with “The Woman in Black”

The Woman in Black (Roger Mastroianni)
The Woman in Black
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through March 24, 2019

A tour from London is the special event currently at the Seattle Rep this month. It’s a celebrated production of The Woman in Black, and director Robin Herford recreates Stephen Mallatratt's original staging of Susan Hill’s book from London’s West End. The play is considered one of the longest playing productions in London history.

It is intricately staged, but could probably still scare the pants off people even if it dispensed with some of the multi-layered scenic crafting, because it’s really pretty much a ghost story told around a campfire. That’s due to much of the other tricks of theatrical staging they employ with loud sound effects and other sound devices, to great effect.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

March Roars With Theater Openings!

Sunam Ellis and Ayo Tushinde in the world premiere of Sheathed by Maggie Lee (Laura Dux Photography)
The start of 2019 has seen a few exciting productions, but at a sort of “measured pace.” March is changing all that immediately with 21 productions listed here! Children’s productions from Thistle Theater and SCT vie with major musicals and some of the most anticipated shows of the year. Two shows that were presented with the same casts years ago make a much-anticipated return – if you did not see Always…Patsy Cline or Returning the Bones before, both of them are sure to be as marvelous the second time around (although very, very different subjects)! Get your calendars out and start “puzzling!”

Romeo + Juliet, ACT Theatre, 3/1-31/19 (opens 3/7)
Yes, it’s still Shakespeare’s play, but with Joshua Castille as Romeo, the classic story of two young star-crossed lovers who are kept apart by feuding families is performed like it’s never been seen before. ACT is partnering with leaders in the Deaf community to create a production in both spoken English and ASL and makes it accessible for Deaf and hearing audiences alike.

Man of La Mancha, SecondStory Repertory, 3/1-24/19
An imprisoned man must tell a story to the other prisoners or risk dying. He tells one of a dying old man who refuses to relinquish his ideals or his passion, and inspires them all. The celebrated score includes "The Impossible Dream," "I, Don Quixote," and "Dulcinea.”

Magic Teakettle, Thistle Theatre, 3/2-17/19 (various locations)
In a Japanese temple, a teakettle is placed over the fire for the tea ceremony. Suddenly, it sprouts a tail, a head and the four legs of a Tanuki (a raccoon-like animal found in Japan).  Fearing the strange creature with the body of a teakettle, the Priest returns it to the peddler woman who sold it to him.  She gives the Tanuki a home and food and grateful for her kindness, the Tanuki reveals he is Bumbuku Chagama, a teakettle of good luck. Together they start a theatre and the Magic Teakettle of Good Luck performs acrobatic tricks. (Bunraku puppetry)

Saturday, March 02, 2019

SMT’s “Aida” was great, but it’s over

Matthew Lang and Tanesha Ross in Aida (Jeff Orton)
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through February 24, 2019

I regret to inform you that Seattle Musical Theatre presented a terrific production of Elton John’s musical, Aida, but you can’t see it because it’s closed. It was only three weekends long and one of those weekends was the Snow Event of the Century.

A lot of the praise for this production lies with Troy Wageman as director/choreographer. Troy has been a musical theater performer for years and done some terrific work on stage. But it’s his development into a musical theater director to be reckoned with that may be his best contribution to the art, because he truly has an eye for how to take a little and make it look like a helluva lot.

SMT doesn’t have a lot of money for sets or costumes or lights or sound. Sound in that Magnuson Park skinny rectangular theater, especially as managed by the patched together sound board, can be extremely hit or miss. But Troy knows how to manage that and knows who can manage it for him, and apparently Martin Sisk is a genius with that sound board. Why? Because the lead singers in this production sounded effing amazing. Loud and clear!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

New Company, As If Theatre, Presents Lovely "The Clean House"

The cast of The Clean House (Rosemary Dai Ross)
The Clean House
As If Theatre Company
Extended through March 3, 2019

As often happens in the Seattle area, a group of like-minded folks get together and decide to create a new company. Sometimes it's to produce one particular script and sometimes the goal is a bit larger. Out in Kenmore, a group of mature women (as in "not eager 20-somethings") have created As If Theatre Company, in an area that doesn't have a lot of theater going on there. 

