Monday, September 30, 2019

Some of “Everything Is Illuminated” Muddies a Great Story

The male cast of Everything is Illuminated (Aaron Wheetman)
Everything Is Illuminated
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through October 6, 2019

The new Book-It Repertory Theatre stage adaptation of Everything Is Illuminated has some lovely elements and drives to some horrific revelations about people’s experiences during the Holocaust. The small cast of Sean Lally as the writer Jonathon Safran Foer, Peter Sakowicz and Michael Winters as Jonathan’s tour guides in Ukraine, and ensemble supports Shanna Allman and Susanna Burney, all do excellent work to bring this story to life.

However, the adaptation by Josh Aaseng, an experienced adaptor who also directs this production, is of a book whose style is so specific and special that it’s probably impossible to put over as a successful stage play. If you have not read the book, you would do well to read it ahead of time or to read at least a synopsis.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

“Blood, Water, Paint” Renews

(Joe Iano)

Blood Water Paint
Macha Theatre Works
(at 12th Avenue Arts)
Through October 6, 2019

2015 brought us the world premiere of a play by Joy McCullough about a little known 17th Century painter, Artemisia Gentileschi, titled Blood Water Paint. As good art often does, it may have galvanized audience members to find out more about this amazing painter and appreciate her for many other aspects beyond her paintings.

In particular, we find an amazing tale of a 17-year-old girl in a highly restricted, patriarchal society, who was able to identify a sexual attack as rape, say so publicly, and accuse the man, Agostino Tassi, a well-known painter who had been her tutor, in court! How do we know? The transcript of the trial still exists!

However, the trial backfired on this young woman because in order to “prove” that she was telling the truth, they applied a torture mechanism to her fingers that destroyed her hands! This, in order to make sure she was really telling the truth, and to a painter! Somehow, she withstood the torture and the man was exiled.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

So You Think You Know What Is Going To Happen?

Monika Jolly and Quinlan Corbett in People of the Book (Chris Bennion)
People of the Book
ACT Theatre
Through September 29, 2019

The Greek myth of the relationship between Jason (of the Argonauts) and Medea, a king’s daughter is one that can be seen to be a devil’s bargain. Medea bargains to help Jason in his quests if he marries her and takes her away with him. But while Medea is a great help to Jason, she also turns out to have uncanny and murderous tendencies and a lot of people end up dead.

An audience member of Yussef El Guindi’s world premiere play, now playing at ACT Theatre, could keep that myth firmly in mind as they watch the story of newly-celebrated author Jason (Quinlan Corbett) who has published a memoir about being a soldier in Iraq and saving and then marrying an Iraqi woman, Madeeha (Monika Jolly).

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

“Is God Is” channels mythology

Maya Burton and Kamaria Hallums-Harris in Is God Is (Chris Bennion)
Is God Is
Washington Ensemble Theatre and The Hansberry Project
Through September 23, 2019

It’s not likely that playwright Aleshea Harris is that familiar with local Book-It Repertory Theatre, but her dialogue-as-narration in her play, Is God Is, is strikingly like the “Book-It style” we’ve gotten used to. Twin sisters Racine (‘Cine) and Anaia (‘Naia) describe each other to the audience as they discuss a letter that has arrived from God. It’s from their mother, who they believed was dead, and from whom they have not heard for at least 18 years!

They describe their lives growing up in horrific-sounding foster care as they try to cope with the sudden news that their mother wants to see them. They speak of her as God because she “made” them, so therefore, they are beholden to her in the way they’d be to God.

They determine they need to go see her. The letter comes from a rest home in “Oscarville, MS/AL/FL/TX/TN/AR/KY, Dirty South” followed by a zip code so long that you lose track of the numbers. This helps put the journey on track to be “mythic” in nature. Outside of or bigger than real life.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Atmospheric “Bulrusher” is enjoyable, a little long

Allyson Lee Brown and Ayo Tushinda in Bulrusher (Naomi Ishisaka)

Intiman Theatre
(at Jones Playhouse)
Through September 14, 2019

Eisa Davis’ play, Bulrusher, presented by Intiman Theatre and directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton, is steeped - like black tea - in atmosphere. Infused with music and poetic dialogue, there is a measured pace, enough time to consider things. Set in a northern California townlet, Boonville, everyone there knows everyone else and most of the folks in the small nearby towns as well.

Boonville even has its own language, Boontling, that is a real dialect they all made up together in the 1800s. But you don’t really have to “harp the lingo” to understand what’s being said when they use those terms. It’s pretty clear what anyone is saying.

The play’s main subject area is race and how the town handles it. Boonville, as set in the mid-1950s, apparently was not nearly as segregated as much of the rest of the United States. Black residents did not have to use a back door and could buy things at local establishments. The play’s namesake and main character is a mixed race 18 year old girl who didn’t know she was “black” until she was 5, says Logger (Reginal Andre Jackson), when he told her she was.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

September “Back to Stage” Edition!

A moment from Blood Water Paint (Joe Iano)
September means “back to theater” as many companies launch their new seasons. There are some very exciting world premieres and major productions happening this month. Options abound for young children to old young-at-hearts! Check out this great list and mark your calendars!

My Son The Waiter – A Jewish Tragedy, Kirkland Performance Center, 9/5-29/19
Actor/comedian Brad Zimmerman’s story about the grit and passion required to ‘make it’ as an artist and the sweet rewards that come from never giving up on your dream. Specifically, Brad moved to New York City and “temporarily” waited tables for 29 years, while continuing to pursue his dream of comedic acting.

People of the Book, ACT Theatre, 9/6-29/19 (world premiere)
Playwright Yussef El Guindi’s new play mixes lust, jealousy, and post-traumatic stress bringing things between old friends to a boil. Jason is a veteran of the Iraq War who returns home to literary glory after writing an international best-seller, a heroic account of his wartime experience. His celebrity is underscored by his marriage to Madeeha, an Iraqi woman he saved in a house-to-house raid. When he reunites with old friends, Amir and Lynn, questions start to emerge about the veracity of the book and its particular patriotic American gaze.