Thursday, December 31, 2015

January brings excitement for new 2016 theater openings

Hana Lass and Candace Vance in Silent Sky at Taproot Theatre (John Ulman)
January brings excitement with the first ever production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus by Seattle Shakespeare Company (you probably thought they’d done every one of his plays already). Seattle Repertory brings the regional premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar. There’s lots more to choose from in the list below!

Where the Wild Things Are, Seattle Children’s Theatre, 1/7/16-2/21/16
Sail along with Max to the land of the Wild Things. This production from Vancouver's Presentation House Theatre is an intimate "guided play" experience for ages 3 to 7. The audience helps transform Max's bedroom into landscapes of his adventures and then becomes Wild Things.

Disgraced, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 1/8-31/16
Successful Pakistani-American-New York lawyer, Amir, enjoys a comfortable life with his American wife. But when his Muslim heritage is questioned, his life begins to unravel and a celebratory dinner with friends leads to a fiery debate on prejudice, identity and faith.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Yup! It's time for the Best of 2015 Theater!

Jeff Berryman, Corey Spruill, and Faith Russell in Best of Enemies at Taproot Theatre (Erik Stuhaug)
Can you believe another year has flown by? And suddenly it’s time for all the Best lists to commence! While it is always a struggle to choose, it is also useful to look back and reflect on how much great theater this town produces. So, here is my annual idiosyncratic list of Best Theater of 2015.

Best Solo Performances: Solo performers do the hardest job in theater, I think, since they must command the entire attention of a diverse audience. The two standouts this year were Ryun Yu in the amazing text of Hold These Truths at ACT Theatre and Joseph Lavy in Akropolis Performance Lab’s riveting The Glas Nocturne.

Best Unusual Venues: The Glas Nocturne also gets a mention along with the two productions by Seattle Immersive TheatreDump Site and Listening Glass – for unusual theater in unusual venues. There is an exciting trend toward exploring new ways of presenting theater that might attract new audiences who are looking for that kind of novelty. These shows were tops in their execution.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Solid production of "She Loves Me" at SMT - a perfect musical

Dustyn Moir and Doug Knoop look on as Laura Medford teases Brian Lange in She Loves Me (Jeff Carpenter)
She Loves Me
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through December 20, 2015

The musical She Loves Me, music by Jerry Brock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, book by Joe Masteroff, is one of the most perfect musicals ever, to me. It has a smallish cast, a fun and charismatic storyline, and killer songs. The songs, lyrics especially, are little bits of brilliance. Pretty much all of them!

You know the story if you’ve seen the old movie, The Shop Around the Corner, or the new movie, You’ve Got Mail: two people who work together and seem to hate each other have pen pals they think they love who turn out to be each other. Watching them fall in love with each other is a lot of fun.

The musical is done here every so often and the current production is at Seattle Musical Theatre. Directed by Alan Wilkie, it sports a cast of very good singers, which is great for the somewhat tricky music. A few of them are pretty new to the Seattle musical scene, which is always fun to discover.

Your holiday "Ham" is here!

The Colonel and Shenille (Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt) in Ham for the Holidays (photo by Chris Bennion)
Ham for the Holidays: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Ham?
Tongueinchic Productions
(at ACT Theatre)
Through December 20, 2015

I’m going to put a suggestion in the box for Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt to develop another regularly scheduled show during the year, maybe for Summer Solstice! Because once a year is simply not enough to enjoy their unique minds and amazing comedy. But so far, all we have is the Christmas time offering of Ham for the Holidays.

The current sketch night is subtitled Who’s Afraid of Virginia Ham? I don’t think the title has much to do with any given year’s sketches, but it’s part of the pun.

This year, we get the return of the Colonel and Shenille, as they sing along the Duwamish and point out the sights, such as they are. Be warned that, while the barge is billed as a casino and bar, they’re so new that they’ve yet to procure either the gambling license or the liquor license, but chug along they go! (Platt’s costume here is one of the funniest ever!)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sprightly "Emma" brings a touch of summer love

Sylvie Davidson as Emma (Adam Smith)
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through January 3, 2016

Books by Jane Austen provide excellent material for Book-It Repertory Theatre. And subscribers and audiences seem to eat them up, selling out several performances for adaptations of Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Rachel Atkins’ romcom adaptation of Emma. Reprising now, after a production in 2009, the show is reimagined in some lovely ways.

