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.”