Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Carla Ching, playwright of "Fast Company," talks about the play, the Kilroys, writing for television

Brad Walker, Mariko Kita, Sara Porkalob, Kevin Lin in Fast Company (Roger Tang)

Fast Company
Theatre Off Jackson
November 1-22, 2014

Pork Filled Productions’ next play opens this weekend. Fast Company is by Carla Ching and is about a Chinese American family (specifically, as you’ll see her talk about below) of expert con artists, grifters and thieves. It portrays, with comedy and drama, the ins and outs of family dysfunction, even within a family criminal enterprise.

Ms. Ching is a playwright and also a staff writer on an edgy, current and very diverse tv cop show, Graceland. (Well, it’s federal agents, but that still basically makes it a cop show.) I talked to her about her play and writing for television and her involvement in The Kilroys, the group that made headlines this year when they collected a list of 46 plays written by women that theaters could use nationally if they wanted to increase the amount of women playwrights on their production schedule.

First up, her play, which is having its third production via Pork Filled, after having outings at South Coast Rep and Ensemble Studio Theater in New York. EST commissioned the play. Carla has worked with director Amy Poisson on tweaking the script so this script is not the same as either other production.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review: Thalia's Umbrella's beautifully rendered Fugard production

Pam Nolte, William Hall, Jr. and Terry Moore (John Ulman)

A Lesson from Aloes
Thalia’s Umbrella
(at Taproot Black Box)
Through October 26, 2014

Athol Fugard may not be a name you know well, or at all. However, he has earned his reputation well as a prolific playwright hailing from South African and often writing about people enmeshed in the consequences of their political and social systems of Apartheid. His beautifully written play, A Lesson from Aloes, is being produced by Thalia’s Umbrella – a company created by theatrical veterans Terry and Cornelia Moore to produce plays they feel an especial kinship with.

This three-hander, starring Terry Moore, Pam Nolte and William Hall, Jr., is a play you must pay careful attention to. The layers are geothermic (if you’d rather, we could go back to onions, though that’s boring), and call for careful mining. Moore and Nolte are a white couple, Piet or Pieter and Gladys, who had found fellowship and common cause with the black movement toward freedom and equality. But we meet the two of them after some difficult events.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Zinzanni's "Hacienda Holiday" warms up the winter rains

Don't be fooled! That's Christine Deaver in black and Kevin Kent in red in Hacienda Holiday (Alan Alabastro)

Hacienda Holiday
Through January 31, 2015

It’s a good time in the tent tonight! The new show at Teatro Zinzanni, Hacienda Holiday, brings back oldies but goodies Christine Deaver and Kevin Kent as the five-times-married couple Beaumount and Caswell, who have travelled south of the border to renew their wedding vows. But there are secrets that bedevil their event and almost derail their plan. Horrors! Of course, all is well in the end…

This intimate mini-“cirque” is always a special event combining upscale food and carefully paired wines with gorgeous aerial, juggling, dance and song acts. If it’s your first time, you’re amazed and enthralled. If it’s your fifth or twenty-fifth, you know there will be something stunning and something heart-warming every time.

Headliners Deaver and Kent are consummate performers in this kind of venue, and their songs and Deaver’s solos are deftly delivered. They also have plenty of experience managing audience interaction and calling people up from their tables to have some light-hearted fun.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"The Vaudevillians" is a lighthearted, boozy romp

The Vaudevillians (Nate Watters)
The Vaudevillains
Seattle Repertory Theatre
through November 2, 2014

(as posted on Seattle Gay Scene)

If talent were the only criterion to be on the Seattle Repertory Theatre stage, then Richard Andriessen (aka Major Scales) and Jerick Hoffer (aka Jinkx Monsoon) should certainly be on their stage. If having fun were the only criterion for a play to be on the Seattle Repertory Theatre stage, then certainly, The Vaudevillians should be on their stage. Of course, anyone reading this article on Seattle Gay Scene is likely to want to immediately get tickets to see The Vaudevillians for the talent and the fun!