Since I live nearby and like the idea of theater in Kenmore, I was pleased, as well, that they chose to produce Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House. I'd seen the production at ACT Theatre a decade ago and I remembered that I really loved the play but didn't remember enough about it and wanted to revisit it.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

“Rock of Ages” is a Big Cheeseball You Eat Anyway

Diana Huey and Galen Disston in Rock of Ages (Tracy Martin)
Rock of Ages
5th Avenue Theatre
Through February 24, 2019

Piles of snow didn’t stop the crew of Rock of Ages from puttin’ on a show! Some of the hardier audience members were even able to snag $20 tickets. 5th Avenue admin made the decision to help entice people who were able to get downtown to come in from the cold and have fun.

The musical is mostly an excuse for talented singer/performers to belt their faces off to well-known rock-and-roll songs from the 80’s and 90’s. It’s got some good jokes and a barely-palatable “story” to hang the songs on. You don’t go for deep and thoughtful story content, you go to sing along with the performers. They know all the words, you just chime in when you remember a few! (I don’t mean you actually are supposed to sing along, but it’s kind of inevitable if you already know the song.)

A robust cast of local talents bring the fun to life, with an assist from “she who we claim as ours,” Diana Huey, as the lead young-girl-from-a-small-town-who-wants-to-be-a-star-and-runs-away-with-her-parents’-disapproval-to-a-big-bad-Los-Angeles Sherrie, and a “real” rock legend, Mickey Thomas from (Jefferson) Starship as club owner Dennis. A bashful-looking Galen Disston, lead singer of the local rock band, Pickwick, takes on a new challenge as Drew, the-boy-who-wants-to-be-a-rock-and-roll-star-and-starts-as-a-bar-back. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Watching “American Junkie” is Hard, But Worth It

Ian Bond in American Junkie (Studio 19 Photography)
American Junkie
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through March 10, 2019

Watching someone act out shooting heroin and hearing them describe it is definitely discomfiting. Hearing in the description that they are removing wads of tissues from holes in their body that reach the bone to find flesh decent enough to shoot into could make the hearer feel like running to the bathroom to vomit. Yet, that is part of what is in store for audiences of a searing, yet compelling new work at Book-It Repertory Theatre.

American Junkie, an adaptation of a novel by former junkie, Tom Hansen, by Jane Jones and Kevin McKeon, is an intense experience. If you’re naïve about what junkies go through or experience, this ride will certainly fill in a few blank spots.

So, why would you want to put yourself through that? Because it’s important to understand people who are different from you, or to understand your relative or friend or friend’s friend who is going through something similar. We’re currently living through what is being termed “an opioid crisis,” yet those whose lives are unaffected probably don’t understand why it’s so hard to get ahead of these addiction issues.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

“Fire Season” Smolders Over Opioid Crisis

Mike Dooley and Kathryn Van Meter in Fire Season (Truman Buffett)

Fire Season
Seattle Public Theater
Through February 17, 2019

Seattle Public Theater launched a new playwriting prize, The Emerald Prize, in 2016. It’s a pretty large prize of $10,000. It was a long process that involved getting submissions from selected professionals who were tasked with providing five plays, three of which had to be from women or LGBTQ-identified writers or people of color, or an intersection of these categories. Aurin Squire, an eclectic writer of plays, docudramas and documentaries, journalistic efforts and television episodics, won the prize.

Squire came to Seattle and workshopped the play and eventually the play was chosen for SPT’s season and is now on stage. Fire Season is set in a small rural Washington State community. 

The program tells us that Squire has a sister who is a physician working in a rural area who had her prescription pad stolen and used for the purchasing of a lot of sedatives. The play includes a woman doctor in just such a circumstance as it tells the story of the scourge of opioid addiction in this small town. Dedra D. Woods plays the doctor and she details the difficulties faced by a doctor of color in a small town that is mostly white. 