Carol Roscoe, the director, creates a proscenium picture (last time was kind of in the round) of a grass-covered summer-time romp. The sun is shining (courtesy lighting designer Andrew D. Smith) and the topiary rolls and can be sat on (set design courtesy of Andrea Bryn Bush). All is enhanced with the sumptuous costuming by Jocelyn Fowler, who is becoming a favorite of mine. The costuming was deceptively simple, but the embellishments made all the difference.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

“Unwrapped” isn’t the present you were waiting for

Jinkx Monsoon in Unwrapped (Nate Watters)
Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through December 13, 2015

Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales are a unique duo. They have achieved heady success as a drag team who are talented enough to sing their own songs and compose and write and perform smart material and witty banter. Last year, they performed a critically acclaimed show at the Seattle Repertory Theatre called The Vaudevillians.

The premise of The Vaudevillians was that this couple were frozen in the 1920s and somehow unthawed and brought back to life, all faculties intact. They then go back to their prior business of performing ‘20s style vaudeville music. It was expansive, over-the-top and quite enormous fun!

It was still mostly a “bar act” and probably a bit better with a bunch of booze in you, but it worked surprisingly well in the more staid environment of a major theatrical venue. I guess that was why they were invited back for a “holiday” show, or perhaps more precisely an “anti-holiday” show.

They are now performing Unwrapped. This is a brisk 60-65 minute show that has a more unfortunate premise: Jinkx Monsoon is not a fan of Christmas and has been forced, I suppose by being paid for it, to perform a holiday show at the Rep. Major Scales tries to keep her going and enthusiastic, but Jinkx mostly throws tantrums before getting to the generic audience-interaction moment in the middle of the show.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"Come From Away" will make you want to kiss a cod! Go SEE it!

Cast and musicians of Come From Away (Chris Bennion)
Come From Away
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through December 13, 2015

Here is the best holiday tip I can give you: Before you read this review, go to the computer or phone and arrange tickets for this musical immediately. The Seattle Repertory Theatre is already reporting that tickets for Come From Away, the feel-good musical phenomenon about a small Canadian town taking care of dozens of strangers forced to land on 9/11, are flying out the door!

Part of the reason is that it’s a short run from opening night. That is very “normal” when a musical is new and in development. Part of the process is to have preview performances where the writers continue to work on refinements up until opening night. In fact, the production opened November 18, and allows for four full weeks of performance. Sometimes, new musicals only have two or three weeks after opening!

But by far the biggest reason tickets are flying out the door is that this is undoubtedly the best musical to hit Seattle in…. a long time. It has a kick-ass major cast (all 12 are Broadway vets or Broadway-ready, some with extensive Canadian credits). That’s good because there is every expectation that the show will get to Broadway and soon! The book, sharp and refined, and music, and lyrics by Canadians Irene Sankoff and David Hein are catchy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Loverly “Lady” waltzes into Village Theatre

Allison Standley, Priscilla Hake Lauris, Mark Anders in My Fair Lady (Tracy Martin)
My Fair Lady
Village Theatre
Issaquah: Through January 3, 2016, Everett: 1/8-31/16

Allison Standley has not, until now, been cast as the lead in a local musical, though she won a Gypsy Rose Lee Award for her Supporting Role in Wild Party by Sound Theatre Company in 2013. Now, you can see her triumphantly starring as Eliza Doolittle in Village Theatre’s My Fair Lady. Her foil is Mark Anders, who inhabits Professor Higgins indubitably, and cutely and annoyingly throws tantrums when he’s frustrated, which makes the character a bit more human.

Standley does Eliza justice, most particularly in the spectacular, iconic songs she sings once she arrives at Higgins’ estate. She could use a bit more distinct diction in the more difficult to understand beginning songs, though her acting throughout is lively and alive.

In case you don’t know the basic story, a recap. An upper class British phoneticist bumps into a lower class flower girl and bets a friend that he can turn her into a princess in six months. Through tribulation and struggle, eventually the flower girl goes to a great ball and charms everyone. In the process, do the professor and the flower girl fall in love? Only the slippers know.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: Do you want a musical with your brunch? Mama Tits has it for you!

Mimosas with Mama
(at The Unicorn)

Mama Tits is a bossy, bitchy, big bombshell of a drag queen. If that description sets your teeth on edge, you probably won’t want to go to her Mimosas with Mama Sunday Brunch at The Unicorn! However, there are probably some good reasons for her ordering the crowd around and some of them might be mimosas!