It’s a bit less likely, given a set of statistics, that a majority of current subscribers of the Seattle Repertory Theatre would think that the only criteria that counts is talent and fun. That is pretty much the open question.The Vaudevillians stars two brilliantly talented young men who have developed a storyline that is a hoot: a married vaudeville couple has been frozen in the Antarctic for dozens of years and having been recently thawed and revived have resumed their vaudeville performances.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coming Up! Mary Ewald to play Hamlet at New City Theater

Mary Ewald as Hamlet (John Kazanjian)

New City Theater
October 22 – November 15, 2014

Did you know that many heralded women have played Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play? That the first recorded woman to play Hamlet was Fanny Furnival in Dublin, 1741? She was followed by many renowned (often middle aged, often Lesbian) actresses over the centuries. It’s no surprise that women have longed to play such meaty roles on stage; but perhaps more of a surprise is to learn just how many women, including Sarah Bernhardt at age 55, and (Dame) Judith Anderson at age 72, have played Hamlet on stage and screen.

Artists have found an internal conflict of the masculine and the feminine within Hamlet, and that conflict has served as an interpretive blueprint and approach to the character for Mary Ewald and John Kazanjian at New City Theater. Their upcoming production stars Mary Ewald as Hamlet.

I spoke to Mary about why she is willing to tackle the role as she prepares to take the stage. Mary says, “I've read a fascinating book on women playing Hamlet. Many of the women playing Hamlet were lesbians looking for a better challenge than most plays gave them. Most interesting is reading about different interpretations, and what a woman may bring out in the role that rings differently than a male actor playing it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

It wouldn't be horrorble if you missed this

Garrett Dill and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako in The Rocky Horror Show (Jeff Carpenter)
The Rocky Horror Show
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through October 18, 2014

I’d like to be kind. I want Seattle Musical Theatre to have great big hits and lots of people attending. Aspects of The Rocky Horror Show are fun (costuming is good, lights and set are good), but overall, the musical, especially the steamless second act, is pretty much a mess.

The performers all seem invested, and it seems fun for them. So, that’s a good start. The video featuring Peggy Platt as the narrator and Lisa Koch as her butler is a great addition. There are a few performers who stand out, including Joel Domenico as Frank (though his flagging energy in the second act is part of the problem), Hisam Goueli, a surprisingly effective Rocky, and the game-for-anything talented Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako as Janet. But Nako can’t be the whole show.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Excellent acting in "Slip/Shot" overshadowed by technical shortcomings and disappointing script

Treavor Boykin and Faith Russell in Slip/Shot (PaulBestock)

Through October 12, 2014

(As printed in Seattle Gay News)

Seattle Public Theater often combines great technical design (especially for a mid-sized theater) and challenging and well-done productions. Some of the best in town. It’s easy to see why they might choose to do the play Slip/Shot by Jacqueline Goldfinger: A security guard shoots an unarmed African-American teen and claims it is an accident. It sounds like it would be an extremely topical and challenging play.

Though written around 2012, Goldfinger sets the action in 1960s small town southern America. Some dialogue is poetic, some sociologically relevant (women were expected to stay home and take care of their husbands), and the script probably reads well. Unfortunately, it disappoints.

However, the production at SPT is well-cast with excellent actors, with not a false acting note among them.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Introducing Forward Flux – The Salon: a reading series for new plays

Dan Connor, Leslie Windom (obscured), Mollie Corcoran, and Brian Lange read Green Whales (J Reese)

Despite people sometimes opining that there is a lack of play reading opportunities in Seattle, there are more reading series than you might think. And in recent months, a few more have cropped up. One of the opportunities is the new Forward Flux Salon.

Forward Flux Productions started in New York City in 2010 and launched a new play in 2012,, written by Wesley Frugé, about a blogger whose work starts to go viral. Another new play in 2013, Robot Songs, is about a robot who would rather write pop songs than destroy the human race. But not all of their work is technology-based. Their mission is to “connect people with art in unexpected ways. We challenge the boundaries of tradition by reimagining the audience experience.”      

The creators, Wesley Frugé, Karesia Batan, and Rafael Landeiro expanded to Seattle in 2014 when Wesley moved here and efforts continue in NYC.

The Salon is the first event in Seattle, with more developments to come. Wesley says, “I moved to Seattle one year ago after living in NYC for eight years. I'm so excited to be a part of this vibrant community, and I really feel that there is an amazing opportunity in this city to invest in new art. We are now operating from both coasts.”

Oh, the Horror! Rocky lands at SMT for only Two Weeks!

