Friday, December 30, 2016

January 2017 Theater Openings - an eclectic month

By Heart (coming to On the Boards) (Magda Bizarro)
January 2017 promises something for everyone as this very eclectic month in theater maybe hints at a very unusual year to come. Check it out and plan your month!

The Trojan Women, Civic Rep, 1/6-29/17 (at Slate Theater)  
British playwright and poet Caroline Bird's radical retelling of Euripides' The Trojan Women. Bird transports this famous anti-war tragedy to the modern setting of a prison hospital. Beyond the prison walls, Troy and its people burn. Inside the prison, the city’s captive women await their fate. Their grief at what has been before will soon be drowned out by the horror of what is to come.

Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 1/6-29/17
The legendary Woody Guthrie defined an American era of social consciousness and political expression with songs such as "This Land is Your Land" and "The Ballad of Tom Joad." This musical portrait, featuring Woody's stirring ballads and joyous anthems, celebrates the colorful life and rich musical legacy of America's great folk troubadour.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Best Theater of 2016!

The Royale (Dawn Shaefer)
It’s time for Crazy 2016 to be over…. That means it’s time for the annual attempt to bring to mind the best experiences of the year. As usual, there are so many aspects of good work to cover!

Local Writing:
First up, I want to acknowledge the incredible amount of Local Writing that exploded onto our stages this year! Seriously great work from talented writers! Two favorites of 2016 were Do It For Umma by Seayoung Yim, mounted at Annex and Theatre Off Jackson, and A Hand of Talons by Maggie Lee, mounted by Pork Filled Productions. A favorite adaptation was Laura Ferri’s A Tale for the Time Being at Book-It Repertory Theatre.

Exciting writing also included: Can’t Talk Right Now by Scotto Moore, Chorestia by Beth Raas-Bergquist, Puny Humans by Bret Fetzer and Keiko Green, Bernie’s Apt. by Rose Cano, Terra Incognita by Benjamin Benne, Trump the King by Nick Edwards, The Lost Girls by Courtney Meaker, From Kings to Controllers by Stacy Flood, Nick Stokes’ Duels, and Roz and Ray by Karen Hartman. Sara Porkalob created two new iterations of her solo piece about her amazing grandmother and will bring another one to Café Nordo in January (Madame Dragon’s 60th Birthday Bash).

Two Companies’ Outstanding Work:
I also want to acknowledge two companies who have done some of the best work of their history in 2016: ArtsWest and Ghost Light Theatricals.

Friday, December 16, 2016

“Vietgone” Should Not Be Forgotten – Try to see it!

Amy Kim Waschke and Jeena Yi in Vietgone (Navid Baraty)
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through January 1, 2017

“Write what you know.” That’s a lot of what people are told when they embark on writing anything and aren’t sure where to start. Playwright Qui Nguyen, in Vietgone, has done that in this trenchant, funny, hip-hop spouting, immigrant-experience-explaining road trip through the fall of Saigon and the evacuating of some thousands of South Vietnamese in helicopter rides to battleships.

“Vietnam was a huge mistake.” That is what most of us know, if we know anything about that war besides how badly the vets coming back were treated. From a U.S. point of view – and don’t we always take the truth from a U.S. point of view? – U.S. participation in and escalation of the war in Vietnam is looked at as a huge disaster. Partly because the reason for our participation, aka The Domino Effect, was only a theory and because so many of our young men died or were maimed for life. Money spent was thought to be wasted and we reached beyond our shores for bad reasons.

Also, we lost. We pulled out of South Vietnam in 1975 and they fell and it all became one communist country anyway. But there are other points of view.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Help save Christmas from aliens - and eat reindeer!

Christmas is Burning (John Cornicello)

Christmas is Burning
Café Nordo
Through December 30, 2016

You too can be part of the Holiday Defense League “as they valiantly struggle to save the most wonderful day of the year.” How? By coming in from the cold to Café Nordo and being on the ship the HMS Whooville. Also by eating reindeer!

It’s nice to have crew there who will keep up your calories by feeding you well during the flight. You’ll need them to fight off the killer robots who are infiltrating from a warp in time.

This is like nothing else on this planet. Guaranteed. Of course, just about anything written by Scot Augustson is like nothing else on this planet. Which means you may or may not understand much of it besides the keen focus on jokes. This iteration of shadow puppetry and food pairs talented food creator Erin Brindley with the mental hijinks of Augustson’s fertile (and furtive?) mind.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Have Yourselves a Hammy Little Holiday

Dweebs at camp - Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch (Chris Bennion)

Ham for the Holidays: Jurassic Pork
Tongueinchic Productions/ACT Theatre
Through December 24, 2016

Some people go to A Christmas Carol at ACT Theatre as part of their holiday tradition. Some go to The Nutcracker, and some go to Seattle Men’s Chorus. Those who know where to get their dose of funny know to flock to Ham for the Holidays and Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt!

