Monday, December 31, 2018

January Theater Shows Variety

The cast of Bohemia (John Cornicello)
The list of productions opening in January is shorter this year than most, but there are a lot of very interesting choices to see on our local stages. It’s a mix of old (I Do, I Do and Arsenic and Old Lace) and new (B and Last of the Boys). Get your calendars out and start getting those tickets!

14/48: The World’s Quickest Theater Festival, The 14/48 Projects and ACTLab, 1/4-5, 11-12/19
January 2019 provides The 14/48 Projects another opportunity to bring its unique brand of theatre-making challenge. The rules: 14 world-premiere plays written, cast, designed, directed, scored, rehearsed, and performed in 48 hours. That same process is repeated for a second weekend! You never EVER know what you’ll get, which is part of the fun!

All’s Well That Ends Well, Seattle Shakespeare Company, 1/8/19-2/3/19 (at Center Theatre)
Smart and unwavering, Helena has pinned her heart to Bertram. He wants nothing to do with her and runs off to the wars for adventure and to escape his newly-arranged marriage. Helena follows him. Overcoming obstacles and aided by a fantastic collection of comical characters, the two begin separate journeys towards each other, both learning about the paradox of holding love tight as well as letting go.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Dina Martina Christmas Show Arrives at ACT Theatre

Dina Martina (courtesy Dina Martina)
The Dina Martina Christmas Show
ACT Theatre
Through December 24, 2018

Dina Martina is celebrating her 20th year of producing a Christmas extravaganza with her now-world-wide known persona. Off-stage, Martina-creator Grady West is likely one of those quiet types that doesn’t attract a great deal of public notice when sipping coffee in a shop somewhere. But Dina enters with panache and splash and attempts to win the audience over with a combination of bad pronunciations, off-key singing, and generally groan-worthy jokes. And that is all on purpose.

For the last bunch of years, her show has been a complete sell-out in the squished and run-down performance space at Seedle’s (Dina’s way of saying Seattle) beloved ReBar. It’s become a holiday tradition to pack into those hard folding chairs, grab a bunch of drinks and let Dina mash up her stories and forget lyrics to songs.

This year, it’s her first celebration at ACT Theatre, where her costumes have gotten even better, and the set is quite a real set, with faux paintings, a real movie screen for segments of moving pictures, and room for a grand piano for the grand Chris Jeffries, Dina’s “adult prodigy” musical accompanist, to play.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Heart of “My Ántonia” Beats in the Heartland

Tim Gouran and Nabilah Ahmen in My Antonia (John Ulman)
My Ántonia
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through December 30, 2018

Willa Cather’s best-known novel is My Ántonia. She wrote movingly about the vast heartland of the United States plains and the joys and hardships of living in the sparsely populated and wild-weathered countryside. She wrote in a kind of spare, nature-loving way about the people who lived there and their ways of thinking and thriving.

Annie Lareau loved the book and adapted it for first production with Book-It Repertory Theatre back in 2008. It won a lot of critical praise and recognition at that time and Book-It decided to bring it back this year, with Lareau directing.

Lareau writes in the program that she long thought of the story about making a “home” for oneself and, this year, realized the connection to the current issues around immigration and integration that are so politically potent. This is what comes across most strongly in the production, this year. It is so palpably about the difficulties of leaving one’s homeland to make a new life in a new and strange land.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

“Veils” – One of the Best Plays of 2018

Alaji and Fathiya Ritter in Veils (Joe Iano)
Macha Theatre Works
(at West of Lenin)
Through December 16, 2018

You can tell that Macha’s production of Tom Coash’s play, Veils, was made with love. They took great care to cast two talented women actors who are also of appropriate ethnic background to the characters (Arab or Muslim) – Alaji and Fathiya Ritter, and hired a newly transplanted-from-California Arab director, Lia Sima Fakhouri.  

They added set designer Parmida Ziaei, who created a dorm room that seamlessly transformed into a hotel room, fun college-age appropriate costuming by Sadiqua Iman, and solid sound design by Johanna Melamed and lighting by Zanna King. Projections are important in this production and were perfected by Suzi Tucker – one of the talented projection-creators in town, in case you weren’t aware.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

“Annie” Gets It Done!

