Monday, January 29, 2018

Do We Really Want to Go “Camping With Henry and Tom”?

David Pichette and Rob Burgess in Camping with Henry and Tom (Erik Stuhaug)
Camping With Henry and Tom
Taproot Theatre
Through March 3, 2018

Mark St. Germain’s specialty is writing plays about real events and bringing them to life through infusing his imagination into how these events might have come about. Taproot Theatre really likes his stuff and has done three previous plays of his (the vital Best of Enemies, Freud’s Last Session and Relativity) before the current production of Camping With Henry and Tom.

St. Germain is adept at inventing realistic dialogue with historical figures and even when his plays don’t quite work all the way through, they are generally not boring. Camping is not one of his best plays. It, too, is not exactly boring, especially with the terrific actors employed by Taproot as Thomas Edison (Rob Burgess), Henry Ford (David Pichette) and President Warren Harding (Frank Lawler). Scott Nolte’s usual deft direction brings out the best in these actors as they take on these semi-well-known people.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Top-notch “Frost/Nixon” at Strawshop

Amy Thone as Nixon in Frost/Nixon (John Ulman)
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through February 17, 2018

One of the most famous quotes of all time is ex-President Nixon's, "when the President does it that means that it's not illegal." That ridiculous statement, which Nixon took back almost immediately, echoes in the attempts of the current administration to shield its occupant.

Frost/Nixon, a play by Peter Morgan which was the basis for the movie of the same name, is being mounted by Strawberry Theatre Workshop with an all-female cast! Stalwart veterans Amy Thone (Nixon) and Alexandra Tavares (Frost) go toe to toe in a fascinating portrayal.

The play brings to the stage a historic moment in television, when David Frost, noted talk show host, and Richard Nixon, ex-President, having resigned in disgrace, sat down together in 1977 for a television interview series retrospectively examining Nixon's presidency. Morgan's play suggests that this seminal interview series might never have happened if financing and advertisers passed on participation.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Winners of the 2017 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards Are...

The winners of the 2017 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards are announced by the Seattle critics circle, Seattle Theater Writers!

This year, several productions were clear critical favorites, with multiple nominations and multiple wins. Among musicals, 5th Avenue Theatre’s Ragtime was a standout, and in the Large division, Lydia, produced by Strawberry Theatre Workshop, also produced significant winners. In the Small division, the two favorites were Teh Internet Is Serious Business by Washington Ensemble Theatre, with six wins, and Sound Theatre Company’s Hoodoo Love (taking top acting awards in three categories).

This year we also have a Special Recognition for Donald Byrd and Spectrum Dance Theater for their Excellent Production of (IM)Pulse! 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

WIT at SecondStory Rep - Exquisite and Still Completely Relevant

Eleanor Moseley and Eric Hartley in WIT (Michael Brunk)
SecondStory Repertory Theatre
Through February 3, 2018

Margaret Edson hit it out of the park with her first - and only - play: Wit (or W;T). With her background working in a research hospital with AIDS and cancer patients, Edson decided she had something to say about Life and Death. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her drama and continued to become a public school teacher, having focused her early education on dramatic literature. She remains a teacher, today, as far as we know.

Her play introduces Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. in English, an expert in the brilliant and difficult metaphysical sonnets of John Donne. As soon as Bearing (the captivating and intense Eleanor Moseley) begins to speak to the audience, we know she is going to die by the end of the play. It's not a mystery.

Get Your Ticket for “Two Trains Running”

Carlton Byrd in Two Trains Running (Nate Watters)
Two Trains Running
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through February 11, 2018

It is a satisfying feeling to know that Seattle Repertory Theatre is doing an August Wilson play and that you can depend on them doing Wilson proud! Their current production of Two Trains Running, a co-production with Arena Stage, is exactly that satisfying, soul-comforting excellence that you would hope to experience.

The cast delivers Wilson’s real-life-with-poetry dialogue beautifully, led by director Juliette Carrillo’s impeccable precision. The scenic design by Misha Kachman of the once-vibrant restaurant with the oddly flickering jukebox creates the ambience to sink into. Composer David R. Molina helps the scene changes become added bonus moments instead of dead silence. Period costuming by Ivania Stack effortlessly evokes the 1960s. Lighting by Sherrice Mojgani helps determine the times of day and evening as the slice of life clock runs through their Pittsburgh days.