Somehow, each year, they come up with new skits and new comic commentary that hit the funny nail on the head! The only people who might not have very much fun sitting through their skits are Drumpf supporters. So, if you’re not, you might get some solace from laughing at some of the aspects of the 2016 political season.

These women never fail to deliver smart comedy. A whole lot of that comes from the catchy and gut-busting lyrics penned by Lisa Koch in parody songs.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Little Mermaid is fun for the Whole Family

The wonderous visuals of Disney's The Little Mermaid (Mark Kitaoka)
Disney's The Little Mermaid
5th Avenue Theatre
through December 31, 2016

The new iteration of The Little Mermaid now at 5th Avenue Theatre is entrancing and delightful! And it has so many local talents who are going on a year-long national tour that it makes me so excited for them!

Diana Huey, Dane Stokinger, Matthew Kacergis, Allen Fitzpatrick, Connor Russell, Kristin Burch, Brenna Wagner, Becca Orts, Taylor Niemeyer, Frederick Hagreen, and maybe others, are all folks who have perhaps grown up here or at least have performed on multiples stages here, and whom I have gotten to love seeing on stage.

The musical has all the songs you’d recognize from the hit cartoon video and some more that add background and richness to some of the favorite characters. Ariel (played with complete Disney-style enchantingness by Diana Huey) has more reasons why she doesn’t quite fit where she was born. Prince Eric (the dashing and to-die-for baritone Matthew Kacergis) has some lovely new songs to sing about how he loves the sea and looking for the voice of his love.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Seattle Men's Chorus gets Soul-ful

Up close with Paul Caldwell (courtesy Seattle Choruses)

Silver & Soul
Seattle Men’s Chorus
Benaroya Hall:
December 11, December 18, December 21, December 22, 2016
Everett Civic Auditorium, December 17, 2016
Rialto Theater, Tacoma, December 10, 2016

You know you’re in for a great concert from the very first moments of Seattle Men’s Chorus’ holiday concert! Titled Silver & Soul, this is where most subscribers will be introduced to new artistic director Paul Caldwell. He starts out with a drum!

Drummer John Stout gets center stage with a box drum and leads the chorus in a haunting, insistent, rhythmic song called Guadete, a sacred Christmas carol, which is thought to have been composed in the 16th century. (Michael Engelhardt is credited, perhaps as the arranger). Soloists Matthew Sherman, Tyler Stoops, and Nathan Wilson sound wonderful.

The concert is full of solemn and sacred music, as well as fun from Captain Smartypants, a cadre of dancers, some scarcely-clad reindeer, and an audience sing-along. The arrangements are tight and the men seem ready to ring in the season.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge celebrates the Christmas spirit

The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge (Eric Stuhaug)
The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge
Taproot Theatre
Through December 30, 2016

While everyone, likely, is overly familiar with A Christmas Carol and Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey, playwright Mark Brown has come up with a twist that actually has some funny moments in it with The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge. It sounds like Scrooge is on trial, but that’s not exactly true. In fact, a year after his life-altering visits by ghosts, it seems that crotchety Scrooge is back!

Scrooge (Nolan Palmer) has decided to take the Christmas Ghosts and Jacob Marley to court on charges such as trespassing, kidnapping, and assault! In a snappy presentation by Taproot Theatre, there are moments to chuckle at while some absurdities are on the docket.

Defense attorney Solomon Rothschild (Bill Johns) has all these clients to manage as well as Scrooge-like Judge Pearson (Steve Manning). In fact, the judge is more Scrooge-like than Scrooge in this version!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Treasure Island might be great counter-holiday programming

Geoffrey Simmons and Alex Silva in Treasure Island (John Ulman)
Treasure Island
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through December 24, 2016

Shiver me timbers and hey ho me hearties, argh! If you haven’t read Treasure Island in longer than you want to remember, you might want to sail on over to Book-It Repertory to catch their new adaptation of Treasure Island, now on stage. This might be a brilliant idea of counter-programming against the regular holiday fare.

This is not a simple book to adapt. Not that they take on simple books! It has all kinds of adventures and a complicated plot involving double-crossing pirates and honor and treasure and doing right by your friends. It has sword fights and mutinies, and cannon fire.

In the middle of it all is an almost-thirteen-year-old boy, Jim Hawkins (a terrifically poised and talented Alex Silva). Jim’s life as a help-meet to his mother at an inn is turned upside down when his father dies and a blustery pirate, Billy Bones (Jim Gall), draws other disreputable types to the inn to find Bones’ treasure map.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Intriguing “King Charles III” at Seattle Rep

Robert Joy in King Charles III. Photo by Michael Doucett.
King Charles III
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through December 18, 2016

The new and much anticipated play at Seattle Rep is King Charles III and it has a very intriguing premise. We all know that Queen Elizabeth II will die, like we all will at some point. That’s not very startling, and her son, Prince Charles, has been on tap to be king for a long time. Playwright Mike Bartlett supposes what a newly inherited King Charles might be like, and chooses some very contemporary problems to fold into the fantasy.

