Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer plays abound and delight

When it's nice in Seattle in the summer you just don't want to go indoors. We're eating most of our meals outside and enjoying what has been, for the most part, a pretty dry and delightful couple of months.

Luckily, the desire to be outdoors has not greatly reduced the opportunities to see plays. We have not written much at all about anything of late; just one baseball post by me, and a review by my Sweetie, the official scorer, of Marisol by The Collision Project back in March. But I've been lollygagging my way through a delightful Sunday afternoon, computer out on the deck, and thinking about the now-concluded outdoor theater season, and simply had to share.

L-R: Heather Gautschi, Jaryl Draper, Alex Matthews, and Adria
La Morticella (as both fish and penis). 14/48 photo by Joe Iano.
For us, 14/48, the World's Quickest Theater Festival, is not to be missed. We block out the dates on the calendar as soon as we know about them, and it's rare that anything else can muscle in on those weekends. Held on two consecutive weekends twice each year, the festival each weekend features 14 world premiere one-act plays in 48 hours. The plays are written overnight and rehearsed and performed the next day. The last two weekends the festival was held at the Seattle Rep--in its parking lot and right in front of a giant dumpster. This is totally keeping in line with the 14/48 meme of doing theater outside the norm.

As always, the festival was loaded with gems. I think my favorite was Scot Auguston's hilarious play, Candiru Means I Love You, directed by Peter A. Jacobs. It's all about a guy who has a fish living in his willie. You really had to be there.

Weisenheimer has a birthday coming up, and as a present my Sweetie, the official scorer, signed me up as a member of the 14/48 Projects Wine & Stein Club. This is a gift that give the company a little chunk of change with which to do its thing, and gives the bearer of the specially engraved wine goblet special access to the theater and unlimited vino. Everyone wines. Wins, I mean.

Another hands-off weekend is the one on which the Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival is held, typically the weekend after the July 4 weekend. We try not to miss it! This year eight different companies did a total of 14 performances at Volunteer Park.

Johnny Patchamatla and Libby Barnard as Othello and
Desdemona, in the giddy, newlywed phase before things
went south. GreenStage photo by Ken Holmes.
My favorite of the summer was GreenStage's Othello, directed by Teresa Thuman. Johnny Patchamatla had the title role and was just grand. Martyn G. Krouse was a deliciously wicked Iago. Libby Barnard was fantastic as Desdemona. After seeing her mostly as kooky chicks and cartoon characters, it has been great to see the fierce side of Barnard in this and Marisol. Ashley Flannegan Russell was wonderful as Emilia, Craig Peterson tremendous as Cassio, and Michael Ramquist played Brabantio with a seething bile about his daughter's marriage to the Moor.

GreenStage also performed Love's Labour's Lost, a great outdoor slapstick directed by Vince Brady, who was so delightful as Lear last summer. The entire cast were most entertaining and their frequent quick costume changes were amazing. GreenStage's condensed, hour-long Backyard Bard shows play in smaller parks and are really engaging audiences. We saw a double feature of All's Well That Ends Well and The Comedy of Errors with a really delighted audience at David Rodgers Park on Queen Anne.

Terri Weagant's Antony says a few words over Caesar's
corpse. Wooden O photo by John Ulman.
Seattle Shakespeare Company's Wooden O did a fun version of Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by the incomparable David Quicksall and complete with a five-member doo-wop band. Their Julius Caesar was a fine show by an all-woman cast directed by Vanessa Miller. Terri Weagant as Mark Antony rocked it at Caesar's funeral. A truly delightful cast that we are most grateful did not perish of heat stroke. It was in the mid-90s the day we saw it, and it became pretty uncomfortable just watching in the mid-day sun; we expect it was even warmer for those wearing leather armor or long overcoats in the rainy, stormy scenes.

There was just a bit of indoor theater this summer as well. Book-It Repertory Theatre did a rollicking, ambitious, five-hour version of Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, directed by Myra Platt. Jeff Schwager wrote the abridged stage version of the 600+ page novel and managed to keep the play to about five hours. The run time included three intermissions, one of them a 40-minute dinner break.

Frank Boyd, Opal Peachey, and David Goldstein in The
Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Photo by John Ulman
David Goldstein, who played Sammy Clay, told us during a conversation at 14/48 that the cast and crew were a bit skeptical at first about taking on a project with such great length, and Goldstein in particular spent a huge percentage of that time on stage. But it totally worked; the show never felt too long.

Frank Boyd played Joe Kavalier, Opal Peachey portrayed Rosa Saks, and a top-notch supporting cast made this show a delight.

Book-It's mission is to inspire audiences to read, and it's working. I've started Kavalier & Clay myself, and am already up to about page 30.

Lastly, Theater Schmeater debuted its new, Belltown digs with a most entertaining production of The Attack of the Killer Murder... of Death! written and directed by Wayne Rawley. It's a hilarious, noir-ish gumshoe spoof set on the set of a '50s sci-fi flick. Even the character names are hilarious: Kitty Curvey, Martin Van Handsome, Desdemona Sunset, Beauregard "Red" Andrews. Rawley's Live, From the Last Night of My Life was one of our favorite shows of whateveryearitwas, and Killer Murder was killer, too.

The Schmee also did a fun outdoor show that was super kid-friendly. Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf wasn't afraid to mix metaphors or fairy tales. Lyam White was a delight at the Wolf, and pigs Aaron Allshouse, Amelia Meckler, and Pilar O'Connell were more than his match.

Though the Seattle outdoor theater season has wrapped, we're still going outside to play. We'll be visiting Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in September.