If you’re going to have a boozy brunch, you might want to make sure those freely imbibing frequent flyers (it appears that many people like to attend frequently) stay in line and don’t bug the performers overly much, or cause any safety issues. And if you follow the rules, you’re bound to have fun with Mama and her cohort of faux chanteuses.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Interview: Rodney Hicks talks about originating musical roles - "RENT," "Scottsboro Boys," now "Come From Away!"

Rodney Hicks in Come From Away (Kevin Berne)
Rodney Hicks is a talented actor/writer, husband to Portland Center Stage’s artistic director, Chris Coleman, and has originated multiple roles in Broadway musicals to great acclaim! He is ready to open the brand new musical, Come From Away, at Seattle Repertory Theatre, after a lauded run at co-producer La Jolla Playhouse, November 18th.

Come From Away is a heart-warming story about a little known aspect of fall-out from 9/11. When planes were caught in flight during the no-flight mandate over the United States, planes had to land somewhere. 38 planes were grounded in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada! It is a tiny town unaccustomed to so many visitors. The town springs into action to support all these passengers.

A talented roster of performers, including locals Eric Ankrim, Chad Kimball, and Kendra Kassebaum create this ensemble-driven piece playing multiple roles. Directed by Christopher Ashley, artistic director at La Jolla, the production is still being heavily revised by writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein (My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding). They are certain to be working to bring the production to Broadway, though the exact route there is unknown at this time.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Jeanne Paulsen leads strong cast in "Mother Courage"

Mother Courage (John Ulman)
Mother Courage and Her Children
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through November 22, 2015

Jeanne Paulsen provides a strong and appropriately stalwart performance of the title character in Mother Courage and Her Children at Seattle Shakespeare Company. This is the most well-known of Bertolt Brecht’s plays, though seldom performed.

The character’s real name is Anna Fierling, but she’d been given the nickname Courage while dashing among fighting soldiers to sell them moldy bread. She’s to small businesses what Trump is to towers: the ultimate example, augmented by PR.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Guaranteed big laughs if you buy tickets to "Buyer and Cellar!"

Scott Drummond in Buyer and Cellar (Chris Bennion)
Buyer and Cellar
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through November 22, 2015

Are you a Barbra Streisand aficionado? Or do you yawn when you hear her name? Or are you not quite sure what all the fuss is about? The main character, Alex, in the wonderfully funny and sweet solo show at Seattle Repertory, Buyer and Cellar, is kind of the latter. Yes, he’s Gay, but nope he really doesn’t know all that much about Babs.

Until however, he gets a call, in between looking for acting gigs, to work for a rich person living in Malibu… and takes on one of the strangest hourly jobs a person might have: working in Barbra Streisand’s basement!

This is the set up for this charming show full of belly laughs and gently poking into financial inequity and our obsession with celebrity. At the start of the show, Scott Drummond, the New York-based actor getting a work out in this complex piece by Jonathan Tolins, tells us that we need to remember that none of this actually happened. It’s all the imagination of the playwright.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

"My Dear Miss Chancellor" - an evening sure to please

Sophia Franzella and Tracy Leigh in My Dear Miss Chancellor (Joe Iano Photography)
My Dear Miss Chancellor
Annex Theatre
Through November 14, 2015

There are thousands of Regency Romance novels with debonair, dashing young eligible bachelors and demure young debs daring to throw their caps at them. There are horses and carriages and gowns and corsets. Scandal might be when a young lady is seen unchaperoned and out with a young man, flouting convention and gossip. But where were the Gays and Lesbians?

There must not have been any. At least until Oscar Wilde. He was the first, right?

Not according to a spanking new play by local thespian Caitlin Gilman. My Dear Miss Chancellor dives deep into hidden Lesbian culture in the London social scene. In her vision, Lesbians daringly gather in secret societies, where they know each other and keep each other’s secrets. Where, if found out, they are certain to be drummed out of fashionable society and never heard from again.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Warm up with musicals for November 2015 Theater

Sgt. Rigsby - aka Scot Augustson (Tiffany Diamond)
What is it about November? We’ve got four big musicals and a musical sketch review, all opening this month! Musical lovers, you’re going to be in hog heaven, as they say! My Fair Lady, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, (world premiere) Come From Away, and The Sound of Music all get major productions. Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales return with a holiday skewering. 

