Sunday, April 25, 2010

Winners and losers in war shows

Weisenheimer took in a couple of shows with war themes in the last week, and neither was what one might expect. One was a light-hearted romp, and the other was just a dud.

L-R: Owen, Rudinoff, Reid, Wildrick,
and Allen at a club searching for Miss
Turnstiles. Photo: Chris Bennion.
On the Town, playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre, is only a "war" show in that it's about three sailors with 24 hours of shore leave in New York City. It's enough time for all three to find love, or something at least approximating it. Newcomer Joe Aaron Reid was marvelous as Gabey, the sailor who falls for Miss Turnstiles, whom he spots on a poster in the subway. Regulars Greg McCormick Allen and Matt Owen are splendid as Ozzie and Chip, Gabey's shipmates. The great performances were by the love interests, the always fabulous Billie Wildrick, who was Claire the anthropologist, and Sarah Rudinoff, who played cab driver Hildy will brass and bravado. Props, too, to veterans Allen Fitzpatrick and Suzy Hunt, who as Judge Pitkin and Madame Dilly added great humor to the show.

The dancing in On the Town, choreographed by Bob Richard, was marvelous. Much of it was sort of avant garde ballet as envisioned by Jerome Robbins. On the Town, directed by Bill Berry, plays at the 5th through May 2.

The posters for Henry V, playing at Seattle Shakespeare Company, ask rhetorically, "Ain't war grand?" No, it ain't, and neither was the production, directed by Russ Banham. The biggest problem was the woeful miscasting, or mis-directing, of Evan Whitfield as King Henry. Whitfield didn't have much spark as the king, not enough to give us any inkling why those other guys would follow him once more into the breach. He clearly wasn't comfortable with the Bard's language, either. There were a few good moments, especially in the funny scene at the end where Henry tries to woo the English-challenged French princess Katherine (the sparkling Alexandra Tavares), but mostly Whitfield didn't work.

Tavares, left, and Hoffer
learn English. Photo by
John Ulman.
A daring move that paid off was the casting of Jerick Hoffer, who brought his drag alter ego, Ms. Kitty Witless from the comedy/musical duo The Vaudevillians, to the role of Mistress Quickly. Hoffer also played the nurse Alice and did a quick turn as a French soldier to boot. The scene in which Alice tries to teach some English to Katherine was a hoot.

There was a good fight between Pistol and Gower (played by Russell Hodgkinson and James Lapan) in which the weapons were leeks. And Stephanie Shine, the artistic director at Seattle Shakes, was super as chorus, providing the introduction and narration. Overall, though, Henry V was a disappointing finish to what has otherwise been an outstanding season for the company. It runs through May 9.

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