Monday, May 16, 2011

Greeks, guys, and dolls

I experienced both ends of the Seattle theater spectrum this weekend, saw two enjoyable shows, and came away from it feeling a little sad.

Brandon O'Neill, center, plays
Sky Masterson in the 5th Avenue
Theatre production of Guys and
Dolls. Also pictured are Brittany
Jamieson, Kasey Nusbickel, Nikki
Long, and Marissa Quimby. 
The 5th Avenue Theatre production of Guys and Dolls is a lot of fun. The show is stuffed with standards such as "Luck Be a Lady", "A Bushel and a Peck", "Adelaide's Lament", and "If I Were a Bell." The fabulous "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" by Nicely-Nicely (Todd Buonopáne) was a show-stopper at the end. Director Peter Rothstein filled the show with clever staging, Noah Racey's choreography and the dancing were marvelous, and Kate Sutton-Johnson's set was cool. The four leads all are familiar to Seattle audiences, as are many of the supporting players including the incomparable Clayton Corzatte and Laura Kenny. Musicals aren't Weisenheimer's favorite, but Ma Weisenheimer loves 'em and so we go. Guys and Dolls ranks among my favorites of the last couple of years. A big Sunday matinee crowd enjoyed the show immensely.

Friday night my Sweetie, the official scorer, and I took in Sophocles' Ajax at Open Circle Theater. Like the musical, the Greek tragedy isn't necessarily my favorite, though I write that knowing that, if we ever get around to handing out the Wisey Awards for 2010, the Seattle Shakes production of Electra probably wins. However the Ajax cast was loaded with talented Balagan Theatre pals, so it was a show we didn't want to miss. Todd van der Ark adapted the story and Linda Lombardi directed the tale of war, betrayal, rage, madness, and love.

They did a great job. We really like Ryan Fields, who was super in the title role. Ryan Higgins as Achilles was one of the more intense dead guys you'll ever see. Daniel Arreola, Ashley Bagwell, Curtis Eastwood, and Hannah Schnabel were super.

Unfortunately, there were just 10 people in the audience, including the bartender. Friday night in Belltown and they couldn't draw a crowd of any sort. We had dinner at a restaurant just a block away, and our server had never heard of the show or the theater.

That's where my sadness comes in. The 5th Avenue has resources. I remember thinking a couple of years ago, while watching their production of Hello, Dolly!, that the train everyone climbed aboard was a set piece that probably cost more than Balagan's entire annual budget. They're pleasing big crowds. Meanwhile Open Circle is pleasing crowds, too, and talented actors are working hard to put on a show that entertains. But their program includes an appeal for donated office supplies and, maybe, a new sewing machine.

This weekend is the final one for Ajax. I think you need to get out and see it! Guys and Dolls runs at the 5th through June 5.

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