Sunday, February 03, 2019

February 2019 Theater Openings

Diana Huey and Galen Disston in Rock of Ages (Mark Kitaoka)
A big musical, two different takes on Uncle Vanya, and a lot more is in store for your February theater-going pleasure. Check out what’s coming up!

Rock of Ages, 5th Avenue Theatre, 2/1-24/19 (opens 2/8)
Diana Huey comes back to town to headline this ‘80s rock ‘n’ roll homage. It’s the story of a small town girl and a city boy who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rocking romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Styx, Foreigner, Joan Jett, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and more.

The Devil and Sarah Blackwater, Annex Theatre, 2/1/19-3/2/19 (world premiere)
Singer-songwriter Sarah Blackwater’s rock and roll tour is rudely interrupted when the Devil comes calling about a debt - the eternal soul of her partner, Sam. With love as her compass, Sarah goes through hell and back to discover what’s worth holding on to.

Uncle Vanya, The Seagull Project, 2/1-17/19 (at ACT Theatre)
Uncle Vanya is the second major play written by Anton Chekhov and premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898. A provincial family is in turmoil, after the esteemed Professor Serebryakov and his wife, Yelena, arrive to stay at the family estate after coming to the end of their fiscal rope. The desires of the family begin to boil under these new circumstances.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Maybe This Time For “I Do, I Do”, It’s “I Don’t”

Kendra Kassebaum and Peter Saide in I Do, I Do (Tracy Martin)
I Do, I Do
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through February 24, 2019 Everett: March 1-24, 2019

The little operetta, I Do, I Do, is not done very often, so I anticipated it a treat to be able to see an almost-lost musical such as this on stage. Village Theatre is mounting this show with two solid performers: local firebrand, Kendra Kassebaum, and imported leading-man, Peter Saide. Saide is lovely in the role, as a good singer, an adept dancer to director/choreographer Michael Arnold’s old-timey dances, and provides solid acting in the range of emotions the character goes through. (I just still wonder if there was a need to bring in talent with all the available men here who might easily do the role.)

I Do, I Do is pretty formulaic and there is almost nothing surprising about it. You can guess it’s the story, through song, of the life of a marriage. This one happens to begin, per the story it was built on, in 1895 and extend to 1945. The play, The Fourposter, by Jan de Hartog, was the genesis of the musical.

Friday, January 25, 2019

And the 2018 Gypsy Rose Lee Award Nominees Are!

For the eighth year in a row, theater critics in Seattle have banded together to honor excellent theater in town over the past year. Anyone who is on the “inside” of this small industry knows that there are fewer and fewer places where people can write about theater, unless they establish a blog or other online outlet! However, there are still a few of us left trying to help audiences find great work.

To that end, the annual critics’ award still chugs along, at least for one more year. Spanning dozens of theater companies and productions, from large and prominent to small and humble, the Gypsy Rose Lee Awards honor the excellence found in as much professional theater as we reviewers can attend in a year. Named in honor of the famed theater entrepreneur and Seattle native, Gypsy Rose Lee, and in a nod to the vast numbers or theater practitioners forced to travel the country to earn their living, the Gypsys seek to acknowledge the excellence of the Seattle theater community. (The group’s online presence is at

The winners will be announced February 1, 2019. 

And without further ado, arranged in 33 categories in two divisions (Large Theaters and Small Theaters). the 2018 Gypsy Rose Lee Award Nominees are (by category, in alpha order by name):

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Maybe “B” is a Comedy (Hard to Tell)

A moment from B (Chris Bennion)
Washington Ensemble Theatre
Through January 28, 2019

It’s sometimes hard to figure out what you “hear” when you’re watching a play in real time. Those of us who see a lot of plays often dissect a production into the company-made production in front of us and separate out the script and listen in a two-track kind of way. Sometimes both of those pieces mesh together in a solid and streamlined way, and the production feels like it fulfills the promise of the script as the script likely calls for it to be done.