Cynthia Jones as Miss Hannigan (Tracy Martin)
The 5th Avenue Theatre
Through December 30, 2018

Annie, the musical, may be 40 plus years old, but since it started life as a “period piece,” set in 1933, it feels as fresh as the day it was written. Sure, it elevates an oligarch to hero status, though he only “saves” one orphan on Christmas, but if you look past that part to the simple story of people finding those who need them, it’s warmly inviting and a bit tear-inducing.

Part of the huge success of Annie has been the music. It contains iconic songs that people have grown up with for so many years now that the whole audience can practically break out singing with the cast. Song titles you would recognize include: Tomorrow, Hard Knock Life, Maybe, N.Y.C. and Easy Street!

The story, based on a long-running cartoon strip, Little Orphan Annie, focuses on a sturdy 11-year-old girl in an orphanage who was dropped off at birth with a letter from her parents saying they would be back to pick her up. Annie (played by Faith Young the night reviewed, who nails the sturdiness and has solid vocals) longs for her parents to come back, but weathers the antics of the horrid Ms. Hannigan (a comedy-turn-gem by Cynthia Jones) who takes care of the orphanage.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

December 2018 Theater Openings

Dina Martina (David Belisle)

Most years, the town provides a mix of holiday material and counter-programming for those who want to avoid it. The counter-programming is a bit sparse this year, but along with the reprises at ACT Theatre (A Chrismas Carol) and Seattle Public (Christmastown), here is a list of productions you might want to check out:

A Very Die Hard Christmas, The Habit Comedy and Seattle Public Theater, 12/1-23/18
From the comedy writers that have had Seattle in stitches for years, comes A Very Die Hard Christmas, a new musical parody. Sketch writers from The Habit team up with Seattle Public Theater to create a new holiday comedy perfect for those who like their Christmas entertainment with lots of action, 80s jokes, smooth soft rock jams, and snarky German terrorists.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, Taproot Theatre. 12/1-27/18
The all-ages holiday tradition is back! Charlie Brown is depressed by the never-ending commercialism surrounding the holidays. Thankfully, Linus is there to help him find the true meaning of Christmas in this musical adaptation of the cartoon classic.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Charmed, I’m Sure, with “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”

Shanna Allman and Calder Shilling in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (Erik Stuhaug)
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Taproot Theatre
Through December 29, 2018

Have you ever daydreamed about what might have happened to the Bennet sisters after Jane Austin’s book, Pride and Prejudice, ended? Have you longed to spend more time with the family and wished to know more of their stories? If so, you’re in a bit of luck if you head over to Taproot Theatre for a holiday-light production of Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon’s play, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.

If you know nothing else about the play, you can guess at several aspects. There will be some silly characters doing some silly things, a fair amount of good humor and some family squabble or other, and generally smart dialogue and, finally, a happy ending. It’s Christmas, after all, and a sad ending just won’t do.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Great production of “Matilda the Musical”

Nava Ruthfield as Matilda, and Ann Cornelius and Chris Ensweiler as her parents (Mark Kitaoka)
Matilda the Musical
Village Theatre
Issaquah: Through 12/30/18, Everett: 1/4/19-2/3/19

Village Theatre reports that their current production of Matilda the Musical is selling better than any show in history! One can’t call it a holiday show, but you might guess that a lot of kids would be excited to see it. They would be especially interested if they have read the Roald Dahl books.

Village’s production is as good a production of this musical as you’ll likely see anywhere! It’s particularly good to see it in a more modest theater than the cavernous Paramount or even the large 5th Avenue because – no matter what – the lyrics are going to be hard to understand. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

“Framed” asks – Is it Art or is it Hobby?

A moment from Framed (Tom Chargin)
Snowflake Avalanche
(at 18th & Union)
Through November 25, 2018

There’s that marital saying that’s supposed to be true: “Happy wife, happy life.” Y York’s latest production, Framed, attempts to explore that idea in two very different marriages. Joan and Nick DaSilva (Susanna Burney and Joe Seefeldt) are the older couple with a long, successful marriage. May and Jake Carter (Maile Wong and Jeremy Steckler) are the very young married couple who may not have quite got the hang of it, yet. But York likes to mix things up and what you see on the surface might not be what’s going on underneath.