As the pomp and ritual of the Queen’s burial is ending, the new King Charles is presented with a bill to sign from the British Parliament by the Prime Minister. But it happens that the bill fundamentally restricts freedom of Britian’s famously rowdy and incendiary press. As Prime Minister Evans (a suitably restrained Ian Merrial Peakes) explains it, it seeks to reasonably prevent invasions of privacy like tapping of royal cell phones and then leaking photos and emails to the public (which we heard really happened in 2011).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tapping and “Singing in the Rain” at Village

Singing in the Rain (Mark Kitaoka)
Singing in the Rain
Village Theatre
Issaquah: Through December 31, 2016
Everett: January 6-29, 2016

Village Theatre has perfectly cast its tap-happy production of Singing in the Rain! The entire ensemble has great energy and many of the roles have just the right actor on stage for it.

You have seen the movie numerous times. It’s a new experience on a theater stage, especially when people must perform all the way through what might have been many takes for the screen version.

The storyline is about the advent of the “talkies” when silent film suddenly finds itself dead in an instant, once audiences find out technology is capable of melding voice with picture. Lockwood and Lamont are a famous silent film duo and the studio has made a love story out of their relationship, for publicity only. With the advent of The Jazz Singer, they need to make a talkie, but Lina Lamont (the supremely funny and on-point Jessica Skerritt) has a terrible, screechy voice and can’t sing or act a lick. What to do?

Friday, November 18, 2016

New SMC/SWC Artistic Director Paul Caldwell introduces himself to Seattle

Paul Caldwell (Miryam Gordon)
Silver and Soul
Seattle Men’s Chorus
Benaroya Hall
December 4-22, 2016

You’ve probably heard by now, if you pay attention to the Seattle Men’s and Seattle Women’s Choruses, that iconic artistic director Dennis Coleman retired and that the Choruses are now being led by Paul Caldwell. If you were lucky enough to have attended the recent concert by the Women, you already know that the Choruses are clearly in great hands and ready to Sing Out, loudly and proudly, into the future.

SGN had an opportunity to interview Paul on the eve of concert series #2 for him: the Seattle Men’s Chorus annual Christmas-time holiday extravaganza. We sat down with him and Executive Director Steven Smith for a chat.

The Wonderland of Zinzanni

Lady Rizo as the Red Queen (Alan Alabastro)
Welcome to Wonderland
Teatro Zinzanni
Through February 26, 2017

An inventive new storyline is now playing at Teatro Zinzanni. They’ve chosen an Alice in Wonderland theme for their newest dinner/show and in a Zinzanni kind of way, they keep the magical and mystical flavor of that story, as well.

Economics has clearly put some pressure on the speigeltent folks. They’ve apparently realized that it’s enormously expensive to change all the characters and themes every three months and have decided to elongate the run of a show. That is simply smart, and it also allows for more thinking and planning and a smarter execution of a concept.

In this adorable show, Lewis and Carol (get it?), a sweet couple of innocence, get lost in Wonderland and find themselves separated while the Red Queen Rizo tries to cut off their heads. Of course there is the ubiquitous “just missing them” routine, and this Queen is not so hard-hearted that she won’t stop to let people eat soup or supper.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Quick Take: Farewell Funny Men - The Habit Bites the Dust

The Habit (WestCoast Bell)
The Habit
Bathhouse Theater
through November 26, 2016

Six guys walk into the Bathhouse....for the last time. I don't know about you but I really really really needed something to laugh at that had nothing to do with politics. The guys of The Habit provided that to me tonight for their opening night of their Last Stand. They've been making sketch comedy together for too many years and there are families and dispersings and I guess it's harder and harder to hang out and make jokes with each other.

The six "guys" are David Swidler, Jeff Schell, John Osebold, Mark Siano, Ryan Dobosh (all of whom you see on stage) and Lucas Thayer (who shall remain anonymous). They've put a show together with some of their best pieces from over the years.

It's silly, it's smart, it's fun, and they don't take themselves too seriously, either. It's the perfect antidote to what just happened and what may yet appear. Do 'em a favor and go see 'em and laugh. You might do yourself a favor, too. or call 800-838-3006.

New Meaker play, "The Lost Girls," has some spooks

The cast of The Lost Girls (Dangerpants Photography)
The Lost Girls
Annex Theatre
Through November 19, 2016

Courtney Meaker writes engaging and untypical and very “current” dialogue in her plays. Her characters do and say things you don’t often expect and talk about life in often-blunt and sometimes funny ways. Having lived here for a number of years, she’s off in Iowa studying how to be an even better playwright.

Her latest work, The Lost Girls, is on stage at Annex Theatre. It contains aspects that Meaker likes to include: women characters (in this case, only women characters) and characters of fluid or Gay sexual orientations. These aspects are still far under-represented in the vast theatrical universe, so her additions are generally making up for that, one play at a time.

