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 www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.)

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)
B
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.