Joan is an artist and Nick is a successful businessman. They appear to be successful in all areas of their endeavors, with Joan selling her paintings moderately well at decent prices. Jake works as a car mechanic but longs for a “better” life and doesn’t want May to work. He wants her to do whatever she wants, like have hobbies, which she does not yet have any idea about.

Monday, November 12, 2018

We Are Each a “Lonely Planet”

The cast of Lonely Planet (John Ulman)
Lonely Planet
AJ Epstein Presents at West of Lenin
Through November 18, 2018

Steven Dietz’ play, Lonely Planet, was “about” AIDS as the background of the society and culture that two unlikely friends interact in, circa 1993. Jody (Michael Winters) and Carl (Reginald Andre Jackson) are about as different as you can get, and yet reflect that many unknowable connections can draw us together.

Carl presents as homeless… a rangy, hyperactive, rootless guy who likely would be diagnosed with ADD and/or on the autism spectrum today. 25 years ago, when this play was first produced, that kind of diagnosis would be less useful and with fewer medical supports.

Jody presents as a more mainstream business owner, a map store owner, but one who, more and more, cannot leave the store to face what’s outside in the big world. At the beginning of this “relationship play,” Jody seems to tolerate Carl, even as he knows Carl’s foibles, like lying and not taking “no” for an answer.

It starts with a chair. A chair just shows up in the map shop. Jody knows where it must have come from, but not why it appeared.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Mike Daisey's "A People's History" - a riveting historic look at the U.S.!

Mike Daisey ready to begin (Angela Nickerson)
A People’s History
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through November 25, 2018

Mike Daisey has an uncanny ability to cut subject matter down to bite-sized incisive bits of information. If you have never heard him opine, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit, at least once, to his current sit-down at Seattle Repertory Theatre!

This iteration, in A People’s History, Mike has decided to compare, in his roundabout, talk-about-everything-at-once way of discussing, his own public school history education during high school (the textbook used in his classroom) to Howard Zinn’s seminal book, “A People’s History of the United States.” He started, with Chapter 1, in 1492 when Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” over toward the New World. He’ll end, 18 specific performances later, in 2018. He says that is 27 hours of planned speaking, but those who attend Daisey performances know his 90 minute events are often at least 15 minutes longer. (There are 18 monologues; these are the "chapters"; they repeat once each during the run of this Seattle production.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sing Out, November! (Theater Openings)

Y York's play Framed (Tom Chargin)

Somehow, November programming seems to be primarily MUSICALS. If you love musicals, you’ll be really happy this month!

Lonely Planet, West of Lenin, 10/24/18-11/18/18
An intimate portrait of two friends at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Lonely Planet is set in small map shop on the oldest street in an American city. Growing increasingly fearful of the outside world, Jody, the shop owner, retreats inside his store and refuses to leave. Jody’s quiet denial is in sharp contrast to his fantastical and extroverted friend Carl, who repeatedly urges Jody to leave the store. Through Carl's surreal extravagance, the friends are forced to confront their lives and a vanishing community and come to terms with their place in a changing world.         “Lonely Planet was born in Seattle and written in Seattle, dedicated to two of Seattle’s finest actors [Laurence Ballard & Michael Winters],” states playwright and director Steven Dietz. “I am delighted to have the chance to bring it back home to Seattle.”

Monday, October 29, 2018

Muhammad Ali started life as Cassius Clay – Get to know him at SCT!

A moment from And in This Corner: Cassius Clay (Elise Bakketun)
And in This Corner: Cassius Clay
Seattle Children’s Theatre
Through November 25, 2018

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” That quote might immediately bring Muhammad Ali to mind. He was known for pithy poetic sayings and poetry and rhyming were signatures of his career. But before he was Muhammad Ali, he was Cassius Clay, a young boxer who trained hard and went to the Olympics, winning a gold medal in boxing.