There is a new subversive puppet extravaganza from Sgt. Rigsby & His Amazing Silhouettes. And Theater Schmeater gives us another installment of Twilight Zone – Live!

My Fair Lady (Mark Kitaoka)
My Fair Lady, Village Theatre, Issaquah: 11/5/15-1/3/16, Everett: 1/8-31/16
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, the story explores societal prejudices towards class and gender through the tale of lowly Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Allison Standley) and her unlikely run-in with linguistics teacher Henry Higgins (Mark Anders), who embarks on an experiment to transform Eliza into a proper lady.

The Ballad of Karla Fox, Printer's Devil Theater (at Theatre Off Jackson), 11/5-21/15
A new Scot Augustson and Sgt. Rigsby & His Amazing Silhouettes puppet world premiere, performed with radio show-style voices supplied by live actors, original live music, and a menagerie of two-dimensional puppets, the story follows the adventures of orphan Karla Fox, inspired by classic thrillers such as Gaslight and Rebecca. After her parents die in a suspicious accident (involving a drunken bulldog driving a moving van full of pianos), Karla Fox goes to live with her strange, stern Aunt Sadie. But soon Aunt Sadie’s particular brand of crazy gets too real and Karla is forced to flee in the night for her very life. (Not For Children)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Post-apocalypticly, the only theater that "matters" is The Simpsons?

The cast of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play (Chris Bennion)
Mr. Burns, a post-electric play
ACT Theatre
Through November 15, 2015

Random audience member quote: "This is either genius or a complete mess, I can’t decide." That’s an intermission utterance overheard at ACT Theatre’s performance of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play (by Anne Washburn). By the end of the evening, that same audience member decided. It was a mess.

I don’t disagree with him. I don’t know what the play looks like on paper, and maybe there is some clarity that arises from the words laid out neatly on the page. What the experience is is not clear, and not even coherent within the world it creates. Playwrights often create worlds that don’t exist in reality, and when they do so, that world must cohere inside itself, at minimum. This one doesn’t feel coherent, in that way.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Rave Review of Water By The Spoonful

Jany Bacallao and Yesenia Iglesias in Water by the Spoonful (Elise Swanson)
Water by the Spoonful
(at West of Lenin)
Through November 14, 2015

From the moment Water by the Spoonful begins, you are plunged into a turbulent story of deep family ties and resentments, and the challenges of lives lived in poverty and struggle. Who needs time for exposition? Let’s get this show on the road! The play, a 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner by Quiera Alegria Hudes, is one of the best scripts to hit our region’s stages in quite a while!

Directed by Julie Beckman, the tight 7-member cast has great support from a deceptively simple set by Montana Tippett, sound designer Kyle Thompson and lighting designer Tristan Roberson. In a moment, far into the 2 ¼ hour production, where a story is told that brings the title to life, water is poured from a spoon, and a hidden aspect of the set is revealed. It gave me goosebumps, it was so good.

Elliot Ortiz (Jany (Hah-nee) Bacallao), a troubled ex-Marine, and musicologist cousin Yazmin (Yesenia Iglesias) have an ailing aunt who dies. She is one of those saintly women who helps so many others that her absence is a blow to more than just immediate family. For Elliott and Yaz, it is that moment they must grow totally up and begin to take on the adult responsibilities, like heading the family as elders.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Seattle Immersive Theatre’s "Listening Glass" – keep this company on your radar!

Listening Glass (Fedora el Morro)
Listening Glass
Seattle Immersive Theatre
(at a warehouse: 2724 6th Ave S)
Through November 29, 2015

Seattle Immersive Theatre has taken immersion to a whole new level for its first two offerings. Their production, DUMP SITE, was created inside a warehouse which they filled with walls of cardboard boxes to create rooms, and where the audience was treated to a mystery unfolding in front of them. The actors interacted as if unobserved and related to each other the way any of us might with people we know well.

A brother and sister argued, though it took some time to allow their argument to reveal the subject area of disagreement. A stranger was introduced. The brother and sister revealed more information. The audience could walk around the set and were asked to be aware that an actor might need them to move out of the way! Masks were provided so that observers became stylized birds. It was meticulously planned.