In the case of the production of B, now being presented by Washington Ensemble Theatre, that two-track reflection gets a little tricky. The script of B sometimes sounds like it should be performed a lot differently than what we currently see on stage. In fact, it sounds like it could have been done a lot faster and the production doesn’t sound like it’s keeping up with the rhythm’s inherent in Guillermo Calderon’s play.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

“All’s Well That Ends Well” Demonstrates That Emotions Stay the Same Through Time

R. Hamilton Wright, Suzanne Bouchard and Michael Winters in All's Well That Ends Well (John Ulman)
All’s Well That Ends Well
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through February 3, 2019

Let’s suppose that you’re a young man who has grown up with a girl sort-of forced into your family by the death of her folks, and just because she’s saved someone’s life, she gets to choose you as her husband when you have no interest in her! Well, you just wouldn’t do that, would you?

That’s the essential dilemma facing Bertram (Conner Brady Neddersen) in All’s Well That Ends Well, the latest Shakespearian production at Seattle Shakespeare Company. The title is very familiar and you might think you know the story. It’s one of the “lesser” plays and Shakes has gathered a strong cast of veteran players to bring it to life, including Shakespearian stalwart Michael Winters as the King, R. Hamilton Wright as Lord Lafew, and Suzanne Bouchard as the stately Countess.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

ZinZanni is Homed Again!

Christine Deaver as a cowboy (Michael Doucett)
Hollywood & Vine
Teatro ZinZanni
Through April 28, 2019

Our unique dinner spectacle and cabaret has found a new home that is damn near permanent! Teatro ZinZanni had hoped to stay in the “theater district” of the Seattle Center until their plot of land was sold for construction. That challenged them to comb the entire area for a suitable option and they landed in Marymoor Park for a little while.

Then, the land that used to house Redhook Brewery became available in Woodinville and now, they’re back up and running, still a bit temporary, but with a 20-year lease in hand, they’re definitely there to stay! It certainly doesn’t feel temporary – it feels very much like it has for all the years the spiegeltent has been present in Seattle. What is still temporary is really not what an audience will see – they will need to build the permanent “pad” that the tent will sit on and create more durable surrounding buildings. But that’s all to come.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Seattle’s Best Theater of 2018!

The City of London stage floor for Parliament Square  with scenic painter Annie Duffiance 
(Justin Duffiance)

The "macrame'd" backdrop for Parliament Square (Dangerpants Photography) 
It’s time to look back at 2018 and take note of some of the great theatrical presentations that took place on Seattle-area stages! As usual, there was a lot of fantastic theater to be seen and to experience! Here’s my list of notable and excellent productions, as I saw them. 

I need to acknowledge the excellent season that ArtsWest had in 2018 as Artistic Director Mathew Wright continues to elevate their overall presentations, both in terms of choices of scripts and in terms of technical support! This year, I saw most of their productions, including An Octoroon, Hir, Peerless, Skeleton Crew, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. Every one of these shows is also listed in one or another of the categories below! Keep cranking it out, folks. I hope others are making plans to get subscriptions!

Top Honors:
Excellent stage productions usually include all the components of a piece, in terms of great technical supports, and a great script, and great performances by the actors. Here are some of those excellently well-done shows: Hand to God at Seattle Public Theatre was a gutsy and outrageous show. Hir, co-produced by ArtsWest and IntimanTheatre, was similarly gutsy and timely in terms of the focus, in part, on transgender youth. ASL Midsummer Night’s Dream by Sound Theatre Company was a massive endeavor by a pretty tiny company to include deaf audiences and actors in a seminal Shakespearean experience. Peerless at ArtsWest had a subject matter that I’m extremely tired of personally – high school angst, but it was such a high level of effort with a kick-ass ensemble and a funny-smart script that I was won over. Skeleton Crew, another of the terrific ArtsWest productions, highlighted people that don’t often get plays written about: factory workers and union members, and focused on corporate profit-taking at the expense of their personnel. Native Gardens by Intiman Theatre was a funny skewering of racial stereotypes and a bandying about of tropes about “the Man” and border walls and all manner of topical immigration issues. Ironbound at Seattle Public Theater was a taut, edgy character study in minimalism.