Cassius Clay’s early days and the tumult of the Civil Rights era are the focus of a new play at Seattle Children’s Theatre, And in This Corner: Cassius Clay, by Idris Goodwin. Directed by newly-minted University of Washington MFA Malika Oyetimein, a robust cast beats out a rhythmic telling of his life from age 11 to his Olympic victory and the challenges along his way.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

“Come From Away” Still Fun

The cast of Come From Away (Matt Murphy)
Come From Away
5th Avenue Theatre
Through November 4, 2018

If you saw the pre-Broadway production of Come From Away at the Seattle Repertory Theatre (co-produced by the 5th Avenue Theatre), you can be assured that the national touring post-Broadway production is still:
*a charm-filled, energetic performance.
*a simply designed, clean, homey set with musicians on stage.
*a stirring story about the immediate effects of the 9/11 bombings on airplanes currently in the air to arrive in the United States, air space declared “closed” and all flights being diverted to any close airport. 38 of them got diverted to a tiny town in Newfoundland called Gander.
*an uplifting account of how a tiny town of 9000 people and surroundings came together to provide for more than 7000 frightened passengers, plus exotic animals!

Monday, October 22, 2018

SWC Makes Jubilant Noise

Alexandria Henderson guest stars with SWC (Conrado Tapado)

Hear Me Roar
October 12-13, Seattle First Baptist Church
October 20, 2018, Highline Performing Arts Center, Burien

The Seattle Women’s Chorus is making jubilant noise – it’s their 15th anniversary and their current concert focuses on energetic empowerment of women. Gathering this past weekend in the upstairs chapel of their normal basement rehearsal hall, the women performed a range of both classic songs and covers of up-to-date rockers. Saturday, they will perform in Burien, if you would love to see them and missed the Seattle performances.

The first song is a history of humble beginnings. “Genesis” says first there was “a potluck.” That belies a much longer story of struggle to convince the leaders of the already-venerable Seattle Men’s Chorus to stretch and add a Women’s Chorus. It was by no means a simple proposition and the growing pains were both difficult for some and a no-brainer for others at the same time.

Today, just as the Men’s Chorus is one of the largest male choruses in the world, the Women’s Chorus is one of the largest female choruses in the world. Yep, right here in Seattle! You’d think New York or Los Angeles would have bigger LGBTQ choruses, but you’d be wrong.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Stunning “A Thousand Splendid Suns”!

Rinabeth Apostol and Denmo Ibrahim in A Thousand Splendid Suns (Nate Watters)
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through November 10, 2018

TW: There is a peculiar difficulty for people (mainly female) who might want to see A Thousand Splendid Suns, the masterfully mounted co-production with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre, which opened Wednesday at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Many hearts are torn and weeping from current politics, and this piece is likely to exacerbate that pain.

This is one of the most stunning pieces of theatricality to grace our stages – and for that reason, it would really be a shame if you miss it. It is a beautifully told tale with gorgeous technical aspects, top-of-their-game acting, and a sensitive adaptation by Ursula Rani Sarma of Khaled Hosseini’s book. The production is absolutely one of the highest level theatrical experiences one can have.

The story, however, is almost unrelentingly bleak. It accurately reflects women’s experiences in most of the world, even though it focuses on two women in Afghanistan around the time the Taliban take-over. Every horrible event in a woman’s life that you can imagine happens in this play. And then some.

Friday, October 12, 2018

“Jane Eyre” – A Historic Heroine To Emulate

Mi Kang as Jane Eyre (Fat Yeti Photography)
Jane Eyre
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through October 14, 2018

Book-It Repertory adaptations have not often been reproduced, though many of them, in my opinion, are excellent both at representing the underlying novel and also great theater. Perhaps it’s because of the “Book-It style” of dialogue narration that stumps other companies from doing the work, but also it has been, in the past, the company’s reluctance (pershaps) or lack of available energy (perhaps) to push the adaptations out into the bigger world of theater.

A few of their most popular shows have been remounted from past years. Many of them are in the Austin/Bronte family of classic novels. Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Bronte) is one such, adapted and directed by Julie Beckman in 1999 and now remounted and redirected by Beckman in their 2018 season. If you are familiar with the book, this is a faithful and enchanting edition.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Cuban Resistance In A Poetic Play

Two Sisters and a Piano (Dave Hastings)
Two Sisters And A Piano
Theater Schmeater
Through October 6, 2018

A mournful, poetic semi-historical production is at Theater Schmeater. Two Sisters And A Piano, by Nilo Cruz, is closing this weekend and it is a lovely work that you should try to see before it’s over.