Listening Glass, now presenting in the same warehouse, and almost totally sold out (even after adding more dates) is another meticulously produced environment. This time, it’s a small county police office, with a fingerprint room, a break room with real donuts and coffee, detective office space and an interrogation room. The glass the audiences listen to is the two-way mirror of the interrogation room, where the audience is invited to hear a suspect being grilled by a detective.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Contemplative "Molly Sweeney" scientifically explains sight

Jenni Taggart and Dara Lillis in Molly Sweeney (Michael Brunk)
Molly Sweeney
KTO Productions
(at TPS 4, Seattle Center Armory)
Through October 24, 2015

Playwright Brian Friel was considered a prolific writer of plays. His range was wide, as were his interests, but often he set his story in the town of "Ballybeg" (from the Irish Baile Beag, meaning "Small Town"). KTO Productions was in rehearsal for Molly Sweeney, one of Friel’s more contemplative plays, when he died on October 2nd. Seattle audiences were treated to a lovely production of his Dancing at Lughnasa at the Seattle Rep in 2010.

Molly Sweeney, as a play, is a bit challenging, and one must bring patience to let it unfold. But if you allow the play to work its magic, you will get a lot to think about on the way home.

The named subject is a woman (Jenni Taggart) who has been blind since her first year of life and is content, well-adjusted and happy in her life. Technology and medicine have caught up with her condition after 40 years and her new husband (Dara Lillis) loves the idea that surgery might allow her to see again. The doctor, Mr. Rice (Doug Knoop), admits in an early monologue that he is partly motivated by acclaim and reputation to see if he can restore long unused sight.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"One Slight Hitch" is old-style door-slamming fun

Cast of One Slight Hitch (Christine Mosere)
One Slight Hitch
Phoenix Theatre
Through November 1, 2015

Comedian Lewis Black wrote One Slight Hitch and it was produced at ACT Theatre in 2012. Deliberately set in 1981 – “morning in (Reagan’s) America,” it is a throwback to old-style slamming door farce. ACT’s production was sluggish and not very funny. It had the stalwart R. Hamilton Wright as the dad and Marianne Owen as the mom and they did their utmost to bring the comedy.

Phoenix Theatre does comedies. So it fits their modality and they are pretty great at old-style slamming door farce! Their mounting of the play is faster, funnier and sillier than the lugubrious ACT production. I even laughed at more of the jokes!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Laugh with or at "Bad Jews"…It can take it!

Ben Phillips and Anna Kasaybyan in Bad Jews (Paul Bestock)
Bad Jews
Seattle Public Theater
Through October 25, 2015

Bad Jews, by Joshua Harmon, on stage now at Seattle Public Theater, is a very personal and mixed bag experience for me. Jews are a teeny, tiny minority in Seattle and are often completely overlooked, but Jews have a deep infiltration of theater in this country (and of course were seminal in the creation of the Hollywood machine), so there is perhaps an outsized connection to Judaism in theater.

Shana Bestock, director and artistic director of SPT, wrote an also personal and mixed-emotion note about this play and her own Jewish identity, so the play seems to hit many different notes for her, too. I often find myself worried about the execution of a play in Seattle, where so many don’t hear the specific cadences of Jewish vocal delivery, and sometimes very funny Jewish plays don’t land any jokes because their rhythms are totally misplaced.

This is a 90-minute, real-time play about three cousins, just after their beloved grandfather’s funeral, two of whom want a “chai” – a gold-form Hebrew word for “life” – that has special meaning for both. They converge at a one-room apartment in New York with one cousin’s girlfriend, and have the fight of their lives.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Powerful production of "A View from the Bridge" - great cast!

Kirsten Potter and Amy Danneker in A View from the Bridge (Alabastro Photography)
A View from the Bridge
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through October 18, 2015

Director Braden Abraham’s notes about his mounting of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge reference the timeliness of the play because of Syrian refugees and the issue of immigration. In that, I disagree with him. The play does revolve around a couple of Sicilian illegal immigrants coming into Eddie Carbone’s family. But immigration issues really only point to the power and privilege that Eddie wields over them.

Arthur Miller’s play is not important because of current events. The play is important because of its reflection of privilege and obsession and the power of self-destruction, and rooted in history. It is far more poetic than most plays, with a narrator lawyer (Leonard Kelly-Young) who tells us ahead of the coming tragedy that he can see it coming and cannot stop it. In fact, he does everything he can to advise Eddie (Mark Zeisler) to right his own ship before it sinks.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

October Theater openings!

