Saturday, November 29, 2014

Theater Anonymous’ One-Night-Only “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Amy Hill Danneker and Daniel Christensen in the 2013 performance (Truman Buffett)
For several years now, Theater Anonymous (from The 14/48Projects) has presented a very unique performance on only one night. They perform It’s a Wonderful Life (essentially the movie script) but never reveal the actors, even to all the actors!

This year, it is going to be December 6th at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. Those that know about it and have seen or participated in past years know to attend in costuming that makes it appear you might be an actor in the play. It helps confuse the audience and amps up the confusion over who exactly is going to act with whom. It even fakes out the actors, scattered in the audience, as well, if they see other actors they guess might be performing.

Daniel Christensen was last year’s George Bailey. I spoke to him about his experience. A funny fact for Daniel is that he had never, ever seen the movie before he put his hat in the ring to do the show. He says, “I wasn’t even sure who George was! I don’t know why. If there was one movie tradition, it was A Christmas Story, not that one.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Fangs" pulls Reality into Farce

Cast of Fangs (courtesy Jim Moran)
Through December 6, 2014

A new play, Fangs, by local playwright Jim Moran is being presented at Eclectic Theater. It has an interesting political slant, showing a Republican state lawmaker in the middle of a campaign when his daughter charges him with hypocrisy. It’s comedic reality until it becomes farce.

Moran sets up a solid confrontation in a cabin in the woods during a snow storm. Riley Perkins (Chris Macdonald) and his aide, Toby Beale (Shane Regan), continue to work the phones on state business and campaign issues. They wheel and deal while Riley’s wife (Samantha Routh) gets drunk and snow falls.

Suddenly, Riley’s daughter, Madison (Rachel Anne Godbe), arrives after hitching a ride with a state wildlife official (Ashley Bagwell). She’s come to remind her father that she had an abortion when she was 16, and she thinks his stance against abortion is hypocritical, since he helped her obtain hers but would legislate against others doing so.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Mary Poppins" – Practically perfect in every way

Cayman Ilika and Greg McCormick Allen in Mary Poppins (Mark Kitaoka)

Mary Poppins
Issaquah: to January 4, 2015
Everett: January 9-February 8, 2015

Anticipation for Village Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins ran high, especially after casting was announced of Cayman Ilika as Mary Poppins and Greg McCormick Allen as Bert. Both have every attribute you would want for those roles, and each is as professional a pro can be in delivering the goods! And so it is no surprise at all that they do in spades!

Then you have some lovely casting choices like real-life-marrieds Christine Marie Brown and Andrew McGinn as George and Winifred Banks, the keep-your-eye-on youngster Mae Corley as young Jane Banks, other real-life-marrieds Connie Corrick (as the Bird Woman) and Hugh Hastings (as the Admiral) and the sure-to-be-comic-duo of Laura Kenny and Erik Gratton as the housekeeper Mrs. Brill and the butler Robertson Ay. Add the furious, chew the stage, anti-Poppins aria of Mary Jo DuGaw (as Miss Andrews) and a passel of dancers and you’ve brewed up a terrific, family fun show sure to please everyone!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Intimate “Messiah” focuses on story says Inverse Opera’s director

Rob Scherzer directing rehearsal (courtesy Inverse Opera)

Handel’s Messiah
Inverse Opera (at Taproot Theatre)
December 5-20, 2014

Inverse Opera has been performing in performance venues and bars for a few years now, introducing non-opera folks to a more intimate experience of operatic voices. Last year, Rob Scherzer took on the task of directing a kind of “pocket” version of what people usually think of as a grand (read “large”) piece of holiday music, Handel’s Messiah.

This is their second year doing this in an intimate, 12-performer version, which they will perform in street clothes, in a sort of “casual” atmosphere at Taproot’s black box theatre. However, Rob doesn’t want you to think that shrinking the cast or the musicians (from at least 18, often, if not a whole symphony, down to just one pianist!!!) means that the quality of the production is cut-rate in any way. “This production is rife with Seattle’s top musical talents. It’s an interesting distinction, where some folks are from a purely operatic background and some from a purely theatrical (musical theater) discipline and are top talents in each area.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

Arouet stumbles with "The Fierce Urgency of Now"

Evan Louis Thomas and Laura Crouch in The Fierce Urgency of Now (Michael Brunk)
The Fierce Urgency of Now
Arouet (at Stone Soup)
through November 22, 2014

I can see the interest Arouet had in a script with a gay man as lead. Unfortunately, The Fierce Urgency of Now is a tepid script that does not go beyond stereotyping of ad agencies, office politics, or much else. Also unfortunately, the production is also tepid and uninspiring.

Four of five actors are people I have seen many times and enjoyed very much. Their work here cannot be said to be their best work. The lead, Evan Louis Thomas, may be a genial fellow, but he is not up to the challenge of the lead and was not at all convincing in the role. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Entrancing "Dick Whittington" is perfect family fun for the holidays

Mike Spee and Fawn Ledesma in Dick Whittington and His Cat (Chris Bennion)

Dick Whittington and His Cat
Through December 21, 2014

The world premiere musical at Seattle Children’s Theatre, Dick Whittington and His Cat, is the perfect all-family holiday show this season! At a fast-paced hour and a half (including intermission), this magical adventure will entrance children as small as three and keep their parents, aunts, uncles and grands happy to be there.

Book and lyrics are by Jeff Church, currently producing artistic director at The Coterie Theater in Kansas City, and local multi-talented composer Richard Gray. The score is filled with ornate references to Irish drinking songs that augment the British flavor of the script. The theme focuses on giving a child a chance, since Dick Whittington starts life as an orphan and is dependent on people believing he can be trusted.

