Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Slowgirl" at SPT is slow to leave your thoughts (in a good way)

Kevin McKeon and Hannah Mootz in Slowgirl (Steven Sterne)

Seattle Public Theater
Through April 12, 2015

Some plays stay with you a long time. Such is the effect of Seattle Public Theater’s presentation of Slowgirl by Greg Pierce. The story unfolds without urgency, as 17 year-old Becky arrives in Costa Rica to visit her uncle where he lives in a remote jungle hideaway.

Becky (Hannah Mootz) has diarrhea of the mouth, motormouthing through her uncle Sterling’s reactions (Kevin McKeon) and disturbing his peace. We can tell this because everything she moves he moves back. She is very much a city girl, and when she finds out the cabin has no doors and any animal is free to enter, she’s aghast.

Over the course of the 90 minute play, we find out more about the family and the circumstances that Becky finds herself in. Becky is in trouble. A house party full of schoolmates included the "slow" girl classmate that they all make fun of. They call her, “Slowgirl,” as if it is her name.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"Best of Enemies" is a Best of Season! Must. See.

Jeff Berryman and Faith Russell in Best of Enemies (Erik Stuhaug)

Best of Enemies
Taproot Theatre
through April 25, 2015

The dramaturg's notes in the program for Taproot's show, Best of Enemies, says, "The first scene of Best of Enemies opens in Durham, North Carolina in 1968, amidst a Ku Klux Klan celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. As a Seattle audience in 2015, we react with horror at the violent threats and unabashed racism. That's a good response. It's healthy. But it's also easy (italics theirs)." 

That challenge is why, in the time of Ferguson protests, in the wake of Eric Garner's death due to untaxed cigarettes, this play is so important. Besides the stunningly effective craftsmanship of tiny, blink-of-an-eye scenes sketching in a full picture of the situation in Durham, it turns out that the story of a Klan leader (C.P. Ellis) and a black activist mother (Ann Atwater) becoming friends and changing Durham forever is a true one!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Tartuffe" at Seattle Shakes - a delightful production

Christine Marie Brown and R. Hamilton Wright (John Ulman)

Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through April 12, 2015

Seattle Shakespeare Company has mounted a production of the classic Moliere comedy, Tartuffe. It’s classic because it’s old (1664), but also because it has timeless themes of hypocrisy, faith, and taking down authority – themes Moliere loved to use in his plays.

Director Makaela Pollock relocates the play from 1600s to 1947, specifically. And then weaves in conscious and unconscious references to Golden Hollywood and early television farce. However, true to many productions that relocate the timing of a classic play, they keep the rhyming couplets of Richard Wilbur’s translation from French.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

“No Way to Treat a Lady” is a great way to treat an audience

Nick DeSantis as Kit (Tracy Martin)
No Way to Treat a Lady
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through April 26, 2015
Everett: May 1-24, 2015

The history of the musical currently showing at Village Theatre is long, even for the normally-long development process for musicals! Starting as a book by William Goldman (author of The Princess Bride), No Way To Treat a Lady was made into a movie. Douglas J. Cohen saw the 1968 movie and was inspired to make it his first musical.

He was able to get it produced Off-Broadway in 1987! Here’s a link to a review. It was revived Off-Broadway in 1996, and Alix Korey was nominated for an Outer Critics’ Circle award for playing the showiest role in the musical (referenced below).

In the years since, he’s written over a dozen musicals, as listed on his web site, but has gone back several times to tinker with and improve (at least for him) this musical. He brought the musical to Village in 1999 to work on it. (Now, Village has a 14 year old Festival of New Musicals, which they formally began in 2000.) In 1999, Cohen and Village Artistic Director Steve Tomkins collaborated on a newer version, which is unusual for a show that has had two prior Off-Broadway productions. Today, the musical has been published, but Village Theatre is still treating it as a new musical for this production. Publication usually signifies that a work is finished.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Live! From the Last Night of My Life" is a special show

Ryan Higgins in the 2011 production of Live! From the Last Night of My Life (Dave Hastings)

Live! From the Last Night of My Life
Theatre22 (at 12th Avenue Arts) 
March 27-April 18, 2015

Sometimes a play is special. There is an almost undefinable essence and it’s one of those “you know it when you see it” kinds of experiences, like falling in love or seeing your baby for the first time or having a judge decide something is pornographic. In 2011, there was a play, Live! From the Last Night of My Life, presented at Theater Schmeater that qualified as special, in that way.

Part of it was the smart script by Wayne Rawley. Part of it was the unbelievably accurate set by Michael Mowery. Part of it was the actors embracing of the experience and translating their excitement to the audience. It was the quirky and dark story of a young slacker who felt so useless that he had determined to kill himself after his shift ended at the convenience store where he worked the night shift. It turned out to be very, very funny, as well.

It was a hit, and as theater goes, ephemeral. It was unlikely to ever be done exactly the same again. Except. Except that it is being done again, by the very same actors and the same meticulous (really I want to say anally retentive, but shouldn’t) set designer. It isn’t going to be in the same basement, but that’s probably for the better.  A new theater company, Theatre22, will produce it, headed by Corey McDaniel, one of the actors in the original production. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The forgotten guy - the playwright

There's been a bunch of controversy swirling around the new play Seven Ways to Get There, now playing at ACT through their ACTLab collaboration in co-production. Brendan Kiley published an article in The Stranger  that didn't review the play so much as comment on "how" this play got made. 

Kiley's article discussed the behind the scenes funding of the production, mainly from a rich CEO who had experienced the positive nature of men's group therapy in his own life and wanted to create a play that would speak to the idea that men can and should be more supportive of each other and therapy is something more men should seek. Kiley's article suggested this was a new way of funding theater.

A great response to that was posted by Melissa Hillman, from San Francisco, in her every-theater-person-if-not-every-person-should-follow-her blog, Bitter Gertrude

A lot of the commentary on the web about the show has been about that, often from people who haven't seen the actual play. 

As it turns out, not many people are talking to or including the playwright in their analyses or commentary. I thought I should remedy that a little, because he is someone who has been quietly and diligently supporting Northwest playwrights for years and years and years. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Meticulous "The Flick" inaugurates New Century Theatre Company at 12AA

Emily Chisholm, Sam Hagen, Tyler Trerise in The Flick (John Ulman)

The Flick
New Century Theatre Company
Through April 4, 2015

New Century Theatre Company’s inaugural production in their new space at 12th Avenue Arts Center includes all the kinds of elements that they emphasize: there is an emphasis on atmospherics (the play, The Flick, is about a movie theater crew, so there must be popcorn – both in the lobby and on the floor!), and a meticulously produced play.

A tight cast of basically three people (there is a tiny and well done fourth role) slowly unfold their personal quirks and traits as they get to know each other while doing their jobs at a movie theater called The Flick. During clean-up times, when screenings are over, we’re introduced to Rose (Emily Chisholm) – a green-haired, hip hop, streetwise, assertive and self-assured projectionist; Sam (Sam Hagen) – a guy whose life seems destined to stay low-level jobs like cleaning movie theaters; and Avery (Tyler Trerise) – the college student with college professor father whose future can clearly be brighter than either of the other two.

Around the World in 80 Days’ Leading Lady Aneesh Sheth’s Incredible Journey

Aneesh Sheth in Village Theatre's Around the World in 80 Days (Mark Kitaoka)
As posted in STACKEDD Magazine

When I received an email pitch from Aneesh Sheth, she said to me, “I am currently making my debut at Village Theatre in their production Around the World in 80 Days.” Having seen the production, I was aware of her work. The email continued, “Playing the Indian princess has always been a dream of mine, and for a very long time only a pipe dream. What makes my story of being cast as Aouda different from many other actors is that I am an out transgender actress making my way in the industry.” That sentence caught me by surprise. I had no idea that I was seeing a transgendered actress when I saw the show.

She continued, “Getting to play a non-transgender character, not to mention the leading lady as well, is not only a personal success but an important step for transgender individuals who may share the same dream and a huge step in the types of roles we are offered. There has been much controversy over the ‘appropriateness’ of whether transgender actors should play only transgender roles.”

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Solo Performance Festival flies again in March

Sara Porkalob with duck heads (Truman Buffett)
The folks at Theatre Off Jackson and Keira McDonald have partnered for years, now, to present solo shows in a festival style presentation. It's feels a bit like a fringe festival offering and indeed, some of the performances have gone on to tour in fringe festivals around the country and even around the world.

McDonald has been offering workshops to perfect solo technique and many of her students have performed in the festival. The same can be said of the festival coming up in the next couple of weeks.

March 20-21, SPF starts out with a shorts night and continues into the evening with a late nite presentation by Sylvia O'Stayformore, a veteran of solo performance.

L. Nicol Cabe presents Infinite Expectation of the Dawn, March 24-April 1 (four performances) which is described: "Human rights are inalienable, unassailable, unquestionable. But sometimes, we sacrifice our rights for a greater good. Set in the dystopian world after the United States suffers Civil War II, (IED) weaves the stories of Joan and Alicia, two perspectives from a country burdened with fear, who both made personal sacrifices to create their ideal reality."

March 26-29 (three performances), Sara Porkalob presents the true story of her mother's birth and her grandmother's dangerous past. I recently reviewed it here. It's a fascinating story.

Comedian Dana Goldberg returns to Seattle for one night, March 28.

Jim Loucks comes to town with The Biscuiteater, April 2-4 (three performances). His is a southern charm.

Visit TOJ for more information.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

English/Chinese combo in "Chinglish" a great evening in translation

Evan Whitfield and Kathy Hsieh (Michael Brunk)
ArtsWest (co-production with SiS Productions)
through March 29, 2015

The absorbing new work, Chinglish, by David Henry Hwang, at ArtsWest is a tightly written play with a top-notch cast, directed with panache by Annie Lareau. It's also challenging for the audience, because more than half of it is in Mandarin Chinese!

Daniel (Evan Whitfield) begins the play by showing us signage where Chinese translators have badly translated signs from Chinese into English. (see below) He warns us that if we learn nothing else from his "how to do business in China" talk, we should know this: Bring your own translator!

A screen then tells us that the time is three years earlier. We'll need that screen as almost another character, since we will need the translations that follow hot and heavy as rapid fire Chinese and halting bad translations fill the rest of the evening. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

Only 2 more weeks to see inventive SteamPunk Cirque

The musicians of Kurios (Martin Girard

Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities
Cirque du Soleil
Marymoor Park
Through March 22, 2015

The gorgeous acrobatic, high flying antics of top-flight, international talent combines with a steampunk aesthetic and even some invisible acts in Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities at Marymoor Park.

Kurios is the 35th production in the line of inventions known as Cirque du Soleil. Similar to other shows, there is a very loose story here that ties the evening together. But you don’t really go to Cirque shows for story, you go for atmosphere, beautiful, intricate costuming, easy to assimilate international music without real words, and death-defying acrobatic and fly work.