The two sisters are Maria Celia, a writer whose work was deemed to controversial and provocative for the Cuban government around the time of Perestroika in the Soviet Union, and Sofia, a younger piano-playing woman who gets stuck in isolated detention with her sister. These sisters are beautifully portrayed by Marquicia Dominguez and Aviona Rodriguez Brown.

Their trapped isolation is suffocating. The pathos is palpable. Anyone who visits is a potential threat or someone sent to trick them to reveal themselves as violating terms of their house arrest.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Chills, Thrills and More – On Stage in October

The cast of OSLO at ACT Theatre (Rosemary Dai Ross)
Link to the original cast performance of Welcome to the Rock from Come From Away:

There are indeed a few scary offerings for this month, but the range of topics and presentations in the coming weeks is a bit awe-inspiring! Come From Away is returning to town, along with opportunities to see 2017 Tony winner, OSLO, the return of Mike Daisey, and many productions with ethnic diversity of both subjects and casts! Check it out:

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Seattle Repertory Theatre and American Conservatory Theater, 10/5/18-11/10/18 (opens 10/10)
Based on the sweeping, internationally best-selling novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns is the tale of the unlikely connection that blossoms between two Afghan women in war-torn Kabul. As rockets shriek down from the heavens, the friendship of Laila and Mariam develops into an iron-bound rapport, forged by their defiance of a life of senseless tyranny. Secrets, lies, and pacts are made in this harrowing yet ultimately beautiful piece about the true cost of sacrifice.

Honey Noble’s Last Show Ever, Cheat Day, 10/5-14/18 (at Nii Modo, 4455 Stone Way N)
An interdisciplinary meta-exploration of the many identities of the lead singer of a band, this performance features a five person band, dancers, actors, and tons of original content from music to theatre to everything in between.  Real life band Honey Noble performs their final set in Seattle before KT has to move off to New York, but things do not go as planned and the audience is whisked down a rabbit hole of family, mystery, epic rock shows, violent conflicts with identity and awkward company cocktail parties.

“Skylight” misses clarity

Elinor Gunn and Daniel Gerroll in Skylight (Chris Bennion)
ACT Theatre
Through September 30, 2018

Generally speaking, shows at ACT Theatre are created with care. They are well-cast, often superbly outfitted with technical support (set, lights, sound, costumes) and directed well. (Good direction, for reference, is many parts – from the rhythm and movement of the piece, to the “pictures” of the actors on stage, to melding the different parts into a whole, and encouraging the actors to engage in appropriate emotionally deep interactions. It’s a fairly complex activity!)

Many times, the productions cause the script to be elevated and to attain more resonance in meaning. Sometimes, no matter what a producer does, the script just won’t budge from its current state of “not working.” This is the case with Skylight, now on stage at ACT.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

“A Small History” is Sweet and Unexpected

The cast of A Small History of Amal, Age 7 (Pankaj Luthra)
A Small History of Amal, Age 7
Forward Flux Productions and Pratidhwani
(at West of Lenin)
Through October 6, 2018

Pratidhwani combines forces with Forward Flux Productions to present a “small” play, simply presented with few set pieces, many sound effects made directly by the actors, about a small seven year old Indian boy. It’s a production that enchants and delights in the small moments of life. A Small History of Amal, Age 7 by Lindsay Joelle, is exactly what the title says it is.

We’re introduced to Amal (Nabilah S. Ahmed), who is sick, though we don’t know why. His uncle has to leave him in the hospital to go to work. Uncle (Gurvinder Pal Singh) is worried about his nephew, and feels badly leaving, because Amal’s mother and father are both dead and Uncle is all Amal has. But Uncle works on trains and must keep working.

We get to know Amal as he interacts with his doctor (Abhijet Rane),  nurse (Meenakshi Rishi), the hospital aide (Jay Athalye) and meets a small girl, Suda (Varsha Raghavan), who has to periodically visit the hospital for monitoring. The cast also becomes train passengers and siblings of Suda, and helps create the playful atmosphere of discovery that Amal infuses his world with.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

This "Legally Blonde" is the Top of its Class!