Bad Jews at Seattle Public Theater (Paul Bestock)
October  theater openings bring us biting religious comedy, a Thai superstar in a world premiere, a couple of cutting edge immersive theatrical experiences, and more.

Bad Jews, Seattle Public Theater, 10/2-25/15
Bad Jews is a biting comedy about family, faith, and contemporary Jewish identity in America. The night after their grandfather’s funeral, cousins engage in an explosive verbal (and sometimes physical) battle. Daphna is a “real Jew” who is volatile, self-assured, and unbending. Liam is a secular and entitled young man, who has his shiksa (non-Jewish) girlfriend, Melody, in tow. When Liam stakes his claim to their grandfather’s chai necklace, a vicious and hilarious brawl ensues.

Winter Bird, Eclectic Theater, 10/1-25/15 (world premiere) Equity Member Project
A Gothic fantasy about a librarian and a sub-arctic vampire. A world premiere by Stephen Delos Treacy (local playwright).

Listening Glass, Seattle Immersive Theatre, 10/1-30/15 (at a warehouse at 2724 6th Ave S)
Jamie Bennett was the dishwasher on duty the night Jon Wurtz was killed. He was right there when it happened. So why is he lying about what he saw? Is he an unreliable witness, or a cold-blooded killer? Immerse yourself in a working homicide department. The performance starts the moment you set foot in the space, and is limited to a maximum of seventeen participants per night.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

MAP's world premiere by Vincent Delaney presents an interesting true story

Peggy Gannon and Ben McFadden in The Art of Bad Men (Shane Regan)
The Art of Bad Men
MAP Theatre
(at INScape)
Through October 17, 2015

We’re all pretty used to POW films focusing on how hard it is/was to be a prisoner as a U.S. soldier. We don’t usually get a focus on enemy soldiers, but the world premiere play at MAP Theatre, The Art of Bad Men, by local playwright Vincent Delaney, brings us a trio of German POWs held in the pasturelands of Minnesota!

The “art” mentioned in the title refers to the fact, a true story, that German POWs in that Minnesota prison camp put on a Moliere play while incarcerated there! I guess it was because they could, and to ward off the tedium and have something to do. The bad men are, by definition, the German soldiers. They are a trio of different kinds of men: a stalwart Nazi (Ben McFadden) trying to keep working on escaping and undermining their captivity, a musician who entertained the German soldiers and never saw real action (Ben Burris), and a boy recruited to the Nazi Youth – too young to know what the whole war was about (Sean Schroeder).

Monday, September 28, 2015

Margie Bicknell - Veteran singer/performer on typical struggles for women actors and her new show at Eclectic Theater

Margaret (Margie) Bicknell (Kinnunen)
It’s a particular pleasure of mine to occasionally profile one of our older Seattle area performers. They have loads of experience and history in theater and get to an age where it becomes more difficult to share that, just when they have the most range and depth to provide. Such is our youth-obsessed culture.

Margaret – Margie – Bicknell is one such and the latest person to sit down with me to talk about her life in the arts. It also just so happens that you can see her strut her stuff, shortly, in the Equity Member Project Winter Bird, opening at Eclectic Theater October 1st.

Monday, September 21, 2015

"Bootycandy" is equal parts deep profane pain and great joy! Best Intiman show this season!

Tyler Trerise in Bootycandy (Jeff Carpenter)
Intiman Festival
(at Cornish black box)
Through October 3

The challenging, engaging, challenging, funny (did I say challenging?) play finishing up the Intiman “season” is Bootycandy by Robert O’Hara. It is by far the best production in their list. The play is being presented through their newly-formed Director’s Lab with MFA-candidate Malika Oyetimein helming the project.

So, this review will skew toward discussing her success in directing this semi-autobiographical play. Many people may not understand a director’s job in the collaborative process of staging a play. I hope to clarify that a bit, too. To start that explanation, the director is what I think of as a “crystallizer” – someone who has a vision of what the play should look like, feel like, and help the audience experience. The director uses that vision to work with the designers of the set, costumes, lights and sound (and props) to determine the whole look and feel of a particular staging.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Azeotrope's new play "Sound" exemplifies Hearing-Privileged vs. Deaf Culture...Gracefully!

