Friday, January 31, 2020

And the Award Goes To... the Winners of the 2019 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards

The Last World Octopus Wresting Champion (courtesy ArtsWest)

The winners of the 2019 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards are announced by the Seattle theater reviewers circle, Seattle Theater Writers!

This year, several productions were clear critical favorites, with multiple nominations and multiple wins. Gaining the most recognition among the winners were Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre and Village Theatre’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time in the Large theater division, and Sound Theatre Company and The Hansberry Project’s Citizen and Sheathed by Macha Theatre Works in the Small division.

Friday, January 24, 2020

And the 2019 “Gypsy Rose Lee Award” Nominees Are!

Fire Season (Truman Buffett)
The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion (John McClellan)

For the ninth year in a row, theater critics in Seattle have banded together to honor excellent theater in town over the past year. Anyone who is on the “inside” of this small industry knows that there are fewer and fewer places where people can write about theater, unless they establish a blog or other online outlet! However, there are still a few of us left trying to help audiences find great work.

To that end, the annual critics’ award still chugs along, at least for one more year. 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 of theater practitioners forced to travel the country to earn their living, the Gypsys seek to acknowledge the excellence of the Seattle theater community. (The group’s online presence is at

This year’s changes include the abolishment of “male” and “female” acting categories in favor of all-in-one “actors.” Each year, the reviewers seek to refine the awards to better reflect inclusivity and clarity.

The winners will be announced January 31, 2020. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Feminist “The Revolutionists” at Artswest

Sunam Ellis and Dedra Woods in The Revolutionists (John McLellan)

The Revolutionists
Through February 9, 2020

ArtsWest is presenting Lauren Gunderson’s play, The Revolutionists. We’re in 1793 and France is in complete turmoil! The Revolution has turned into a free-for-all of executions (by guillotine, of course) of royalty and those who support them. The Jacobins are in power and the Girondins are against them. “People power” is generally what the populace wants, but how to get there is an open question.

Journalist Jean-Paul Marat has stirred up the populace with his rhetoric. Charlotte Corday (Hannah Mootz) decides he is an integral part of the power structure and if he dies then those fomenting the violence might significantly weaken. She determines to gain entry to his bath by pretense and to knife him there.

Olympe de Gouges (Sunam Ellis) is a playwright and activist who championed Haitians fighting for freedom from the colonialism of France. She wrote plays on the slave trade, divorce, marriage, debtors' prisons, children's rights, and government work schemes for the unemployed. As a playwright, she often was in the vanguard, writing political works on contemporary controversies.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Seattle Shakespeare presents “The Rivals”

Alexandria Henderson and Avery Clark in The Rivals (John Ulman)

The Rivals
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through February 2, 2020

The Rivals, by Richard Sheridan, is a 1700’s comedy of manners. It basically pokes fun at the society that Sheridan lived among, though apparently, they didn’t take offence (the British spelling) to it, since it became very popular.

A 17-year-old ingenue, Lydia Languish (Alexandria Henderson), is so in love with romance novels, which she reads voraciously, that instead of looking for a wealthy husband, she thinks it far more romantic to choose a pauper to love. Young Jack Absolute (Avery Clark), who should “come into” a fairly significant fortune, falls for her. Knowing her penchant for paupers, he pretends to be a penniless Ensign “Beverley” and gains her heart.

Her guardian, Mrs. Malaprop (Julie Briskman), is enraged about this and has bottled Lydia up in the house while plotting to match Lydia up with someone with money. Suddenly Jack’s father, Sir Anthony (Bradford Farwell) shows up and the two elders decide their youngers should get married.

But now Jack has a problem because Lydia will find out he’s NOT penniless! Oh NO! Now what does he do? Lydia might fall out of love with him!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Make “Reparations” a requirement!