The successful parts of this play include a lot of the dialogue and relationship building among the five camp counselor college-aged women who all have been recruited for the very first time to this spooky camp. Except one of them attended camp as a teen and tells them the tale of the foundation of the property and why it has that haunted reputation. And there’s an interesting “women empowered girls and got killed for it” story in there.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

“The Big Meal” doesn’t fill one up much

The Big Meal (Chris Monsos)
The Big Meal
New Century Theatre Company
Through November 19, 2016

New Century Theatre Company aka NCTC has done some wonderful productions and for this play, The Big Meal, they have assembled a really good cast of actors and a good director, Makaela Pollock. This particular script by Dan LeFranc, however, didn’t convince me that it was essential to produce.

Since NCTC programs itself, it’s not always clear what drives them to choose the works they choose. In this case, this play is a progression of scenes over the course of one couple’s journey through meeting cute at a casual-dining restaurant and spanning some 40 or 50 years of their life together. Some have compared it to A Long Christmas Dinner by Thornton Wilder.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Taut, terrific “Dangerous Liaisons” takes the stage at ACT Theatre

Dangerous Liaisons
ACT Theatre
Through November 20, 2016

Begin with a beautiful “moment” of set (an ornate door here, a small French desk there, a divan) and add two handfuls of beautifully dressed and coiffed actors sailing through and around the set, mix in some biting sarcasm on love and fidelity, sprinkle a dash – or maybe two or three – of seduction, and you have the delicious recipe for a murderous dramedy. This is the world of Dangerous Liaisons at ACT Theatre.

The world of these pre-revolutionary French aristocrats is one of cards, wine, social one-upmanship and appearance of propriety. Christopher Hampton’s play, which you might have seen as a movie, strips away the velvet coating so we might see the toxic underground of a few particular combatants. Two in particular are hell-bent on revenge and winning. Or maybe winning and revenge.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Some of the biggest theater openings of the year are saved for November

Cast of Big Bad (Dangerpants Photography)
Three of the biggest musicals of the year are crammed into November. The 5th Avenue kicks off the new national tour of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, starring our local favorite Diana Huey, who moved to NYC to forward her national career. She’ll be on the road for a year, after the Seattle debut! We wish her the best of experiences.

Village Theatre presents Singing in the Rain, which few of us have seen on stage. Make it rain, folks! ArtsWest brings us Peter and the Starcatcher, continuing the new efforts of this stalwart West Seattle theater to musicalize up our town.  In addition to that excitement, we also have upstart Reboot Theatre Company giving us the local premiere of a new off-Broadway musical, Fly By Night.

Then there is the anticipated arrival of King Charles III at Seattle Rep. It’s a big month!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Shatteringly good - "The Pride" by Theatre22

Angela DiMarco, Andre Nelson, Trevor Young Marston in The Pride (Margaret Toomey)
The Pride
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through November 19, 2016

A shattering emotional catharsis awaits audience members who attend The Pride, now being staged by Theatre22 at 12th Avenue Arts! Every SGN reader should make plans to see this production, if you can. It’s exceptionally well-acted, intelligently well-written, and is a great reminder of how far society has changed in a fairly short period of years regarding Gay life and issues.

It’s almost criminal that this play is Alexi Kaye Campbell’s first play, since it is so well-written. Perhaps more of his plays will be produced here in the near future, so we can experience the growth of his writing.

In The Pride, we meet Philip (Andre Nelson), Sylvia (Angela DiMarco) and Oliver (Trevor Young Marston) in two time periods: 1958 and 2008. But no, they don’t “age” – they are two different sets of characters with two different sets of concerns. In 1958, Philip and Sylvia are married and Oliver is a writer that Sylvia works with. In 2008, the three are all very contemporary friends.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Music elevates this sleek production of "Medea" even more

Sylvester Foday Kamara and Alexandra Tavares in Medea (John Ulman)
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through November 13, 2016

A taut, sleek and musicalized version of Medea is on tap by Seattle Shakespeare Company. The normally unmusical drama includes original compositions by Shenandoah Davis that are aptly provided and allow a Greek Chorus to actually sing! This aspect elevates this well done production even more.

Ritualistically directed by Kelly Kitchens, the play runs about an hour and forty minutes straight through as the Euripides’ story of Medea unfolds on a spare, modern bedroom suite set by Andrea Bryn Bush. The translation used, by Kenneth McLeish and Frederick Raphael, feels contemporary and because of that feeling, it both helps the audience understand the words well, yet hurts the understanding of an ancient story.

Certainly, the language feels immediate and accessible, and with contemporary costuming by Chelsea Cook, it feels like it could be a story that happens today. But part of what we need to understand about Medea is that she is a woman “of her time.” Euripides wrote more than two thousand years ago about a woman treated as worthless when her husband decides to throw her over for a princess and a crown.

