Wednesday, May 29, 2019

“Take Me Out” is a Home Run!

Craig Peterson and Lamar Legend in Take Me Out (John Ulman)
Take Me Out
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through June 22, 2019

It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a play that might instill a love of baseball in even the baseball-hatingest person! It’s a cautionary tale that words really matter. It’s a microcosm of society’s attitudes regarding the LGBTQ community with an offhand, high-self-esteem lead character. It’s an intensely well-written play by Richard Greenberg that won the 2003 Tony Award.

All of this is Take Me Out, now performing on stage by Strawberry Theatre Workshop at 12th Avenue Arts. The tale tells of a superstar major league outfielder, Darren Lemming, played with pitch perfect swagger by Lamar Legend, whose contract is stratospherically high. In the middle of a normal press moment, Lemming casually implies that he’s gay, thinking it’s not really a big deal and nothing important will come from it. However, that casual utterance pings through the rest of the play like a pinball banging out crazy points.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

From Stage to TV Back to Stage - “Kim's Convenience” Charms

Lia Lee and James Yi in Kim’s Convenience (Robert Wade)
Kim’s Convenience
Taproot Theatre
Through June 22, 2019

You might wonder how a Canadian television show is playing on stage at Taproot Theatre. They’re presenting Kim’s Convenience. It happens that the play preceded the tv show and Netflix tv producers loved the idea and turned it into a show and included the efforts of writer Ins Choi to continue the story started in his play.

In a pre-show talk, Choi described several aspects of the play that were very intentional. He said that he wasn’t used to seeing a lot of Koreans on television and most of them were intense and angry and he really wanted to show humor and lightness. He described his own family as really funny and cracking each other up.

He also didn’t want to sugarcoat the flaws of the family on stage. He said there were many Koreans with a lot of prejudices against non-Koreans. This particular characterization made its way firmly into aspects of the main character, Appa (father in Korean). It’s not meant to be acceptable; it’s meant to be true to real, complex individuals.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

“Curious Incident” is a Great Story

Michael Krenning and Kathryn Van Meter in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Kitaoka)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Village Theatre
Everett: through May 19, 2019

Christopher didn’t kill the dog! But his neighbor, and Wellington’s owner, Mrs. Shears, thinks he did. So she calls the police. The policeman probably thinks Christopher killed the dog and makes a lot of warning noise at him, and then tries to touch him. Christopher hates being touched and he strikes out at the policeman. That gets him a written warning, a humiliation, and potentially a lot more trouble if he touches another policeman that way!

So begins the creative and absorbing story, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, currently at Village Theatre, Everett. The play does not specify that Christopher is not neurotypical, but makes it pretty clear that he thinks fairly differently and behaves differently than many people. What it does make clear is that the world does not accommodate Christopher’s differences very well and that he needs champions to help him succeed. The play makes the audience empathize so much that it’s likely most want to be his champion by the end! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

MDQ - Slamdunk from First Note to Last

The concert at the end of Million Dollar Quartet (Mark Kitaoka)
Million Dollar Quartet
Village Theatre
Issaquah: through June 23, 2019
Everett: June 28 – July 28, 2019

In 2007, Village Theatre debuted a fabulous new musical revue which was based on a real life night when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis walked into Sun Records. Twelve years later, Million Dollar Quartet has been to Broadway and awarded Levi Kreis, the virtuoso piano-playing Lewis, a Tony Award. Now, it’s playing regionally and Village decided it was time to remount their hit production.

It is December 4, 1956 and Sun Records had recently launched the careers of all but the new-and-brash Lewis. Sam Phillips (Matt Wade) is hoping to sign Cash to a new longer contract not knowing that Cash has already signed with another company. Phillips sold Elvis’s contract in order to salvage Sun from going under, but Elvis still trusts Phillips more than most people and wants Phillips to come work with him again. Perkins is angry that Phillips has paid more attention to others and has also signed with another company. It’s a moment of great transition.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Some Glorious Moments in “Nina Simone”

The cast of Nina Simone: Porscha Shaw, Shontina Vernon, Shaunyce Omar, Britney Nicole Simpson (Nate Watters)
Nina Simone: Four Women
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through June 2, 2019

The effect of watching four amazing women actors on stage in the Seattle Rep production of Nina Simone: Four Women is incredibly powerful. They pour all their committed energy and heart into their work.

Their energy and power almost allow this earnest script, that tries hard to give context to an iconic singer/activist that changed a lot of lives in the 1960s and ‘70s, Nina Simone, to succeed beyond its characterizations. Simone’s story is certainly worth staging. This script includes valuable information to audiences that have not grown up with her music or are not privy to areas of tension within Black America’s culture.

Playwright Christina Ham strives to educate audiences and to theatricalize a moment of change in an artist’s life. But educational theater is tricky and hard to pull off without limiting the expanse of drama and this script only partly wins that battle.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Seattle Women’s Chorus Rocked the House!

Sarah Rudinoff singing with the Seattle Women's Chorus (Conrado Tapado)

Seattle Women’s Chorus
Legends of Rock
April 28, 2019

Sarah Rudinoff and the entire Seattle Women’s Chorus rocked everyone’s socks off, Sunday, with their concert of “Legends of Rock”! The entire event was tight, energetic, fun, exciting, historical, educational, and … lots of other great adjectives.

Sarah Rudinoff was both “special guest star” and also the “host” of the evening, narrating the roughly chronological tour of songs of rock-and-roll women from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, and ‘10s. Rudinoff did several solos, including really challenging songs like Crazy on You (Heart) and Piece of My Heart (Janis Joplin)! She sounded amazing and hit every note squarely on the head while belting her face off.

Rudinoff was also a genial and assured narrator, introducing songs or catching us up on bits of historical data about each rocker. Other rocking songsters included Debbie Harry, Alanis Morissette, Joni Mitchell, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, and Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine).