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.