Friday, August 24, 2018

“Rules of Charity” is not charitable toward its characters

Rules of Charity (Ken Holmes)
Rules of Charity
Sound Theatre Company
Through August 25, 2018

It’s pretty apparent what drew folks at Sound Theatre Company toward the play Rules of Charity by the late John Belluso. Belluso was a playwright with physical challenges and wrote characters with physical challenges in his plays. STC’s theme is toward “radical inclusion” and that theme has been reflected by identifying barriers unwittingly erected against variously challenged communities and working to eradicate them.

In some areas, the company has been extraordinarily successful, particularly in their gorgeous production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with deaf and hearing actors, giving the deaf community both access to Shakespeare from watching an ASL-signed production and also giving more platform to deaf actors to perform.

While Rules of Charity is written with the central character as a man living with cerebral palsy, the play itself is much less successful in connecting emotionally with an audience. It’s clear that many audience members disagree with that statement, and some have been and will be deeply connected.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

New "Phantom" Lives up to reputation

(courtesy The Phantom of the Opera tour)
The Phantom of the Opera
Paramount Theatre
Through August 19, 2018

Well, guess what! I liked the musical The Phantom of the Opera a bunch more than I expected to. See my preview at (What kind of critic, you grumble, uses the phrase “a bunch more”?) Truly, the famous songs that have become popular from this musical, particularly The Music of the Night, and The Phantom of the Opera, made me feel like running away instead of marking my calendar for productions to see.

This touring production is quite honestly very lavish and attentive to making a great experience for an audience. It’s opulent to look at when it needs to be and dark and mysterious, too. The folding and unfolding set works beautifully to change locations. The falling chandelier is not really all that scary (it doesn’t fall that fast), but it’s really pretty.

One aspect that definitely delighted me was how campy funny some of the moments in the musical are – at least in this production. There are two scenes in the production office of the opera company where the characters all produce notes written to them by the Phantom, as he threatens them variously to pay him or else, or let Christine sing or else, or various other demands or else. It’s clear that they know it’s a joke and make the most of the moment. It got big laughs from the audience.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bee Smart and Make a Bee-line to see “Queen”

Queen (Pankaj Luthra)
Pratidhwani (at ACTLab)
Through August 19, 2018

If you love playwriting that crackles with tension and possibility, is laugh out loud funny, and full of surprising emotional twists, and takes on a very topical and important subject all at once, then you need to hie yourself over to ACT Theatre for Pratidhwani’s production of Madhuri Shekar’s play, Queen. Sometimes, it’s not clear why a title exists with a script. This one is pretty clear – it’s about bees and colony collapse disorder: CCD. So, it involves queen bees.

Also, it’s a story of two women doctoral candidates who are supreme. Supremely smart, and supremely good at their research, and supremely honorable in their intentions. Sanam Shah (Archana Srikanta) and Ariel Spiegel (Isis King) have been studying CCD at UCSanta Cruz and think they are on the verge of proving that a Monsanto chemical is the real culprit. They have been studying a model of research that Sanam is convinced has taken into consideration every variable that can be controlled for and excluded impacts from every variable that can’t be controlled for. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Preview of "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Paramount

The Phantom of the Opera (Matthew Murphy)
The Phantom of the Opera
Paramount Theatre
August 8-19, 2018

The “new” Phantom of the Opera sweeps into our fair city to wow us with its fresh approach to an iconic Broadway musical. Believe it or not, your SGN reviewer has never seen it! Of course I have heard a lot about it, but nope, never actually seen it.

I will say that I am not a huge Andrew Lloyd Webber fan. I feel honor-bound to make sure you factor that in. I respect his success and I understand that he has managed a kind of incredible feat in hitting the public’s sweet-spot of interest with musical extravaganzas.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Chew over the ideas in ”The Great Inconvenience”

The Great Inconvenience (Ian Johnston)
The Great Inconvenience
Annex Theatre
Through August 18, 2018

Holly Arsenault’s new play, The Great Inconvenience, is now presenting at Annex Theatre. The press release describes it thusly: “2050. Somewhere on the West Coast of the United States. A scrappy group of historical re-enactors—orphans of our next civil war—have formed a chosen family.

“Abandoned by a government that no longer pretends to serve any but the rich, their survival gig is helping to whitewash some of the worst atrocities in American history for audiences of wealthy schoolchildren. When an unexpected visitor starts camping out in their dioramas, portending a new and growing danger, they’re forced to face their own histories, and contend with the revelation that the woman they all work for is much more than just their boss.”

Succinctly describing plays is definitely a challenge sometimes and after seeing this play, that description does a pretty good job of it, but even so, there is so much packed inside this piece that you might walk away, as I did, mulling it over and over and over.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

August Theater Openings – Few But Mighty

Queen (Pankaj Luthra)

There aren’t that many new shows opening this month, but there are plenty of Shakespeares to see in parks and a few shows that opened at the very end of July. Hope you are having a wonderful and entertaining summer!

Blood Wedding, The Williams Project, 8/2-4/2018 (at Equinox Studios)
This is a dry-run toward a full production sometime next year. In an isolated village, a bride is visited on her wedding day by a former lover, sparking a sequence of events that will shock everyone from the flower girl to the Moon itself. The Williams Project will bring the whole town to life in song, dance, and verse. With some of the best poetry ever written, in a seldom-seen translation by famed American poet Langston Hughes, Blood Wedding will explode and expand our understanding of love, violence, race, gender, sex, and community.

Queen, Pratidhwani and ACT Theatre, 8/3-19/18
PhD candidates Sanam and Ariel have spent the better part of the last decade exhaustively researching vanishing bee populations across the globe. Just as these close friends are about to publish a career-defining paper, Sanam stumbles upon an error, which could jeopardize their reputations, careers, and friendship. How far will you go to defend your ethics and standards of integrity, and at what cost? Queen by Madhuri Shekar is a play about pursuit of truth, relationships, and bees.

The Rules of Charity, Sound Theatre Company, 8/4-25/18 (Seattle Center Armory)
The late John Belluso, a playwright who championed honest portrayals of people with disabilities, wrote this play about an older generation clashing with a younger. This “lacerating critique of altruism” (SF Weekly) focuses on Monty, a brilliant father who has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair. He spars with his care-taker daughter in the haunting relationship at the heart of this play that examines what it means to be disabled and marginalized in modern American society. Contains Mature Content.