Saturday, January 7, 2012

A triple witching hour of theatre

Wall Street, occupied or not, has its triple witching hour four times a year, when three different types of securities expire all at once, creating a volatile market. I'm not aware of any similar jargon in theatre, but Friday night's calendar in Seattle had me wishing I could be in three audiences at once.

Up at the Erickson off Broadway, Balagan Theatre opened its much-anticipated production of Spring Awakening, a 2007 Tony-winning musical about teen angst and sexuality. Balagan's executive director Jake Groshong calls it "the best thing we've ever done," and that's saying a lot for Balagan, which first caught my interest with Othello in 2008 and has had numerous wonderful productions since. Spring Awakening is directed by Eric Ankrim, who directed and starred as Dr. Horrible at Balagan in 2010 and will grace the 5th Avenue Theatre stage as Curly in Oklahoma! later this year.

Down at Seattle Center the Seattle Shakespeare Company opened its production of Coriolanus, under the direction of David Quicksall. Coriolanus doesn't get staged often, though we saw a good performance of it at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2008 and Intiman produced it early in the Bart Sher years. We're looking forward to seeing what Seattle Shakes does with it.

John Thomas (Ryan Higgins) gives the Little Man in the
Boat (Bobby Temple) the popsicle treatment during The 
Descent Friday evening at 14/48, the World's quickest
theatre festival. Photo: 14/48.
Our Friday pick to attend, however, was day one of 14/48, the World's Quickest Theatre Festival. It has become a favorite event, a must-see each summer and winter. The premise is diabolical. Thursday evening the company throws themes into a giant ice cream cone. They pick one out at random. Seven playwrights go away and create a one-act play on the topic. Friday morning the directors pick plays and cast at random from the assembled company. Rehearsal commences, and the shows go on at 8 p.m. Friday. Then on Friday night a new topic is chosen, the process is repeated. By the time the lights come up early Sunday morning, you've seen 14 new world-premiere plays in 48 hours.

Friday night's theme was "Goin' Down South", which had many audience observers expecting seven plays about oral sex. Several of the plays went down there, none more hilariously than The Descent, written by Eric Lane Barnes and directed by Kate Jaeger. Special props to Ryan Higgins (John Thomas) and Bobby Temple ("The Little Man in the Boat.") Temple had the best line of the night, in offering some guidance to John Thomas: "I am not a popsicle!"

The 14/48 blog is super active; go check it out. Seven new plays on the topic of "delicious indescretion" will run at 8 and 10:30 this evening, and they'll do it next weekend, too. Spring Awakening runs at Balagan through Jan. 15, and it will likely be back for another couple of weeks in April. Coriolanus will be at Seattle Shakes through Jan. 29. Don't miss any of these shows. Support live theatre!

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