Sunday, July 7, 2013

Catching up on theater reviews

For some reason I'm always a little surprised to learn that the West Seattle Weisenheimer has actual readers, and even more taken aback to find out that some of them miss our rantings when we go quiet (as we did for two months between our essays on the Mariners and double plays in late April and the 14/48 festival in late June.) Not even my mom reads this blog; Ma Weisenheimer is not an Internet user. Yet when our writeup of the first evening of 14/48 was posted, several folks that evening mentioned that they were glad we were back.

There's no accounting for taste!

Well, we have been going to theater these past few months. Here are some quickie reviews of a half dozen shows we liked, and one that was not so great.

Photo by LaRue Lobdell
ACT's production of Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz, directed by Victor Pappas, was a marvelous show, featuring sparkling dialog delivered by some fine actors. We were especially impressed with Pamela Reed as Polly Wyeth, well-to-do mom of a Palm Springs family experiencing some strife during the holidays, and with Marya Sea Kaminski as daughter Brooke who plans a tell-all book about how horrible it was growing up with those parents and how they killed her brother. A great tale of family history, politics, and the varying stages of truth. My Sweetie, the official scorer, was bugged all evening trying to figure out where she had seen actor Kevin Tighe, who played father Lyman Wyeth. An Internet search revealed she remembered him from the '70s television series "Emergency."

Dogg's Hamlet/Cahoot's Macbeth, by Tom Stoppard, directed by Teresa Thuman for Sound Theatre Company. Pairing two lesser-known Stoppard one-act plays based on the Bard made for an interesting evening. In the first English schoolboys preparing for their presentation of Hamlet befuddle everyone with their made-up language. By the end we begin to understand what they're talking about, and are laughing out loud at the slapstick juggling of virtually every prop and set piece on the stage. In the latter a power-mad police inspector in cold-war Czechoslovakia keeps a close watch on a group of actors performing Macbeth on the sly in a private home. Robert Hinds played the inspector with malicious glee. Props to a great cast and the usual fun word play from Stoppard.

Often times these days we're choosing our plays because of who is in them. The Language Archive by Julia Cho directed by Shana Bestock at Seattle Public Theater is one of those, and Mike Dooly was the who. Dooly was great as always, this time as a linguist who, ironically, can't find the words, any words, to salvage his crumbling marriage. Julie Jamieson and John Murray were delightful as the last two speakers of a near-dead language, on the critical list because they're not speaking to each other, either! Candace Vance was marvelous as Dooly's frustrated spouse who finds her calling as a baker, and Heather Persinger was a delight as Dooly's lab assistant who is madly in love with him but—of course!—can't find the words to tell him. Seattle Public Theatre had a fine 2012-13 season that also included Superior Donuts and The Understudy, another show featuring Dooly that we didn't review but did enjoy.

The cast of Smoked! Photo
by John Cornicello.
Café Nordo's Smoked! was dinner theater, but in a good way. In our experience neither the dinner nor the theater are much good in these situations, and we would have given Smoked! a miss except that Ryan Higgins and Ray Tagavilla were in the cast. That turned it into must-see theater, and we were pleased with both the show and the food. The play was a send-up of the spaghetti western, and we as the audience were folks who had come into town for tomorrow morning's hanging. While feeding up at the local saloon we saw first-hand the conflict between the baddies from the big agri-business firm that was running the town and the silent stranger who rode in to set things right. The food was tasty and all locally sourced. The drinks were delicious creations, too, and Weisenheimer's home bar now serves up a reasonable re-creation of saloonkeeper Clara Still's concoction "The Pine Box." We'd never heard of Douglas Fir liqueur before!

Weisenheimer is often teased as being a soft touch as a theater reviewer. This recent piece from The Guardian takes to task reviewers who are too quick to rave about mediocre shows. I'll admit that I am way more of a booster than a critic. So it pains me to say that the Eclectic Theater production of Othello, which I'd eagerly anticipated because the wonderful Michael D. Blum was cast in the title role, was an extremely disappointing show. Fittingly for a performance of Othello, we blame it all on Iago. Rik Deskin, who is the company's managing artistic director, was cast in the role despite the fact that he is having memory issues that leave him unable to recall his lines. There was quite a dust-up on Facebook over this, but we decided to go anyway and see how it was handled. Sadly, not well. Director Kim Deskin's attempt to make Rik's memory seem like a feature rather than a bug was clumsy and distracting. Worse yet, even though he was on book Deskin was still flubbing lines, and we saw the show near the end of its run. And the biggest sin of all was that Deskin really didn't do anything resembling acting. With a cardboard Iago Othello just falls apart. The cast was valiant, and kudos to them all for soldiering on, but they couldn't overcome the sore middle finger on the stage.

L-R: Richard Nguyen Sloniker, Mark
Bedard, and Angela DiMarco in Boeing
. Photo by Chris Bennion.
Boeing Boeing at Seattle Rep was a wonderful farce with a great cast. The play by Marc Camoletti, translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans and directed by Allison Narver, is the tale of a '60s swinger, played by Richard Nguyen Sloniker, who is dating three stewardesses, played by Bhama Roget, Cheyenne Casebier, and Angela DiMarco. When the flight patterns get tangled up and all three arrive at the bachelor pad at once, hilarity ensues. Further comic relief is provided by the brilliant Anne Allgood, who plays the maid who somehow helps keep the secret, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival favorite Mark Bedard, who plays a school chum from Wisconsin who isn't so used to this swingin' Paris lifestyle. Great set and "futuristic" gadgets helped make this a fun show.

The cast of The Taming of the
, trailer park version. Photo
by Chris Bennion.
Seattle Shakespeare Company closed out its season with an indoor remounting of its Wooden O production of The Taming of the Shrew, set in a trailer park. Aimée Bruneau directed, David Quicksall and Kelly Kitchens were marvelous as Petruchio and Kate, David S. Hogan sparkled as Grumio, and Karen Jo Fairbrook was over the top as Mama Baptista Minola, the reigning queen of the trailer park.

Now you're up to date! We're looking forward to the Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival next weekend!

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