Sunday, May 29, 2016

June Theater Openings Aren't Quite Busting, But Nice

Justin Gregory Lopez in Paint Your Wagon at the 5th Avenue Theatre (Mark Kitaoka)
June has a smaller group of theater openings than usual for this city. Maybe that means you can make it to each one of these before the month is out!

9 Circles, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, 6/2-25/16
9 Circles is based on the infamous case of former 101st Airborne Division Pfc Steven Dale Green, convicted in a federal court in 2009 of raping and killing an Iraqi fourteen-year-old girl and murdering her family. Green was discharged from the military in May 2006 after being found to have a personality disorder. He was sentenced to multiple life sentences in civilian court and hung himself in prison. 9 Circles won the 2011 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award.

Paint Your Wagon, 5th Ave, 6/2-26/16
This may look like a classic musical, but it’s being billed as a “revisal” – a reworking of an old version. The music remains, with classics like They Call the Wind Maria, but the book (script) has been rewritten by Jon Marans. It’s the story of the rise and fall of a remote mining town during the height of the Gold Rush. Men and women from around the world take a leap of faith and journey to California to seize hold of the American dream, only to find themselves swept up in a clash of culture, passion, greed and romance. Filled with local veteran performers and a few imported powerhouses, this is an exciting opportunity.

Friday, May 27, 2016

"Emily Linder" at Taproot Hits the Funny Bone as Well as the Heart

Charity Parenzini and Laura Kenny in The Realization of Emily Linder (John Ulman)

The Realization of Emily Linder
Taproot Theatre
Through June 11, 2016

Emily Linder has had a realization. She’s going to die in a couple of days. She tells her daughters, who have mixed feelings of belief, and demands that they plan her funeral. But she tells them exactly what she wants to have at the funeral, including helium balloons!

So begins the current play, The Realization of Emily Linder, at Taproot Theatre. Playwright Richard Strand includes a lot of contemporary stressors of families: elder care issues, managing illness, losses of spouses in later life, adult children coping with aging parents, sibling rivalry and more.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

ArtsWest Presents Exquisite "Death of a Salesman"

Kyle Anton Johnson, David Pichette, Drew Highlands in Death of a Salesman (Michael Brunk)
Death of a Salesman
Through May 29, 2016

I can’t say I wasn’t a bit skeptical when I heard that ArtsWest was planning to mount Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in their season. It just didn’t seem like a play that fit all that well into their oeuvre, nor was I sure that it was a classic that stood the test of time all the way to now.

That was before I saw the production that slayed me with its precision and relevance! This is a stunning effort!

There are still two more weekends to see this play, and to see David Pichette play Willie Loman at the exact right moment in Pichette’s career. He is heartbreaking, alternately optimistic and caustic, and no holds barred either way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sprawling “The Brothers K” gives as much as it demands!

The Chance family (Chris Bennion)
The Brothers K
Part 1: Strike Zones
Part 2: The Left Stuff
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through June 26, 2016

Last year, Book-It Repertory Theatre took a big gamble: they adapted a very long book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, into a two-part play that asked audiences to spend an entire day at Seattle Center, eat, wait, and watch the entire event. The plays were about the history of Jews in comic-book creation and a couple of fictitious cousins. Both productions were so well done, so well-acted, adapted, presented, that the experiment succeeded.

That success, following another blockbuster two-part presentation of The Cider House Rules, was apparently enough for them to contemplate trying again with another big book, The Brothers K, about a nuclear family, baseball, and the 1960s into and surrounding the Vietnam War. Since the plays just opened, the success at the box office is still to be determined, but my opinion is that they have again succeeded in presenting a compelling and excellent work that justifies the time demanded of an audience!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Don’t Miss “A Hand of Talons“

Stephanie Kim-Bryan in A Hand of Talons (John Ulman)
A Hand of Talons
Pork Filled Productions
Through May 21, 2016

The third time’s more than the charm! Ms. Maggie Lee has written three steampunk plays all set in the same “universe” and the third installment, A Hand of Talons, is now on stage at Theatre Off Jackson, produced by Pork Filled Productions.