Alexandria Henderson (center) and her Delta Nu cohorts in Legally Blonde (Danielle Barnum)
Legally Blonde The Musical
(in concert)
Showtunes Theatre Company
through September 30, 2018

When I first heard that Showtunes Theatre Company was choosing Legally Blonde as a musical, I was perplexed. I had a preconceived idea that the company chooses – mostly or entirely – musicals that likely will never be fully produced on Seattle stages for a variety of reasons. They might have too many cast members; they might have stupid books/librettos but great music; they might not stand the test of time in terms of relevance. Legally Blonde felt like none of those things. It’s been produced frequently in semi-professional and non-professional/student productions all the time.

Then I heard who would be playing Elle Woods. Alexandria Henderson is a talented rising star in our musical theater “family” and would clearly do a great job. And she is also black – or African-American – or a person of color! In other words, she’s not anything like Reese Witherspoon or the stereotype of the Hollywood Blonde. And I was so excited!

The execution of this concert-style musical is flawless (as directed by Faith Bennett Russell)! It’s even a significant step up for the company, as they hired choreographer Jimmy Shields (what? In a 29 hour rehearsal time?) to work with four dancers to heighten the professional look and feel of the concert.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

“Richard III” – Fascistic (and Oddly Funny)

Sarah Harlett and Suzanne Bouchard in Richard III (HMMM Productions)
Richard III
Seattle Shakespeare Company
And upstart crow collective
(at Seattle Rep)
Through October 7, 2018

15 black-clad determined women have overtaken Shakespeare’s Richard III this week, as Rosa Joshi and upstart crow collective combine their vision of all-female Shakespeare productions with Seattle Shakes. They’re finally tackling the play that finishes off their histories of Henry IV (Parts 1, 2, and 3 which they combined into a two-part Bring Down the House in 2017).

It must be said, first!, that Sarah Harlett is a masterful, powerful and sinister Richard III! She commands every scene she is in and infuses the whole piece with sly scheming that is actually…FUNNY. Dark, sinister and funny. It’s not funny that Richard blithely murders massive amounts of kinspeople, and that Shakespeare lays at Richard’s feet the slaying of his young nephews King Edward V and brother Richard in the Tower of London (though to this day no one is sure what happened).

But there is almost a glee in how Harlett’s Richard rises from sixth in line to the throne to King. It’s a macabre comedy, at that point.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Take Note and See “The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes”!

King 5 New Day Northwest appearance!

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes (Mark Kitaoka)
The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through November 18, 2018
Everett: January 17-March 24, 2019

Musical theater lovers and theater lovers (in particular) should run right out to see the jaw-achingly funny world premiere musical, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes! By the end of the long-one-act (100 minutes?), you’ll have given your smile muscles a really great workout.

The title might give you a moment’s pause. It seems a bit clunky in the titling department, but it’s reflective of the punny sense of humor of the writers Christopher Dimon (book and lyrics) and Michael Kooman (music). The main character is a sort of schlub (Yiddish Slang - “schlub - a stupid, unattractive, clumsy person. It is akin to hick or yodel. It comes from the Polish word żłób, from which the English word "slob" is also derived.”) A guy who usually doesn’t get noticed very much, doesn’t make much of an impact on anyone’s life.

That’s Howard Barnes. He’s not particularly “noteworthy.” Until! Until one day he starts hearing music that no one else hears. And sees people singing and dancing that no one else sees! And no, he’s not crazy, his life has become a musical and he can’t seem to find the way out.

Monday, September 17, 2018

When Theater is Faith and Faith is Theater ("The Journey of the Saint")

A snippet of video of The Journey of the Saint

The Journey of the Saint (courtesy eSe Teatro)
The Journey of the Saint
eSe Teatro
(at ACT Theatre)
through September 30, 2018

Director and translator Rose Cano has a strong sense of dramatic ritual and theatrical staging. That is a major experience to be had in the latest production from her company, eSe Teatro. Cano saw a reading of Cesar de Maria's play The Journey of the Saint in Peru. de Maria is a prolific Peruvian playwright and Cano was drawn to translate this absurd, comic journey of some bones of a Saint across seas and mountains and rivers to reach seekers in Peru who wanted to worship her.