Monday, January 22, 2018

WET Presents “Straight White Men”

Frank Boyd in Straight White Men (Chris Bennion)
Straight White Men
Washington Ensemble Theatre
Through February 2, 2018

Washington Ensemble Theatre just had something fairly unprecedented happen to them: their first show of 2018 was completely sold out for the entire run as of opening weekend! Straight White Men, by Young Jean Lee, had a couple of extra performances added but with that kind of demand, the only way you might see the production is if you choose to go and get on a wait-list for a performance.

Young Jean Lee is a genre-breaking playwright/performer who has come here on occasion with riveting shows hosted by On the Boards. Her pieces are exactly what On the Boards is famous for around here – like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Perhaps the sales are a reflection of her fame and draw. Perhaps it’s the topic – a hot one of white privilege.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Seattle Theater Writers announces the (7th Annual) 2017 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards!

Dreamgirls at Villlage Theatre (Mark Kitaoka)
Members of Seattle’s critics group, Seattle Theater Writers, announce the nominees of excellence in Seattle theatrical productions. This year’s nominee favorites include Ragtime from the 5th Avenue Theatre, Dreamgirls from Village Theatre, Hoodoo Love from Sound Theatre Company, Lydia from Strawberry Theatre Workshop and Teh Internet Is Serious Business by Washington Ensemble Theatre, with multiple nominations each.

Spanning dozens of theater companies and productions, from large and prominent to small and humble, the Gypsy Rose Lee Awards honor the excellence found in as much professional theater as we reviewers can attend in a year. Named in honor of the famed theater entrepreneur and Seattle native, Gypsy Rose Lee, and in a nod to the vast numbers or theater practitioners forced to travel the country to earn their living, the Gypsys seek to acknowledge the excellence of the Seattle theater community.

The winners will be announced January 26, 2018. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Timon of Athens Would be a 1%er Now

Mary Ewald and Peter Crook in Timon of Athens (John Ulman)
Timon of Athens
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through Feb 4, 2017

We all know that Oprah was born dirt poor and achieved the American Dream and is part of the 1%. Maybe some people like her because she’s rich and she’s generous and she might give them a car….. What if she suddenly ran out of money and could no longer be generous and it means you will definitely not get the car? Would you dislike her then?

Besides the “born poor” part of above, that is the situation that Shakespeare puts Timon (Tie-mun) in. Seattle Shakespeare Company is presenting Timon of Athens.

Timon thinks that generosity means to give and not to receive. I think a lot of us would agree in general with that sentiment, thinking that to turn generosity into a transaction – I give and then I get – would negate the generous nature of the gift. Timon thinks that by doing this giving, he is cementing his friendships. Then he finds out he’s spent himself into penury and everything is lost.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

What Was the Best Theater of 2017?

Carolyn Marie Monroe and Sofia Raquel Sanchez in Lydia (John Ulman)
It’s that time for the annual recounting of theater in the Seattle area. 2017 was a pretty great year for musicals. The 5th Avenue Theatre started off the year with a rousing version of Pajama Game with the by-now taken-for-granted wonderful local cast and then bookended the year with a warm, sweet Holiday Inn with another terrific local cast augmented by special guest Lorna Luft. They also provided a moving, historic and excellent production of Ragtime.

We sometimes need a reminder of just how strong our pool of musical performers is. Seattle has become a hub for new musical development and continues to strengthen as a “try out” venue for musicals heading for New York City. That brings more top talent to town to stay.

Village Theatre strengthened its already-strong new musical program by hiring Brandon Ivie to formalize his already created bi-coastal lifestyle and backing their new Beta Program (debuting this week with the next trio of developmental musicals). Their season provided my pick for Best Musical production of 2017: Dreamgirls! It was said to be on Steve Tomkins “bucket list” before he transitions from Village Artist Director and our fair community now has enough top African American talent that they can blow our socks off in productions such as these. Their vigorous productions of Newsies and Into the Woods were also a lot of fun.