Lindsay W. Evans and Cheyenna Clearbrook in Sound (Jason Tang)
(at ACTLab – ACT Theatre)
Through October 4, 2015

There are so many graceful moments in the new play, Sound, presented by Azeotrope! That is not the intention of this intensely deep and interesting exploration of the deaf community, but it’s part of my opinion on the intentions of directors Desdemona Chiang and Howie Seago!

This play “speaks” two languages: American Sign Language and spoken English. Azeotrope was determined to learn how to accommodate an audience filled with both hearing and deaf members and they have done so with… grace! And intelligence! And success!

The play, before I get too far off on the “grace notes,” is a new one by Don Nguyen, on the really controversial use of the cochlear implant. If you’re a hearing person and know that it’s a pretty revolutionary device that helps deaf people hear, you might be surprised to know that it’s controversial in the deaf community. What could be wrong with that???

Thursday, September 10, 2015

If You love Green Day's "American Idiot" IMMERSE YOURSELF at ArtsWest Immediately

Justin Huertas, Fredrick Hagreen, Michael Coale Grey in American Idiot (Michael Brunk)
Green Day’s American Idiot
Through October 11, 2015

Have you wondered what it would be like to be on stage? Participate in a play? But you felt intimidated by rehearsing and memorizing lines? Now you can! No rehearsing! No memorization!

Does that sound like an infomercial? ArtsWest is giving you a unique opportunity to get a feeling of participation by attending their ardent, emotional, in-your-face production of Green Day’s American Idiot as an “immersive experience!”

From the standpoint of someone who is probably a bit too old to really care much about the slackers in the story and their angst and suffering, observing all the angst is just fine from a regular seat. The “observational” audience can see the “immersive” audience being told what to do and hurried from place to place, and sometimes that gets distracting even in a production with balls-to-the-walls sets of action.

Imagining the fun and the grit and the sense of immediacy someone of the generation of American Idiot would experience, now there’s a theatrical experience like no other! And for that idea, and ArtsWest’s execution, I give a standing ovation! I think it can really excite younger audiences, less prone to going to theater and feeling like it speaks to them.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Vital questions raised in Intiman’s new play

Charles Leggett and Adam Standley in John Baxter is a Switch Hitter (Chris Bennion)
John Baxter is a Switch Hitter
Intiman Theatre
Through September 27, 2015

Writing plays about “history” is a peculiar challenge: there is a true story people can read about; there is an aspect that a playwright thinks should be animated on stage. Such is the case with Intiman’s new play, John Baxter is a Switch Hitter, written by playwrights Ana Brown and Andrew Russell.

The play covers the 2008 Gay Softball World Series, held for the first time ever in Seattle. It was a big deal with teams coming from all over, along with supporters and family members. A team from San Francisco, the D2s, was doing better than they ever had, and during the championship game with the Los Angeles Vipers, a challenge was issued against the D2s: they had too many heterosexual players on their team!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hurry to the old INS building to see Paper Angels!

Kathy Hsieh (front) in Paper Angels (Celeste Mari Williams)
Paper Angels
SiS Productions
(at INScape)
Through August 31

Hurry over to the old INS building to the performance space “INScape” to see a beautifully written play revealing another example of American injustice toward immigrants! Paper Angels, by poet and playwright Genny Lim, focuses on the immigration center on Angel Island, a large island in the middle of San Francisco Bay that processed a million Asians through its doors. However, there were extra-special rules for Chinese.

Have you ever heard of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882? It’s not likely taught in very many American History classes in high school, but it reflected attitudes of resentment against Chinese workers – a ubiquitous ethnic exclusion that was focused only on Chinese while unfettered immigration of any other backgrounds was unchecked.

Monday, August 24, 2015

September Theater: Ready, Set, OPEN!

Hannah Mootz and Tiffany Yvonne Cox star in Intiman Theatre's production of The Children's Hour
Photo by Hayley Young)
The theater community often goes a bit crazy in September, with a “new season” mentality, but this year it’s almost too much to bear! In fact, after a lazy Labor Day weekend, 13 (13?) productions open the next weekend!! The biggest companies and small ones and everything in between. Also, there may never have been as many world premieres in one month as September 2015. It’s a bounty of riches, folks!

