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.