The hard-working cast of nine becomes travelling vagabonds, Londoners, sailors, foreign court dignitaries, pirates, and more. A fun activity might be to see if you can spot the single actor as he or she moves through as many as seven or more different characters.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Before "Rent" there was "Tick, Tick...Boom!" SecondStory Rep offers a great production, but hurry.

Faith Howes, Adam Minton, and Ryan Lile in Tick, Tick...Boom! (Michael Brunk)

Tick Tick … Boom!
Through November 22, 2014

In a terrific introduction to three newer-to-Seattle-stages musical theater performers, SecondStory Repertory is presenting Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…Boom! This musical preceded Larson’s blockbuster hit, Rent, so it is a historical curiosity, and an opportunity to hear Larson’s development as a musical writer. It’s also a precursor to more “rock” musicals.

The story focuses on Jon (Adam Minton) who is turning 30 in New York City in 1990 and is despairing of actually writing the Great American Musical and is on the cusp of thinking he maybe should just give it up. It is autobiographical and references an even earlier musical that Larson wrote called Superbia that is about to be presented as a workshop production. Nascent musicals often move from workshops to developments, if producers come to and like the workshop. A lot is hanging in the balance.

Jon’s current girlfriend, Susan (Faith Howes), is a dancer who wants to settle down and have a family and, more importantly, move away. Jon’s best friend is Michael (Ryan Lile), who has already left acting for a corporate job, enjoying the money and stability. So, Jon is surrounded by people who have changed their goals, and maybe he’s supposed to as well. After all, he survives by waiting tables.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Absurdist Play Starts Funny Ends Dark

Laurie Jerger and K. Brian Neel in I Never Betrayed the Revolution (Truman Buffett)
I Never Betrayed the Revolution
Through November 23, 2014

AJ Epstein directs a world premiere play that is absurd and deceptively simple. Playwright Christopher Danowski, a longtime associate of Epstein’s, writes short, simple, slightly humorous (at first) scenes of a pan-Slavic citizenry restive and oppressed by its government in I Never Betrayed the Revolution. We’re (overly) helped by scenic descriptor cards presented by a dour-faced, eyes black-lined, Kate Kraay, who exemplifies the severity of their mood. While the play could use more polishing, it has something important to say about governing.

Chris Dietz is a political poet, Letkov, whose subversive writing causes his disappearance from his love, Daleka (Laurie Jerger). She and Henryka (Susanna Burney) and Josef (Matt Aquayo), Alina (Ty Bonneville) and Januscz (Andy Buffelen) keep the faith and long for a world that is free. They want food, security, and the ability to have or at least grow what they need. Isn’t that what we all want, essentially?

K. Brian Neel is General Chuchelow, played as a haphazard, Funky-Chicken-dancing, crazy administrator who loves his desk, but is under the power of unseen governors. He exemplifies the Peter-Principle-executive (rising to his level of incompetence), easily deposed and just as easily, eventually returned to power.

Blood Countess: Sophisticated, bloody fun (Annex)

Terri Weagant and Sarah Winsor in Blood Countess (Dangerpants Photography)
Blood Countess
Through November 22, 2014

A real live flesh-eating noblewoman is the subject of Kelleen Conway Blanchard’s latest production at Annex Theatre. Blood Countess is a poetic and evocative telling of Elizabeth Bathory’s life, from her childhood, marriage to a fellow sadist, up to her final captivity and end.

Blanchard wouldn’t write just any kind of biography, though. She picks key moments in a life to dramatize with effective dialogue and unique characterizations. Mary Murfin Bayley as the Mother is venal, crazy and abusive…Apple meet Tree.

Terri Weagant in the title role displays a full range of emotions and facially transmits all kinds of information through her expressions: dislike, bordering on hate for her mother, longing to be accepted for herself, developing awareness of her own powers and desires, and progressing into a raging, crazy and megalomaniacal fully grown woman.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Girls do love their horses! Playing off stereotype to great advantage...

Sascha Streckel and Horse Girls (Dangerpants Photography)

Horse Girls
Annex Theatre
through November 19, 2014

Young girls fall in love with horses. That is so ubiquitous it's almost more than a stereotype. Do young boys do the same? Not being one, I just don't know, but having three younger brothers who did not seem to be gaga about horses, while I was, my small sampling indicates, "no." Not that boys dislike horses, but girls seem to obsess about them.

This stereotype is on full display with Horse Girls by Jenny Rachel Weiner at Annex Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. A large cast (for a one-bedroom show) of seven young women takes the reins and gallops away with the script. (I just can't not do this.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Review: The Case of the Disappearing Laughter ("Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" at ACT Theatre)

Pamela Reed, R. Hamilton Wright and Marianne Owen (Chris Bennion)
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Through November 16, 2014

The reviews from New York productions of Christopher Durang’s new play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike pretty universally call it funny and even more. “Few Chekhov-inspired shows make you laugh out loud, and repeatedly at that. In fact there’s probably just one such rare bird on the planet,” says the New York Post.

So, if the current production of Durang’s play at ACT Theatre is not so funny, even with a cast one might expect truly humorous acting from, what might be the problem? This production has a few laughs in it, from time to time, but one does not experience an audience as the New York Times did … “The theater erupts in booming gusts of laughter that practically shake the seats.” Your faithful reviewer did not see any kind of indication of that in the slightest at ACT Theatre for the entire evening.