The Children's Hour, Intiman (at Cornish), 9/9-27/15
This production, helmed by Sheila Daniels, will relocate this classic script about the ruination of gossip and crowd-fearmongering from the 1930s to the 1980s. This is the second production in Seattle this year. If you saw the other, this spring, it might be doubly interesting to compare.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Is it "Matilda" or is it the Sound Qualities at the 5th Avenue?

The 5th Avenue has the most peculiar sound issues. It's a huge house making bunches of money with the most subscribers in the ENTIRE AREA and yet touring shows come in there, like the newest, Matilda, and Oh God There's That Sound Problem Again.

It seems like the local sound folks have figured out - for the most part and Not Always - how to get around the bouncy, dispersing sound waves inside that building, because sometimes shows there are actually ones you can HEAR.

But it's not clear what has to happen to fix it all. What is clear is: It Needs Fixing. Please? 5th Avenue Folk? Please? Won't you please get some good sound engineers in there to examine the issue and help you all fix it so that the sound bounce doesn't keep impacting your shows? Especially the tours?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Great American Trailer Park Musical is one fun ride!

The trailer park trio in The Great American Trailer Park Musical (Dan Davidson)
The Great American Trailer Park Musical
(at Richard Hugo House)
Through August 29, 2015

STAGEright started out, when they began producing, including musicals every once in a while. Their recent successes with musicals seem to have buoyed them to feel like they can really do this thing, and they’re doing them more and more. Given the feeling of fun and the level of talent in The Great American Trailer Park Musical, now play through August 29, they’re correct to do so!

Written by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso, iIt explores the relationships between the tenants at the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park in Florida, particularly between Pippi, "the stripper on the run," agoraphobic Jeannie, and Jeannie's tollbooth-collector husband Norbert. It was performed in the first annual New York Music Theater Festival in 2004 and Off-Broadway in 2005. It’s apparently a kind of “cult musical.”

New to Seattle Tom Stoppard play - worth your time!

Betty Campbell and Scott Ward Abernethy in Indian Ink (Ken Holmes) 
Indian Ink
Sound Theatre Company and Pratidhwani
(at Armory Theatre)
Through August 30, 2015

The great British playwright, Tom Stoppard, can be both exhilarating and inscrutable, in turns. So, if you don’t know one of his plays, yet, you might not be quite sure what you’re getting. Sound Theatre Company and Pratidhwani are presenting Indian Ink in a Seattle area premiere. This is a lovely, accessible piece!

This is mostly a story about an unconventional woman in the 1920s and her relationship with painters. Flora Crewe (Caitlin Frances) is a poet and free spirit, though when we meet her, she is quite ill. She travels to India for her health, though it is not the best fit for health reasons.

She meets Nirad Das (Dhiraj Khanna), a painter, and becomes his model, and maybe something more, as she flouts conventions of the time. She lives only a short time longer, but long enough to provoke academics to become hooked on her writing.

A biographer, Eldon Pike (Scott Ward Abernethy), visits her now-elderly sister, Eleanor (Betty Campbell) to try to gain insight and find treasure. So, does Das’ son, Anish (Monish Gangwani). Das ends up gaining more insight than Pike, since Eleanor feels like Das is more “family.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dog Days of August still have plenty of theatrical openings

The Passion As Told by Antigona Perez,  (photo by Marquicia Domingue)

Here's a list of theater productions opening in August.

RASHOMON: Reloaded, Recession Era Broke-Ass Theatre  (REBATE)nsemble Theatre Group, 8/1-9/2015
(at 3320 Fuhrman Ave E, 98102, on the south side of University Bridge off Eastlake)
An original theater adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's legendary film, Rashomon. Re-imagined in Kabuki style, set in present day, the show is site specific in South Passage Point Park.

Love Song, Porcupine and Poet Productions, 8/1-8/2015 (at Stone Soup)
Oddball Beane gets burgled and his well-meaning sister, Joan, is baffled to find her brother blissfully happy. John Kolvenbach's offbeat comedy is a rhapsody to the power of love in all its forms. (Adult content)

Zig Zag Festival, Annex Theatre, 8/4-19/15 (Tuesday/Wednesday nights)
6 female playwrights write a play, direct a play and advise a play. Shorts in a range of topics.

Paper Angels, SiS Productions, 8/20-31/15 (at INScape)
In 1915, eager and hopeful Chinese immigrants await permission to enter the United States at the West Coast immigration center located at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.