Triumphant debut by new SWC/SMC Artistic Director Paul Caldwell

Paul Caldwell (courtesy Seattle Choruses)
Seattle Women’s Chorus: Unveiled
St. Mark’s Cathedral
October 21-22, 28-29, 2016

SWC has clearly fallen head over heels for new artistic director Paul Caldwell. By the looks of things, he’s fallen in love with them, too! The love fest is on full display at St. Mark’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill during Seattle Women’s Chorus’ concert, Unveiled.

The audience is falling in love, too, because the program is fresh and inviting and focuses on the core function of a concert: choral singing. There are a few soloists, and they are all fantastic, but by and large, the whole chorus sings every song except for those done by “pocket choir” Sensible Shoes.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

An AIDS play with a fascinating twist ("Roz and Ray" at Seattle Rep)

Ellen McLaughlin and Teagle F. Bougere in Roz and Ray (Alan Alabastro)
Roz and Ray
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through November 13,2016

Karen Hartman is a local playwright also gaining national recognition. Her newest play, Roz and Ray, is getting a co-world premiere production between the Seattle Repertory Theatre and Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. The artistic director of Victory Gardens, Chay Yew, supplely directs this production and two veteran actors with national theater credits take on the roles in this roiling, emotional two-hander.

The unassuming title gives nothing away about what kind of relationship Roz and Ray have. It is definitely unique, in that Roz is a hematologist and Ray is a parent of twin hemophiliacs who need constant medical attention and blood products to stay alive. The play jumps back and forward in time from the late 1970s to 1991. This is key to the subject at hand.

We’re talking about AIDS. It’s a potent topic, not significantly explored in plays, though not unknown for including Gay life and AIDS’ affect on that culture, as many or most SGN readers can attest to. But most of us don’t know and can stand some education about how AIDS affected people who needed blood product to live normal lives.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Taproot asks: Is God a game?

The cast of The God Game (Erik Stuhaug)
The God Game
Taproot Theatre
Through October 29, 2016

Somehow, in the late 20th century through 2016, there has appeared a religious test in our political societal vetting. Particularly for Republicans, often one must be devoutly Christian and loudly and visibly so. It may be that Trump is disrupting this idea, since he seems to barely know his Two Corinthians from his Thou Shalt Nots.

However, it’s enough of a “thing” that playwright Suzanne Bradbeer has crafted a play, set in the most present present, where a Senator is pressed to call upon Jesus and visibly display his faith during an election process.

The God Game displays the trenchant options in the political set, especially on the national stage. Here, Tom (played by David Drummond) is a senator from Virginia, well thought of and highly approved of, who is tapped to be vetted for a vice presidential running mate option. The presidential candidate is a controversial one, sounding similar to the disruptive Trump, but smart enough to want to have a diversity of opinions on his team.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Pump Boys" more a concert than musical with great hard-working cast

Cast of Pump Boys and Dinettes (Mark Kitaoka)
Pump Boys and Dinettes
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through October 23, 2016
Everett: October 28-November 20, 2016

Village Theatre has a feel-good show for you to hoot and holler with and enjoy their kick-ass cast of seven. For Pump Boys and Dinettes, director Brandon Ivie assembled a bunch of mostly-local actor/singer/musicians to pluck and strum their hearts out in a fun outing of this feels-like-a-country-concert musical.

There really isn’t a story here, except for some background information about the small town these characters inhabit, their auto repair shop and the local coffee shop. There’s a bit of attempting to make some romantic coupling happen, but it’s not consummated.

The main reason to go is because these performers all work so very hard to please and to bring home the honky-tonky music. Led by Joshua Carter of the aw-shucks boy-next-door looks, Village also brings now-actual Nashville song-writer Sylvie Davidson home to Seattle to perform. The other big import is Levi Kreis and his magic piano-hands.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The sun shines on this "Raisin" (at Seattle Rep)

Cast of A Raisin in the Sun (Alan Alabastro)
A Raisin in the Sun
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through October 30, 2016

The production of A Raisin in the Sun at Seattle Repertory Theatre is a fabulous opportunity to see this classic play on stage, and it appears that a good number of regional theaters are realizing that, almost 60 years later, it still represents a huge chunk of the African-American struggle in this country.

When you realize that Lorraine Hansberry only wrote two major plays before she died in her mid-thirties, and how powerful the play is in succeeding the tests of time, it is even more distressing that we lost her voice so soon. While Hansberry certainly wasn’t the first black woman playwright, and Alice Childress (for one) was contemporaneously writing, she was the first to have a play on Broadway. Apparently, that’s all that our theater community often paid attention to.

Daisey on Trump - Go see it if you can

The Trump Card by Mike Daisey

If you find yourself in a city where Mike Daisey can tell you the story of Trump (in The Trump Card), please try to go hear it! Especially in the waning days of this horrid campaign, and Daisey’s clear ability to amend his script, there may be much to ponder.

Mike Daisey tells us stories about ourselves. Sometimes we don’t recognize ourselves and sometimes we might not like the story. This is what he was counting on in telling us about Trump and what Trump’s candidacy means about American society, today.

In The Trump Card, Mike lauds “competency” and, most of the time, we probably do, too. But Mike lauds Donald Trump’s competency and says that Trump is good at his job, which is as an entertainer. Trump is great at getting and keeping attention, must like any entertainer.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Halleluyah - we find out "Handel's Messiah" was a scandal

Cast of Joyful Noise (Erik Stuhaug)
Joyful Noise
Taproot Theatre
Through October 22, 2016

Nowadays, “Handel’s Messiah” is the kind of phrase that no one thinks twice about, especially at Christmas time. It’s a piece of choral singing that you might even take for granted. But at one point in time, back when Georg Handel wrote the piece, it was actually a scandal that almost ruined his composing career!

The back story can be seen on stage at Taproot Theatre, as researched and created by Tim Slover, and produced with a wonderful cast, directed by Scott Nolte. It begins about 1741-3, as Handel’s career seems to be going into the toilet. His oratorios are said to be boring and people are not flocking to his current compositions.

Played masterfully by Jim Gall, we see him deep in debt and at the mercy of King George II (Frank Lawler), who may or may not decide to pay his bills. King George has a Catholic bishop whispering hard-line religious doctrine into his ear. Bishop Henry Egerton (William Kumma) is already against Handel’s earlier works based on the Bible, because they were written with an apostate, librettist Charles Jennens (Kevin Pitman) and performed outside a church. Horrors!

Thursday, October 06, 2016

October Theater Openings for your pleasure

Don Darryl Rivera returns home (from starring for years on Broadway in Aladdin as Iago) to the 5th Avenue Theatre for Man of La Mancha (courtesy 5th Avenue)

October productions are fraught with big emotion. Catharsis awaits along with mystery and suspense. See what October has to offer. Note world premiere plays by locals Karen Hartman and Courtney Meaker are on tap.

Man of La Mancha, 5th Avenue Theatre, 10/7-30/16
Local performer turned Aladdin’s Broadway Iago, Don Darryl Rivera, returns to perform in a multi-ethnic production of this classic musical. Inspired by one of the greatest novels in Western literature, Man of La Mancha enters the mind and world of the mad knight Don Quixote as he pursues his quest for the impossible dream. In a tale told by Author Cervantes himself, Quixote is against all odds, a man who sees good and innocence in a world filled with darkness and despair.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Forward Flux presents two one-acts of note: The Wedding Gift and The Summer House

The Wedding Gift (Joe Moore)
The Wedding Gift
Forward Flux Productions
(at Gay City Arts)
Through October 8, 2016

Chisa Hutchinson wrote a whole new language for her 80 minute play, The Wedding Gift! What’s fascinating is that by the end of the play, we understand a whole lot of it, or at least can clearly understand what has happened. Don’t worry, there’s some English in there, too.

Hutchinson turns the slavery story on its racial head in Forward Flux’s production. A white guy, Doug (Andrew Shanks) wakes up mostly naked in a strange, strange land. He doesn’t know how he got there, but once shackled and threatened, he realizes he’s a slave.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cafe Nordo strays a bit with spooky show, better menu

Hotel Nordo (Bruce Clayton Tom)
Hotel Nordo
Café Nordo
Through November 20, 2016

Café Nordo continues their fun mission, creating new scripts paired with innovative menus, with Hotel Nordo. The atmosphere is of a spooky 125 year old former Pioneer Square hotel with lots of stories embedded in the walls. They attempt to evoke a history of dark deeds, while feeding squares of various courses for reasons revealed toward the end of the meal.

Their press release says, “Each plate of surrealist cuisine is paired with an episode of this Hotel's history, beginning with a 1927 wedding that ended in tragedy. Hotel Nordo tells four haunting tales of memories, death, loss, and regret. Audiences are encouraged to don their drop-waist dresses, spats, and boas and raise a toast at the ill-fated wedding that whets the Hotel’s appetite for human suffering.”

Thursday, September 22, 2016

For a spoof-­tastic good time see STAGEright’s "Toxic Avengers"

Jessi Little not eyeballing Brian Lange in The Toxic Avenger Musical (Galen Wicks)
The Toxic Avenger Musical
(at Ballard Underground)
Through October 1, 2016

Joe DiPietro and David Bryan created a musical version of the 1984 film Toxic Avenger in 2008. It’s basically a spoof-takeoff of cartoon stories like Spiderman and there are no real surprises once the introductions are done. But it is very fun, especially when performed by some of Seattle’s most spooftastic performers.

In STAGEright's production, we have Brian Lange, Seattle’s geek heartthrob, who turns from the mild-mannered Melvin Ferd the Third (and a thin, querulous vocal style) to the hunky but eyeball dropping Toxy (and a powerful, hunky vocal). We have Ann Cornelius, the mama with the mostest as Ma Ferd and the hatingest mayor of Tromaville ever. We have Jessi Little stumbling blindly around as the silliest librarian west of the Mississippi.

Then there are the two hard-working ensemble members who get to be everyone else, and crack us up in every iteration: Sara Henley-Hicks and Nick Michael Watson. They play cops, robbers, henchmen, doowap backup dancers, best friends, and many others.