Nathan Brockett as Riff Raff and Stephanie L. Graham as Magenta
in The Rocky Horror Show (Steven Fogell)

The Rocky Horror Show
Seattle Musical Theatre
October 9-18, 2014

Seattle Musical Theatre celebrates the 40th anniversary of the iconic musical, The Rocky Horror Show, starting tomorrow, October 9 through October 18. This production boasts a steampunk/circus atmosphere helmed by Steven Fogell.

Another special feature, though one that is destined to be a surprise, is the inclusion of comedy mavens Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt, also known as Dos Fallopia, and the creators of the annual Ham for the Holidays sketch series, upcoming at ACT Theatre around Thanksgiving. Koch and Platt will not play characters written into the script, but will add to the outrageous atmosphere (some mysterious way)!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Quick Take: "The Mountaintop" at ArtsWest

Reginald André Jackson and brianne a. hill in The Mountaintop (Michael Brunk)

The Mountaintop
through October 5, 2014

This intriguing two-hander, The Mountaintop, looks at a fictional last night in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. The script, by Katori Hall, focuses on a tired, fractious, chain-smoking King, who chafes at times at his life of travel and being away from his family, but also likes to flirt with, and probably bed with random attractive women who are willing.

In other words, it's an attempt to stop us from making him a saint and focusing on the price the man took in his journey to bring a dream of equality and economic freedom to "his" people. Since it is fictional, Hall has the luxury of having him say whatever she wants, though I imagine there were boundaries she had to walk not to overstep into some outright bawd or conman or other negative portrayal that is belied by what many people know of the real man.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Mary's Wedding is a dreamlike experience to embrace

Maya Sugarman and Conner Neddersen in Mary's Wedding (Chris Bennion)

Mary’s Wedding
New Century Theatre Company
(at West of Lenin)
Through October 11, 2014

(printed in Seattle Gay News)

Two shy teenagers at the start of World War I fall in love and cope with class, war, first crushes, honor, and duty in New Century Theatre Company’s production of Mary’s Wedding by Stephen Massicotte. This production is a shift for the small company in that the actors, Maya Sugarman and Conner Neddersen, have not been company members. This moves New Century Theatre Company into a producer mode, then.

But the panache with which the production is mounted and presented is well within the NCTC esthetic. The setting is a barn and set/light designer Brian Sidney Bembridge, and the company, found a real old demolished barn and recreated a chunk of it inside West of Lenin. Adding incandescent bulbs to represent stars and lightning and sunlight is a beautiful touch. Director John Langs brings a delicate sensibility to the play including minimal staging that turns hay bales into horses and a few sandbags into an army bunker.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Coming Up: "Kinky Boots!" Spotlight Night whets the appetite at 5th Avenue

Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Steven Booth in Kinky Boots (MatthewMurphy)

Kinky Boots
October 7-26, 2014

The 5th Avenue Theatre has whet the appetites of thousands of attendees already with their Spotlight Night focused on Kinky Boots. Executive producer and artistic director David Armstrong moderated the evening, giving a taste of what is in store by introducing two of the stars of the show and explaining the musical’s history and development.

But first, Armstrong introduced some performances from developing musicals from the 5th’s robust New Works program. Their redoubled efforts began in 2012 with the appointment of resident music supervisor Ian Eisendrath being named the Alhadeff Family Director of New Works.

Eisendrath, along with producing artistic director Bill Berry, introduced Beautiful Poison, written by Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn and Duane Poole. It was commissioned by the 5th and sounds a bit like The Secret Garden for grownups. It’s based on the Nathaniel Hawthorne story "Rappaccini's Daughter."

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Meticulous production highlights the huge size of tiny, quiet moments (The Bunner Sisters)

Marty Mukhalian and Annette Toutonghi in The Bunner Sisters (Paul Lippert)

The Bunner Sisters
(in a co-production with Theatre Off Jackson)
Through October 5, 2014

Two sisters in turn of the 20th Century clothing move effortlessly around a tiny storefront/apartment sewing, crimping, serving customers, stopping for tea, in a meager, but comfortable life. They remind of the careful attention to detail, and small moments, that is exemplified in tv’s Downton Abbey. They, too, have little to say to each other, a way of behavior that is so foreign to our “say anything you feel to anyone” age.

These sisters are actors Marty Mukhalian and Annette Toutonghi, in the new adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The Bunner Sisters, adapted by and directed by Julie Beckman for her new occasionally-producing theater company, Athena Theatre Project. The meticulous storefront/apartment was designed by Phillip Lienau and the actors look like they could have lived there for years.