Reparations (Aaron Jin)
Sound Theatre Company
(at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute)
Through Feb 2, 2020

Trauma is not individual. Whatever an individual experiences with trauma radiates out from that individual to all the others in the circle – family, friends, all associates. Once trauma changes the individual, trauma also changes others. This is the fundamental subject that Darren Canady tries to illuminate in his searing new play, Reparations, commissioned by Sound Theatre Company.

But wait? (You might ask.) Isn’t the play about Black people wanting or needing “reparations” for slavery? Isn’t this a political play?

The play tries to answer the question of “why” Black folks feel that some important recognition and/or compensation should be offered to Black families. This play doesn’t start with slavery. This play starts back only a couple of generations to the early 1920s when the KKK attacks, burns and lynches Black parents of three children in their home.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

A Decade of Great Seattle Theater: 2010-2019

Lorenzo Roberts and Jarrod M. Smith in The Royale
at ACT (Chris Bennion)

The change in decade brings to mind reflecting on the decade past and the concept of something that endures. Often, we have experiences that stick to us and influence us and theater often has that effect on people. If you take a little poll, a lot of your friends and family could likely relate to you a cultural experience that felt so full and connecting that it remains a solid memory today. Some people’s early experiences with theater even changed the trajectory of their choice of careers!

I thought I’d look back on the “Best Of” articles from each year and reflect on those memories and what still sticks out today as a significant memory that defies the passing of years. I hope you’ll join me in revisiting significant productions. I’ll quote myself liberally from back then.

Plays –
Bradford Farwell was riveting as mathematician Alan Turing in Breaking the Code” by Strawberry Theatre Workshop. “Gin Hammond’s one-woman play Returning the Bones was masterfully performed with her exceptional abilities.” Note: “Gin Hammond brought back her astonishing family story in 2019, courtesy of Book-It Repertory Theatre. It was an honor to see it and her again.”

“The unforgettable Condola Rashad brought the Congo to Intiman Theatre in Ruined and sang her way into our hearts. Intiman’s A Doctor In Spite of Himself (which starred Daniel Breaker) wasn’t really a Moliere translation as much as an homage to the great writer, but Moliere would likely have rolled in the aisles as this ensemble romped on the gorgeous set, shook their wonderful wigs, and cracked each other up.”

Musicals –
“Eric Ankrim showed us his strength with prince-and-pauper tricks in Village Theatre’s The Gypsy King.”

Local Playwriting –
Scotto Moore’s When I Come to My Senses, I’m Alive at Annex Theatre, was a not-so-distant-future science fiction exploration about being able to record someone’s emotions and then give them to an audience to feel (for a fee)!”

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Seattle’s Best Theater of 2019

Sunam Ellis and Ayo Tushinde in Sheathed
(Laura Dux Photography)
A moment from Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre (Bronwen Houck)
It’s the time of year for idiosyncratic lists of “bests” summing up the last 12 months. It’s time to celebrate the strength and vitality of the theater scene that is the greater Seattle area! As I assembled my list for 2019, what jumps out for me has been the inclusion of live music as a significant production element in some of this year’s top plays.

The Top of the List:
While there was, as always, some terrific work on stage, I am celebrating two works in particular as the kind of theater that I long to see every time. Indecent at Seattle Repertory Theatre was full of everything brilliant about theater. The subject matter packed in layer upon layer by the brilliant Paula Vogel. The execution by director Sheila Daniels and an absolutely sublime cast. The best technical support and a trio of musicians that had to act, sing and move around a stage like no one’s business! It was not without trepidations that I became an audience member, but I left bursting with feelings and ideas that continue to weave through my mind.

In a very different, wonderful way, the new work, Sheathed, by inventive and lovely (local!) playwright Maggie Lee, was a wholly new work of essentially sci-fi fantasy, where strong sword-fighting women (Ayo Tushinde and Sunam Ellis) quested and struggled with deep questions of vengeance versus reconciliation. Adding to the atmosphere of this Macha Theatre Works production, live music by Leanna Keith also enlivened the event in essential ways.