Spend time with "A Tale for the Time Being" at Book-It

Mi Kang at Nao in A Tale for the Time Being (John Ulman)
A Tale for the Time Being
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through October 9, 2016

Book-It’s new production, A Tale for the Time Being, adapted from the Ruth Ozeki novel by Laura Ferri, is a heart-breaking and mesmerizing story. Book-It hired Desdemona Chiang to direct it, which was a great move, because she helps create a fluid and graceful rhythm to the production.

The tale has many flavors, including dark ones, but is all told first-person by Nao (Mi Kang), a sixteen year old in Japan, through her diary that has floated, carefully wrapped in plastic and a Hello Kitty lunchbox from Japan to the coast of Canada. A writer, Ruth (Mariko Kita) finds the package floating near her island home and becomes obsessed with the contents of the lunchbox.

Her husband, Oliver (a warmly geeky Michael Patten), contextualizes the lunchbox’s potential travel from the tsunami-wrecked Japan to Canada, and adds key moments of bird lore about various crow species that wind through the tale. Ruth reads passages of diary to Oliver as they try to unwind the mystery of Nao’s life.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"The Royale" perfection

The Royale (Chris Bennion)
The Royale
ACT Theatre
Through October 9, 2016

Sometimes, you can experience a stage production where everything is just about as perfect as it can be made. The Royale at ACT Theatre is one such production. This will be remembered for a long, long time if you get a chance to see it. I recommend it unreservedly for all people over about age 10!

This is a startlingly fast production at about 70 minutes that encompasses the challenge of Jay “Sport” Jackson (Jarrod M. Smith) to become the first African American heavy weight boxing champion of the world. The story is based on the real life Jack Johnson, who spurred many movies and documentaries of his accomplishments in the early 1900s.

We meet his trainer (G. Valmont Thomas), his promoter (R. Hamilton Wright), his sparring partner (Lorenzo Roberts) and his sister Nina (Zenobia Taylor). We are privy to the conversations and maneuvering to get him a fight with the white heavy weight champ that he longs to beat in order to break the color barrier. We hear about the formidable barriers, including the concerns of his sister, who is terribly afraid of what might happen to her and her children if he wins! This kind of concern is not the “usual fare” of under-dog plays.

This good Trump idea is trumped by production

Kevin Bordi in Trump the King (D. Hastings)
Trump the King or POTUS Drumph
Theater Schmeater
Through October 15, 2016

Trump the King or POTUS Drumph had a subtitle, when it was announced by Theater Schmeater, that seems to have been subsequently dropped: Another Sh**ty Adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi Which May or May Not Resonate with a Contemporary American Audience. This subtitle certainly augments the idea of the production at hand.

Adapted by Nick Edwards, an actor sometimes found on the Schmee stage and others around town, this play completely skewers the life of one Donnoh Trump, who is “orange.” All the names and associations of characters in this ensemble-scurrying play are smartly altered so as not to be confused with reality. Examples are: Candanida, not to be confused with the real Canada, Vananana, not to be confused with the real Ivana Trump, Koranistas, not to be confused with any real Muslims. You’ll meet Justin the True of Candanida, and the daughters of Nobama, too.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"The Winter's Tale" - an autumn delight

Jasmine Jean Sim and Rudy Roushdi in The Winter's Tale (John Ulman)

The Winter's Tale
Seattle Shakespeare Company
(at Seattle Repertory Theatre)
through October 2, 2016

An energetic and deeply considered production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is now on stage by Seattle Shakespeare Company. Director Sheila Daniels has pulled together a solid cast (as usual - Shakes always has a considerably talented cast on stage) with several actors showing their most adept performance selves.

The Winter's Tale combines aspects of many other Shakespeare plays, and is currently thought of as a later work. If, as some later works display, Shakespeare cribbed from himself, liking aspects of earlier work and replicating them into "new" plays quickly, this makes sense as one that could feel new, but be made of cut-and-paste parts.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rhinoceros: good thought, not as good execution

Scene from Rhinoceros (John Ulman)
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through October 8, 2016

Rhinoceros is a famous absurdist play by Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco, written in 1959. Certainly, Strawberry Theatre Workshop chose to mount the play now because it was originally written to reflect Ionesco’s experience of the rise of “group think” during Nazism, and Strawshop is making a comparison to today’s Trump politics.

For more background, I will quote from about the play. “Over the course of three acts, the inhabitants of a small, provincial French town turn into rhinoceroses… The only human who does not succumb to this mass metamorphosis is the central character, Bérenger, a flustered everyman figure…The play is often read as a response and criticism to the sudden upsurge of Communism, Fascism, and Nazism during the events preceding World War II, and explores the themes of conformity, culture, mass movements, mob mentality, philosophy and morality.”

Bérenger, in this production is played by Carol Louise Thompson, who has done some excellent work around town on various small stages. Translating a man into a woman here doesn’t change much. There is a love story and so, obviously, it becomes a same-sex one, but that changes little else about the trajectory of the play.