The script pokes gentle fun at theater and its ability to create "magical" effects by having theater impresario Tomaso (Paul Sobrie) tell a story of how many times he'd been asked to create "miracles" for his local church leaders so their flock would be impressed and adhere to their religious order better. And Juan Del Camina (Pablo Lopez) is an actor who has vowed to Heaven to no longer lie - so does that mean he has to stop acting?

It's an improbable tale told with pageantry, lots of props, and suspension of audience belief.  With a hearty band of ensemble players, beautiful music contributed by Meg Savlov, and a quick 90 minutes, this journey may make you think about how much people desire magic and miracles in their lives.

For more information, go to

Thursday, September 13, 2018

“Waitress” – A Little Sour with the Sweet Bakes Up Nicely

Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley, Lenne Klingaman in Waitress (Joan Marcus)

Paramount Theatre
Through September 16, 2018

Waitress, a small indie film by Adrienne Shelly, about a pie-making waitress who is unhappily pregnant with her abusive husband, was turned into a celebrated musical by Sara Bareilles (music and lyrics) and Jessie Nelson (book), which debuted in 2015 and moved to Broadway in 2016. Part of the particular legacy of that musical is that it was also directed and choreographed by women, making it the only Broadway musical in history to have such a plethora female energy.

It’s essentially billed as a comedy, but there are a lot of dark parts to it, as well. Though Jenna, the waitress, and Earl, her ne’er-do-well husband are said to have begun their relationship as teenagers, Earl has clearly become more dangerous and abusive. The musical also makes it clear that Jenna’s mother and father were immersed in an abusive situation that hits at the heart.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

“Native Gardens” says "Don’t Fence Me In"

Cast of Native Gardens (Naomi Ishisaka)
Native Gardens
Intiman Theatre
(at Jones Playhouse)
Through September 30, 2018

Oh, the difficulties with neighbors! Have you ever moved into a new house and shortly afterward figured out that the perimeter of your plot shows that the next door neighbors have encroached a few inches or feet over your plot line? It’s actually not all that uncommon. That’s what happens to Pablo and Tania del Valle in Karen Zacarias’ play, Native Gardens.

You can see how they handle their dilemma in Intiman’s smart, funny production housed at the Jones Playhouse. The crackerjack cast of Phillip Ray Guevara as Pablo, Sophie Franco as Tania, Julie Briskman as Virginia and Jim Gall as Frank (with some help from Gloria Alcala and Yolanda Suarez) handle all the angst and banter with perfect comic timing.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

New Village AD Jerry Dixon Envisions Musical Theater’s Future

Jerry Dixon (Serge Nivelle)

Wouldn’t it be such divine fun to have one of our local musicals headlined by Mario Cantone as the lead? Alas – I’ve been informed by a close source that Mario would rather not work that much and if he does work, he goes for big bucks to make it “count.” 

Who’s my “in the know”? Why, it’s his husband, the new artistic director of Village Theatre: Jerry Dixon! He’s a pretty good source!

SGN got to sit down with Mr. Dixon to have an extensive and wide-ranging chit chat about the shape of Musical Theater and what might be coming down the pike. Mr. Dixon is a powerfully intellectual thinker with deep appreciation for the collaborative art that is theater and few limits on visions for the kinds of people he’ll meet as a new ambassador for Village work in the future.

SGN spoke to Dixon…. Ok, I’m switching to “I” and “Jerry”…. Here is a little primer on Jerry Dixon: Wikipedia says he is an “actor, director, lyricist, choreographer, and composer best known for his work on the Broadway stage.” He married Mario Cantone in 2011, having been constant companions for 20 years by then!

Friday, August 31, 2018

September Theater Openings - Back to School Edition

Legally Blonde (Danielle Barnum)
The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes cast (Mark Kitaoka)

Richard III (John Ulman)
Skeleton Crew cast (John McLellan)
Reliably, when kids go back to school, theater productions explode all over Seattle. This month, we have very interesting choices, from playwrights some may be particularly wishing to see on stage (Karen Zacarias, Native Gardens, Dominique Morriseau, Skeleton Crew), a homegrown musical incubated in Village’s new musical development pipeline (The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes) and an exciting all-female Richard III that follows last year’s Henrys.

