Monday, October 30, 2017

Cross Bridges to Go Hear Beautiful "Bridges of Madison County"

Megan Renae Parker and Randy Scholz in Bridges of Madison County (Chris Bennion)
Bridges of Madison County
Showtunes Theatre Company
(at ACT Theatre)
through November 5, 2017

Showtunes Theatre Company is giving us a holiday gift - their usual practice of one weekend shows is extending to two, which means you absolutely can read this and still plan on going next weekend!

Maybe this will be a new normal, but no matter right now, because now you have to make tracks to see this staged musical and their two amazing leads. You may be familiar with the book by Robert Waller or the movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. It's the weepy romantic story of a tired Iowa housewife who has a life-changing affair with a magazine photographer. Wipe those iterations from your brain. 

The musical, with a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, hews closely to the story of an Italian war-bride who makes a marriage of convenience and a life as a farm wife, eventually with two teenagers. An accidental meeting with a photographer on assignment who is taking shots of covered bridges in Madison County lures her into a surprise love affair.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How Theater Brings Historic Content to Current Life – “Ragtime” and “The Crucible”

Scene from The Crucible (Chris Bennion)
Through November 5, 2017

The Crucible
Through November 12, 2017

Seattle has a unique opportunity for the next few weeks to see two top-notch “best theater” productions that not only are wonderful evenings of theater but exemplify the specific way that theater can provide political commentary through historic examples. With meticulous technical support and very large casts of some of Seattle’s best, these productions demonstrate the power of theater to penetrate into people’s feelings in a most unique art form.

The beautiful musical, Ragtime, at The 5th Avenue Theatre, tells us some history, both good and bad, of the turn of the 20th Century and the difficulty of melding gentrified whites, struggling blacks whose artistic innovation (Ragtime music) was being appropriated even as they were overtly treated as second-class citizens, and immigrants, many who were very poor Jews from Eastern Europe and Russian.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Light and Dark: "The World of Extreme Happiness"

A moment in The World of Extreme Happiness (John Ulman)
The World of Extreme Happiness
Seattle Public Theater
(with SiS Productions)
Through November 5, 2017

In The World of Extreme Happiness, by playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, the Chinese people are presented with two essential choices: to stay in the country and be penniless farmers or go to the City to work in factories to try to become someone more, someone famous, someone rich. 

This is a dark look at Chinese culture, but it easily resonates with any subculture, anywhere in the world, where people toil in thankless jobs that sap their courage, individuality, aspiration, belief, or health. If Cowhig wrote it about American field workers or factory workers, it would be no less applicable.

But if she did write it about America, it might be that audiences would be less open to consuming what she’s presenting. We don’t want to think about the unceasing toil that many people worldwide provide when we use what they’ve created, whether it’s Apple products or organic strawberries.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

BenDeLaCreme Brings Halloween

The entire cast of Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor (Kevin Heard)
Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor
(at ACT Theatre)
Through October 29, 2017

Just in time for Halloween, BenDeLaCreme has created a little silly morsel of a playlet that is clearly all about fun and barely about story. There’s a manor with a Count (Major Scales) who has a scary Mommy Skeleton (Sann Hall – puppeteer) who exhorts him to kill unsuspecting people who wander by.

Of course, BenDeLaCreme, as Patsy Jejune, wanders by and gets caught and subjected to being chased by dancing skeletons, and dancing ghosts, and a hunky weir wolf, so there’s a lot of running back and forth in ginormous heels while we all hold our breath to see if she falls down or not.

Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor is probably best seen slightly buzzed. Certainly there is no need to pay much attention to plot, but the singing, mostly by Major Scales, who writes original tunes for this, is fine, and the costumes are great (designed by Danial Hellman – and others? the program isn’t exactly clear).

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Powerful "Sycorax" Speaks to Racism

Demene E. Hall in Sycorax (Tom Chargin)
Snowflake Avalanche
(at 18th & Union)
Through October 14, 2017

There’s a Shakespeare play, The Tempest, that many people are familiar with. It has several “magical” characters, one of which is Caliban, who is described as a monster, and the offspring of a witch named Sycorax.

Prospero, a noble deliberately shipwrecked (by rivals) on an island with his daughter says Caliban is “a freckled whelp hag-born--not honour'd with a human shape” and calls him filth and a slave. When Prospero first came to the island, Caliban helped him learn how to survive there, but years later, Prospero treats him terribly.

Playwright Y York conceived of a new way of looking at Caliban through his mother. What if, she considered, Sycorax was dark-skinned? What if Caliban was also dark-skinned? What if their lives were considered immaterial and the reasons they are labeled a “witch” and a “monster” were because of skin color and not because of actual inhuman features?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Don’t Be “Prejudice”d Against Slapstick

Some case of Pride and Prejudice (Alan Alabastro)
Pride and Prejudice
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through October 29, 2017

I would never have thought that Pride and Prejudice and “slapstick” could go together in a sentence, but here we are! In the best possible way… The new adaptation by Kate Hamill, as directed by Amanda Dehnert, with a rockin’ cast that is ready to catch each other off-guard if they can for a laugh, is Slapstick Heaven!

Do not worry that this adaptation will make you compare it to Jennifer Ehle and the wonderful BBC production. Do not worry, either, that it misses the storyline in the actual book. Rather, it’s a whole new idea of how to present the exact story, only different.

The actors still speak in British accents, and dress more-or-less in period stylings. But they also blow bullhorns, wiggle thundersheets, dance to 21st Century tunes, and change characters while we watch by pulling off or on a jacket.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Is Einstein Relatively Great or Relatively Not? You Decide

Dennis Bateman and Candace Vance in Relativity (Erik Stuhaug)
Taproot Theatre
Through October 4, 2017

Many times, when we find out negative information about famous folk, that information might end up impacting our feelings about the contributions of those famous folk to our world. Often the negative information is about actions these famous folks took in their lives that changes our perceptions of them from heroic to “terrible human,” in the extreme.

We’ve seen that very recently with Bill Cosby, changing some from loving his shows and comedy albums to not being able to listen to them at all. In the past, media didn’t reveal things like infidelities about people like John Kennedy, Jr. or Martin Luther King, Jr. – and we know now that adultery was part of how they negotiated the world. But does that matter to people?

Mark St. Germain, who seems to love to write plays about real people and real events, has written a play about Albert Einstein. He of the Theory of Relativity fame and the fuzzy white hair and German accent. A persistent interviewer shows up at Einstein’s home and refuses to be kicked out. She has a plausible story and even a contract that says anything she asks that he does not want published will be cut out of her story.