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.