Thursday, January 25, 2018

WIT at SecondStory Rep - Exquisite and Still Completely Relevant

Eleanor Moseley and Eric Hartley in WIT (Michael Brunk)
SecondStory Repertory Theatre
Through February 3, 2018

Margaret Edson hit it out of the park with her first - and only - play: Wit (or W;T). With her background working in a research hospital with AIDS and cancer patients, Edson decided she had something to say about Life and Death. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her drama and continued to become a public school teacher, having focused her early education on dramatic literature. She remains a teacher, today, as far as we know.

Her play introduces Vivian Bearing, Ph.D. in English, an expert in the brilliant and difficult metaphysical sonnets of John Donne. As soon as Bearing (the captivating and intense Eleanor Moseley) begins to speak to the audience, we know she is going to die by the end of the play. It's not a mystery.

Get Your Ticket for “Two Trains Running”

Carlton Byrd in Two Trains Running (Nate Watters)
Two Trains Running
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through February 11, 2018

It is a satisfying feeling to know that Seattle Repertory Theatre is doing an August Wilson play and that you can depend on them doing Wilson proud! Their current production of Two Trains Running, a co-production with Arena Stage, is exactly that satisfying, soul-comforting excellence that you would hope to experience.

The cast delivers Wilson’s real-life-with-poetry dialogue beautifully, led by director Juliette Carrillo’s impeccable precision. The scenic design by Misha Kachman of the once-vibrant restaurant with the oddly flickering jukebox creates the ambience to sink into. Composer David R. Molina helps the scene changes become added bonus moments instead of dead silence. Period costuming by Ivania Stack effortlessly evokes the 1960s. Lighting by Sherrice Mojgani helps determine the times of day and evening as the slice of life clock runs through their Pittsburgh days.

Monday, January 22, 2018

WET Presents “Straight White Men”

Frank Boyd in Straight White Men (Chris Bennion)
Straight White Men
Washington Ensemble Theatre
Through February 2, 2018

Washington Ensemble Theatre just had something fairly unprecedented happen to them: their first show of 2018 was completely sold out for the entire run as of opening weekend! Straight White Men, by Young Jean Lee, had a couple of extra performances added but with that kind of demand, the only way you might see the production is if you choose to go and get on a wait-list for a performance.

Young Jean Lee is a genre-breaking playwright/performer who has come here on occasion with riveting shows hosted by On the Boards. Her pieces are exactly what On the Boards is famous for around here – like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Perhaps the sales are a reflection of her fame and draw. Perhaps it’s the topic – a hot one of white privilege.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Seattle Theater Writers announces the (7th Annual) 2017 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards!

Dreamgirls at Villlage Theatre (Mark Kitaoka)
Members of Seattle’s critics group, Seattle Theater Writers, announce the nominees of excellence in Seattle theatrical productions. This year’s nominee favorites include Ragtime from the 5th Avenue Theatre, Dreamgirls from Village Theatre, Hoodoo Love from Sound Theatre Company, Lydia from Strawberry Theatre Workshop and Teh Internet Is Serious Business by Washington Ensemble Theatre, with multiple nominations each.

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 or theater practitioners forced to travel the country to earn their living, the Gypsys seek to acknowledge the excellence of the Seattle theater community.

The winners will be announced January 26, 2018. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Timon of Athens Would be a 1%er Now

Mary Ewald and Peter Crook in Timon of Athens (John Ulman)
Timon of Athens
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through Feb 4, 2017

We all know that Oprah was born dirt poor and achieved the American Dream and is part of the 1%. Maybe some people like her because she’s rich and she’s generous and she might give them a car….. What if she suddenly ran out of money and could no longer be generous and it means you will definitely not get the car? Would you dislike her then?

Besides the “born poor” part of above, that is the situation that Shakespeare puts Timon (Tie-mun) in. Seattle Shakespeare Company is presenting Timon of Athens.

Timon thinks that generosity means to give and not to receive. I think a lot of us would agree in general with that sentiment, thinking that to turn generosity into a transaction – I give and then I get – would negate the generous nature of the gift. Timon thinks that by doing this giving, he is cementing his friendships. Then he finds out he’s spent himself into penury and everything is lost.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

What Was the Best Theater of 2017?

Carolyn Marie Monroe and Sofia Raquel Sanchez in Lydia (John Ulman)
It’s that time for the annual recounting of theater in the Seattle area. 2017 was a pretty great year for musicals. The 5th Avenue Theatre started off the year with a rousing version of Pajama Game with the by-now taken-for-granted wonderful local cast and then bookended the year with a warm, sweet Holiday Inn with another terrific local cast augmented by special guest Lorna Luft. They also provided a moving, historic and excellent production of Ragtime.

We sometimes need a reminder of just how strong our pool of musical performers is. Seattle has become a hub for new musical development and continues to strengthen as a “try out” venue for musicals heading for New York City. That brings more top talent to town to stay.

Village Theatre strengthened its already-strong new musical program by hiring Brandon Ivie to formalize his already created bi-coastal lifestyle and backing their new Beta Program (debuting this week with the next trio of developmental musicals). Their season provided my pick for Best Musical production of 2017: Dreamgirls! It was said to be on Steve Tomkins “bucket list” before he transitions from Village Artist Director and our fair community now has enough top African American talent that they can blow our socks off in productions such as these. Their vigorous productions of Newsies and Into the Woods were also a lot of fun.