Peruse below and see other tantalizing offerings. Ding! The bell just rang! Hurry!

Prelude to a Kiss, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, 9/6/18-10/6/18
Peter and Rita fall for each other and decide to get married. During their wedding reception, an old man kisses Rita. Peter soon realizes that the kiss has caused Rita and the man to switch bodies. As he searches for a way to switch them back, Peter faces the dilemma of loving Rita in the body of a terminally ill man or staying married to a stranger posing as his wife.

Native Gardens, Intiman Theatre, 9/6-30/18 (at Jones Playhouse)
You can’t choose your neighbors. In this new comedy by Karen Zacarias, cultures and gardens clash, turning well-intentioned neighbors into feuding enemies. Pablo, a rising attorney, and doctoral candidate Tania, his very pregnant wife, have just purchased a home next to Frank and Virginia, a well-established D.C. couple with a prize-worthy English garden. An impending barbeque for Pablo’s colleagues and a delicate disagreement over a long-standing fence line soon spirals into an all-out border dispute, exposing both couples’ notions of race, taste, class and privilege.

Friday, August 24, 2018

“Rules of Charity” is not charitable toward its characters

Rules of Charity (Ken Holmes)
Rules of Charity
Sound Theatre Company
Through August 25, 2018

It’s pretty apparent what drew folks at Sound Theatre Company toward the play Rules of Charity by the late John Belluso. Belluso was a playwright with physical challenges and wrote characters with physical challenges in his plays. STC’s theme is toward “radical inclusion” and that theme has been reflected by identifying barriers unwittingly erected against variously challenged communities and working to eradicate them.

In some areas, the company has been extraordinarily successful, particularly in their gorgeous production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with deaf and hearing actors, giving the deaf community both access to Shakespeare from watching an ASL-signed production and also giving more platform to deaf actors to perform.

While Rules of Charity is written with the central character as a man living with cerebral palsy, the play itself is much less successful in connecting emotionally with an audience. It’s clear that many audience members disagree with that statement, and some have been and will be deeply connected.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

New "Phantom" Lives up to reputation

(courtesy The Phantom of the Opera tour)
The Phantom of the Opera
Paramount Theatre
Through August 19, 2018

Well, guess what! I liked the musical The Phantom of the Opera a bunch more than I expected to. See my preview at (What kind of critic, you grumble, uses the phrase “a bunch more”?) Truly, the famous songs that have become popular from this musical, particularly The Music of the Night, and The Phantom of the Opera, made me feel like running away instead of marking my calendar for productions to see.

This touring production is quite honestly very lavish and attentive to making a great experience for an audience. It’s opulent to look at when it needs to be and dark and mysterious, too. The folding and unfolding set works beautifully to change locations. The falling chandelier is not really all that scary (it doesn’t fall that fast), but it’s really pretty.

One aspect that definitely delighted me was how campy funny some of the moments in the musical are – at least in this production. There are two scenes in the production office of the opera company where the characters all produce notes written to them by the Phantom, as he threatens them variously to pay him or else, or let Christine sing or else, or various other demands or else. It’s clear that they know it’s a joke and make the most of the moment. It got big laughs from the audience.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bee Smart and Make a Bee-line to see “Queen”

Queen (Pankaj Luthra)
Pratidhwani (at ACTLab)
Through August 19, 2018

If you love playwriting that crackles with tension and possibility, is laugh out loud funny, and full of surprising emotional twists, and takes on a very topical and important subject all at once, then you need to hie yourself over to ACT Theatre for Pratidhwani’s production of Madhuri Shekar’s play, Queen. Sometimes, it’s not clear why a title exists with a script. This one is pretty clear – it’s about bees and colony collapse disorder: CCD. So, it involves queen bees.

Also, it’s a story of two women doctoral candidates who are supreme. Supremely smart, and supremely good at their research, and supremely honorable in their intentions. Sanam Shah (Archana Srikanta) and Ariel Spiegel (Isis King) have been studying CCD at UCSanta Cruz and think they are on the verge of proving that a Monsanto chemical is the real culprit. They have been studying a model of research that Sanam is convinced has taken into consideration every variable that can be controlled for and excluded impacts from every variable that can’t be controlled for.