Monday, September 12, 2016

"Bad Apples" - important story, bad musical

Kate Morgan Chadwick and Carlton Byrd in Bad Apples (Jeff Carpenter)
Bad Apples
Co-produced by ACT Theatre/ACTLab, Artswest, and Circle X Theatre
(at ACT Theatre)
Through September 25, 2016

Bad Apples, the new musical at ACT Theatre (co-produced by Artswest and the originating theater in Los Angeles, Circle X Theatre), is bound to get mixed reviews and stir controversy. After all, it is a musical about the most egregious torture and debasement the public is aware of during the 2003 Iraq War aftermath at Abu Ghraib prison. We might as well have someone write a musical about the My Lai Massacre, the 1968 killing of hundreds of civilians by American soldiers.

If you are not aware of what happened at this notorious Iraqi prison, nor the government cover-up of torture (waterboarding, electric shock, hanging from the wrists-behind-the-back, withholding food and water, and sexually debasing prisoners), this musical doesn’t exactly educate you well. Vice President Dick Cheney is on record as saying he would torture again “in a minute.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dinner with unicorns - "The Glass Menagerie" Nordo-style

The Glass Menagerie (Jeff Carpenter)
The Glass Menagerie
The Williams Project and Café Nordo
Through September 3, 2016

I have never eaten with the Wingfield family, so it was with hope for a unique experience that I went to the Culinarium, Café Nordo’s home, to experience what eating with the Wingfield’s would be like. If you don’t know who they are, they’re the family in the play, The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams.

The Williams Project, a group of east coast actors who seem to be coming to Seattle for summer residencies, focus a lot of their attention on their namesake’s work. They also seem, in the experience I’ve had with two Williams plays they’ve done here, to work particularly hard at deconstructing and reconstructing Williams in a fresh and far from stereotypical way.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The most explosive September in memory!

Dedra Woods in a rehearsal of Wedding Band at Intiman Theatre (Alex Garland)
It’s that time of year again! Theater in Seattle explodes and there are too many wonderful productions to see at once! Anyone up for a contest? Who will see the most September performances? How many can you fit into a week? Some of the most anticipated shows of the year are opening now….

The 39 Steps, Lamplight Productions and KTO Productions, 9/1-11/16 (at Bathhouse Theatre)
Based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock spy/romance film, this hit play is sure to please anyone who enjoys spies, hi-jinks, handcuffs, murder, missing fingers, kissing, secrets, chase scenes, more kissing, trains, planes and yes, automobiles. A cast of four actors tackle over 100 characters in what is guaranteed to be a good time.

Scab, Many Hats Theatre, 9/2-10/16 (at Ballard Underground)
In this unconventional comedic-drama, Anima's sphere of desperation and self-destruction is invaded by the arrival of her perky new roommate, Christa. Prompted by a malevolent talking statue of the Virgin Mary and a bloodthirsty houseplant named Susan, Anima and Christa enter into a friendship that incurs traumatic results.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fun Farce Faces Final Forays

David Roby in One Man, Two Guvnors (Ken Holmes)
One Man, Two Guvnors
Sound Theatre Company
(at Armory Theatre)
Through August 27, 2016

David Roby is everything one would want in a classic prat-falling (hey, anyone know what a “prat” is?) door-slamming British farce, like One Man, Two Guvnors, playing now by Sound Theatre Company. In Richard Bean’s slick adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 1746 play, Servant of Two Masters, Roby pulls out all the stops to make us laugh as he moans about needing to eat and then hankers after love.

Bean’s adaptation hews closely to the original. A young woman (Kayla Teel) disguises herself as her dead brother, trying to find the man who killed him. She doesn’t realize that that man is her lover (Luke Stubbers). But she also needs money, so she goes to the father (John Clark) of her brother’s betrothed (Christine Riippi) to collect the dowry, not knowing that the betrothed wants to marry someone else (Daniel Stoltenberg).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dual ways of looking at "Duels" by Nick Stokes

The cast of Duels (Andrea Sassenrath)
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through September 10, 2016

In a metaphorical and concrete way, Irene tends her garden, in the premiere of Nick Stokes’ play, Duels, mounted with the help of director Jose Amador, and presented at 12th Avenue Arts. But this garden has more than vegetables in it. It has become the graves of her husband and lover.

Walking into the room at 12AA, one is immediately met by the pungent smell of dirt packed into inverted triangles with a path between them. Plantings immediately bring to mind a vegetable garden, but lying there, as well, are the two men in the play. Carter Rodriquez and Daniel Christensen play Juan and John, the two men in Irene’s life.

At first, we see Irene (Marianna de Fazio), coping confidently and graciously with birthing a new calf, sure of her ability to manage the facets of country urban farming on her own. But suddenly, Juan and John arise and face each other in an inexplicable duel, while she explains that they’ve killed each other and walks them through the process of doing it again.