Sunday, June 19, 2022

"The Bonesetter’s Daughter" – Beautiful and Moving at Book-It Repertory Theatre

Mara Palma and Desiree Mee Jung in The Bonesetter's Daughter (Anthony Floyd)

The Bonesetter’s Daughter
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through July 3, 2022
If you are a “reader,” and you love how novelists artfully draw you into the world of the book, you might already revere Amy Tan. Tan’s writing is compelling, descriptive, and sketches the personalities she writes about in vivid terms. She is not likely everyone “cup of tea” in terms of being an “easy” read. While her first book became a blockbuster and a movie (The Joy Luck Club), a later book, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, is a more patient read, one that takes time to allow to unfold.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter has at least one story-within-a-story. It’s a fairly long book, and Desdemona Chiang and Book-It Repertory Theatre have decided to adapt it into a play using about a third of the entire book. Chiang’s choices, as adapter, seem well-decided and the experience of seeing this book come to life is delightful and intense. The production, at over two and a half hours, immerses you into China a century ago.
Ruth (Sunam Ellis) is a modern Chinese-American woman who has a busy life and a mother who is descending into Alzheimer’s. Ruth and her mother, like many relationships in Tan books, have a difficult relationship. Part of that is because the mother, Lu Ling (Desiree Mee Jung) was quite harsh with Ruth, strict and even abusive, as she demanded that Ruth “channel” the spirit of her mother’s “nursemaid” Precious Auntie (Khanh Doan). Precious Auntie was so maimed and disfigured around her mouth that she cannot speak, but Lu Ling understood her.
Ruth tries to support her mother, but there are emotional barriers. Then she finds a manuscript that her mother had offered her many times, but she never got around to translating it or reading it. Now, as her mother forgets, Ruth realizes that she must find out what the book says.

“Bruce” – A Musical About Tension With Absolutely No Tension

Jarrod Spector and E. Faye Butler in Bruce (Lindsay Thomas)
Seattle Rep
Through June 26, 2022
My question before I saw the world premiere musical, Bruce, at Seattle Rep was: What is it? And my question after I saw it was: Why?
So, quick rundown: “Bruce” equals JAWS the movie, the shark named by director Steven Spielberg when he was just 26 years old as he began planning it from the script, and The JAWS Log by last-script-doctor Carl Gottlieb as he worked on the film and subsequently published a book.
The musical is not a “bad” one… and in fact there are some very, very good parts. So, it’s not that it’s boring, exactly. But the entire musical is about the “making” of the movie we all know was a major blockbuster, the first summer blockbuster ever, and a world-wide phenomenon. But does that mean it should then get turned into a musical? Be worked on by people for several years? Have tens of thousands of dollars spent on it?

Saturday, June 04, 2022

June Is Flowering in Seattle Theater

The cast of LIZZIE (courtesy Just Us Girls & Co.)
Check out this list of productions opening this month and see if something meets your fancy. Get outcher calendars!
Air Play, Seattle Children’s Theatre, 6/1-12/22
Wmbrellas fly, fabrics soar over the audience, balloons swallow people, and snow swirls, filling the stage. Part comedy, part sculpture, part circus, part theater, this play has it all.  No translation necessary in this circus-style adventure of two siblings journeying through a surreal land of air, transforming ordinary objects into uncommon beauty.  Great for all ages (5 and up).
Skin Flick, The Phoenix Theatre, 6/4-27/22
Norm Foster is Canada’s version of Neil Simon – a prolific comedy playwright. The Phoenix Theatre loves performing Foster’s work! Here, Rollie finds himself in a financial bind. He’s always provided for his wife Daphne, but now he’s lost his job at the costume shop, and he’s going to have to come up with something fast! What he finds leads Rollie and Daphne to learn what’s at the heart of their marriage.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Book-It Repertory Theatre, 6/8/22-7/3/22 (world premiere)
Ruth wants to be a better daughter to a mother whose mind is quickly sliding into the haze of dementia. If only her mother—who spent Ruth’s childhood talking to ghosts, lamenting a family curse, and refusing to acclimate to life in America—was just a little easier to love. When Ruth rediscovers a stack of papers in the bottom of a drawer, carefully penned in calligraphy, she realizes that it may not be too late to meet a woman she thought had been lost to her long ago. The Bonesetter’s Daughter is a deeply moving chronicle of war and revenge, joy and connection, and the profound love that can exist between mothers and daughters. Adapted by Desdemona Chiang from award-winning Amy Tan’s intimate novel.