Lee’s world includes magic and spicy Asian women who kick things and hit things and shoot things, if they need to. In this iteration, three scions of the Yao family are being threatened with expulsion from the larger Yao clan, and must put aside their differences to save their control of their portion of the world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Where’s the Passion? Shakes’ "R&J" falls flat

Romeo and Juliet (John Ulman)
Romeo and Juliet
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through May 22, 2016

So here are some good aspects of Seattle Shakespeare Company’s current production of Romeo and Juliet: the actors clearly know what they’re saying. This is a really good thing, because there are some unfortunate productions where the actors don’t appear to understand Shakespeare enough to know what their lines mean.

The music is wonderful. It is composed by rising star, Justin Huertas, and performed live by him and a few others. It’s kind of cool to have movie-atmospheric-music played live in the room.

There are aspects of the set (Craig Wollam) and lighting (Tim Wratten) that work really, really well (even though the set is so spare, but there are techniques like tying a bed to a bower to move it that are really keen).

"Puny Humans" Frames the Male vs. Female Gaming Debate with Spot-On Accuracy

(poster by Peter Hon)
Puny Humans
Annex Theatre
through May 14, 2016

Puny Humans, a new play co-written by Bret Fetzer and Keiko Green, is a fascinating look at what comic conventions have become, and even gives a bit of history (via Cole Hornaday's character of a comics seller) about how they started. The overarching theme of the play is that we all think we're "puny" and wish not to be, so we try to find ways to assume the heroic side of ourselves and if we can't live it, all the time, we can at least hope people see us that way.

Director Gavin Reub manages a very large cast (13) on the tiny stage where a half-dozen storylines interweave among ComiCon attendees ranging from old gamers to young bloggers. The storylines include a budding love triangle (Te Yelland, Grace Carmack and Kevin Bordi), a mom supporting her "spectrum" daughter (Heather Persinger and Rachel Guyer-Mafune), two long-time gamer friends growing apart (David Rollison and Ben McFadden), an older movie star living off old fame (Patty Bonnell) and a younger star trying to live off current fame (Nic Morden), a teen blogger who is trying to make a splash and isn't sure how to manage anti-woman troll commentary (Zenaida Smith), and a reporter (Kelly Johnson) who doesn't want to be there, an organizer who barely keeps it together (Lauryn Hochberg) and the comics seller.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Macha Monkey presents the world premiere of Yussef El Guindi’s “The Collaborator”

Hayley Guthrie in The Collaborator (photo by Kristina Sutherland Rowell)
The Collaborator
Macha Monkey Productions
Through May 14, 2016

Macha Monkey Productions is doing a little world premiere… Little in terms of size of cast – one (Hayley Guthrie). Little in terms of time – about 75 minutes. But big in terms of playwright – nationally known, but local Yussef El Guindi, and a big dip into female/male sexual politics.

Directed by Anita Montgomery, who has worked with El Guindi on at least two of his plays, the script of The Collaborator begins with an actor, Cass, addressing the audience. She’s dressed in night clothes and explains that she and her collaborator, whom she clarifies is male, decided on the costume and the set, together.

The actor speaks about the actor-ego, the desire for people to watch an actor, the despair for the actor if people don’t seem interested, the awareness of people yawning, sleeping or leaving. Then she begins to tell a story about walking home from her theater-gig as a French maid in what sounds like a terrible farce where everyone ends the play by slapping each other’s butts.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

New Holmes mystery has an "American Problem" but is still fun

Cast of Sherlock Holmes (Chris Bennion)
Sherlock Holmes and the American Problem
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through May 22, 2016

Our community has had some real successes bringing new Sherlock Holmes material to life in the last few years. John Longenbaugh had his Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol done to great acclaim in 2010 and again in 2011. In 2013, the Seattle Rep staged R. Hamilton Wright and David Pichette's adaptation of "The Hound of the Baskervilles." That also was greeted with delight.

There was a good deal of anticipation when the Rep announced that they would do another Holmes play from Wright (without Pichette this time), a new work entitled Sherlock Holmes and the American Problem. This concept entwines historic American Annie Oakley with her lauded visit to Britain with a mystery involving murder, theft of a tunnel-boring machine (deliberate shades of Bertha!), and Sherlock’s estranged older brother.