Friday, June 30, 2017

July Theater is HOT

Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act (Dave Hastings)

Persuasion (Erik Stuhaug)

It’s July, so that means the Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival, at Volunteer Park, July 15th and 16th. It’s an opportunity to try to see all the “park shows” in one weekend, if you’d like. 16 performances by nine local theater companies on three stages over two days. Participating companies are GreenStage (Richard II and The Comedy of Errors), Seattle Shakespeare Company's Wooden O (Pericles and Much Ado About Nothing), Last Leaf Productions (The Comedy of Errors), Theater Schmeater (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe), The 14/48 Projects (Coyote Tails), Freehold Theatre (Hamlet –Engaged), Jet City Improv (The Lost Folio), Young Shakespeare Workshop (Hamlet), and Shakespeare Northwest (Once Upon a Shakespearean Time). The full schedule for the festival is online. Of course, all these shows will be at other parks throughout July and into August.

There is also a lot of other really exciting theater to see this month, so take a look at this list and plan to catch some amazing entertainment.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What’s Drag Got to Do With It?

Timothy McCuen Piggee and Adam Standley in The Legend of Georgia McBride (Chris Bennion)
The Legend of Georgia McBride
ACT Theatre
Through July 2, 2017

Adam Standley continues to show his considerable talent for captivating a theater audience in his latest outing: The Legend of Georgia McBride at ACT Theatre by Matthew Lopez. The show is a rollicking good time (though maybe a bit “old fashioned” by now) as it focuses on a straight man becoming a drag queen (gasp! how shocking!).

Casey is at his wits’ end when his boss, Eddie, fires him from being an Elvis impersonator in order to let the boss’s cousin perform a drag show. And right when he bounced the rent check and finds out his wife, Jo, is pregnant! He’s asked to bartend, but then suddenly a drugged out drag queen fails her duty and who else is there to step in? Hurry, hurry, you must put on that dress and mean it!

There’s not a lot of mystery to the show. There’s just a lot of good time entertainment! The small cast is clearly having fun and the costumes and wigs put the entire show over the top!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

“Braggsville” is Well Worth the Visit

The main characters in Welcome to Braggsville (Alabastro Photography)
Welcome to Braggsville
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through July 2, 2017

The book, Welcome to Braggsville, by T. Geronimo Johnson, is branded as a sharp, incisive, and funny satire. The play, as adapted by Josh Aaseng and Daemond Arrindell for Book-It Repertory Theatre, is not particularly funny, though it keeps appellations such as sharp and incisive, and it is definitely challenging. It is extremely current, especially given the newly tragic death in “liberal Seattle” of another black person at the hands of the police. As much as we want to believe in some kind of post-racial society, we keep being shown that we have a long way to go to become what we may wish.

The topic at hand is whether our white, liberal conceits are pierce-able by reality on the ground and whether we can allow ourselves to learn and grow after setting aside our self-congratulations. The community that is teased the hardest, in the novel and play, is Berkeley college students. It begins with a diverse group of freshmen going to a party where one is supposed to put a dot “where you’d like to be touched.”

When they all put the dot in the middle of their foreheads, other party-goers excoriate them as lacking the sensibility to realize they were mocking Indians (the dots that are used to denote married or single) and after they are sent packing, they declare themselves the “four little Indians – from different tribes.” The four are: small-town Georgia white boy, D'aron (Zack Summers), feminist, white woman, Candice (Sylvie Davidson), the “kung fu comedian” Asian-American, Louis (Justin Huertas), and the black inner-city Chicagoan, Charlie (Dimitri Woods).

Friday, June 16, 2017

NCTC's "Realistic Joneses" Well Done but Reality Bites

Peter Dylan O'Connor and Brenda Joyner in The Realistic Joneses (Danielle Franich)
The Realistic Joneses
New Century Theatre Company
Through July 1, 2017

There is a terrific four-hander cast doing some lovely acting work and it’s easy to appreciate them doing so. The big problem with New Century Theatre Company’s production of The Realistic Joneses is that they’re doing The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno.

Will Eno’s play, Thom Pain (based on nothing) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2005. It was produced at Seattle Repertory not long afterward in 2006 with stalwart actor Todd Jefferson Moore who has done many plays with great talent. However, my biggest memory of that experience was being yelled at by a solo actor for over an hour. I hated it. Not just didn’t like it…

That play is one of the number of times I have found a play to have won a Pulizter Prize or been a finalist and wondered just what the panel was smoking that caused them to make the choices they made.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

“Barbecue” is one hot show

Lamar Legend and Shaunyce Omar in Barbecue (Naomi Ishisaka)
Intiman Theatre
(at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute)
Through June 25, 2017

Nothing is quite what it seems in this Robert O’Hara play, Barbecue, mounted by Intiman Theatre and directed by talented Malika Oyetimein. Most anyone who writes about this play will have to sketch in oblique descriptions so we don’t give away too many plot twists – and saying that gives you too much information about plot twists!

O’Hara is deft with dialogue. He catches how people tease and express emotions with toss away lines. He plunges the audience into the middle of scenes and lets us catch up with what is going on. He also has a strong point of view. His plays – so far, Intiman and Oyetimein have done two including Bootycandy in 2015 – are part uproariously funny, and part disturbing, and always challenging the status quo.

Monday, June 05, 2017

“Lydia” Encapsulates the Border Between Reality and Poetry

Carolyn Marie Monroe and Sofia Raquel Sanchez in Lydia (John Ulman)
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through June 24, 2017

Strawberry Theatre Workshop has chosen a more-than-worthy play to present: Lydia by Octavio Solis. It’s hard to write about because there is just so much that should not be said before anyone sees the play! Even the barest minimums reveal aspects that would be better discovered by an audience that has no idea what they’re going to see.

Having said that, while it’s an intense, challenging, sometimes difficult journey, it’s a stellar effort and is definitely one of the most important plays you will see this year! If you like a play that sticks to you for weeks like glue, you will love seeing this one! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it on stage.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

"Dreamgirls" is a Dream of a Production

The Dreams and Jimmy in Dreamgirls (Mark Kitaoka)

Village Theatre
Issaquah: through July 2, 2017
Everett: July 7 – 30, 2017

Best Musical Production of 2017 – so far for sure! Village Theatre has a bona fide hit on its hands with its final production of the season: Dreamgirls! The production is exciting, visually gorgeous, with a cast that is palpably having fun doing the show. It works on every level.

Steve Tomkins said it’s one of his “bucket list” musicals, one that he’s been wishing to do for a long time. Well, his choice to do it now speaks, also, to the growth of Village and its ability to field a sophisticated cast of mostly African-American talent who are mostly all located here, now, to accomplish this intense operetta (much of the dialogue in this musical is sung).

If you have never seen the 1983 stage musical or the 2006 movie, the plot takes inspiration from the real-life history of Motown founder Berry Gordy and the Supremes. A trio of naïve singers arrives in New York to make it big. A somewhat-shady “operator” takes them under his wing and defies expectation by finding a way to make R&B more palatable to “white” radio stations and helps them become stars. But only after pushing the larger, better singer to a supporting role to the one he thinks is prettier and with more star quality.

The musical demonstrates a lot of the seedy history of our country where white singers like Elvis and others heard a song and appropriated it into a hit by singing it themselves. The energy of change and civil rights in the 1960s and ‘70s did allow for breakout black stars to get the recognition they deserved.