In the 1950s just about everyone was straight, or, if they weren’t, they tried to pass. They had no choice. American society had no use for those whose sexual preferences weren’t absolutely 100% heterosexual. Of course many movie stars, politicians, doctors, shoe salesmen, bricklayers, and next-door neighbors were gay, but that was their dirty little secret.
“The Tempermentals” by Jon Marans and directed here by Roy Arauz is both a history lesson and a moving account of the effort by some brave gay men to move honestly into the world rather than having to hide behind the lies, false identities, and unhappy marriages that existing society demanded. It’s the tale of Hollywood fashion designer Rudi Gernreich and political activist Harry Hay, two “tempermentals” (as gay men were then called) who with a few others initiated the Mattachine Society, a gay rights organization that preceded the famous incident at Stonewall, the encounter between gay men and the police that led up to Act Up and the modern equal rights movement.
Marans’ play is cleverly constructed. By gradually revealing the extent of the indignities these men were subjected to and the emotional costs of leading their secret lives, he moves his audience from dismay to outrage.
Sadly, the production isn’t as powerful as the play. Jaryl Allen Draper as Rudi Gernreich is lacking in passion. His laconic performance seems at odds with the force of the play. Daniel Wood as Harry Hay, too, seemed just a bit too subdued for a political firebrand. What they were doing was dangerous and frightening. There’s not enough of an emotional roller coaster here.
We, as a society, have come a long way since then, though clearly not far enough. Marriage is possible in only 12 states. Various religions still try to “reprogram” what they define as misfits. And just last weekend, a young man was shot and killed in Greenwich Village for no other reason than he was gay. There’s reason to go see this play.
Through May 25, The Ballard Underground, 2220 Market St. NW, Seattle, 425 298-3852.
If it’s glorious spectacle you like, if razzle dazzle turns you on, if glitter and glitz ring your chimes, it’s all there in Village Theatre’s “Chicago.” Director Steve Tomkins and his cast and crew have done everything just about right.
“Chicago” first opened on Broadway in 1975 with book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. Its 1996 revival was the longest running in Broadway history, and the 2002 film was a smash hit. It’s an extravaganza loosely based on the true story of two female murderers who got off scot free after offing the men who were doing them wrong in corrupt Jazz Age Chicago.
In this production, standout singers, dancers and actors, Taryn Darr and Desireé Davar play Roxie and Velma, two of the sexiest murderers you’ll ever meet, sexy and conniving. Kudos go to the entire cast, but special mention must be made of the incredibly versatile Timothy McCuen Piggee and also Richard Gray. Piggee portrays the suave but scummy lawyer who, given enough money, can get anyone off. He struts; he preens; he takes command of those around him and the entire audience too. Gray, Roxie’s well-meaning, bumbling husband, brings just the right pathos and humor to his role.
The production team has given this theatrical delight all the bells and whistles it deserves. Tom Sturge’s set and lighting work beautifully. You know that things are going to get hot when you enter the theatre and are greeted by the overpowering red light “Chicago” sign.
And from the orchestra’s opening bars you sense that Music Director Tim Symons knows just what to do with a snappy score. Kristin Holland’s choreography matches any flashy routines you’ll see on Broadway. Karen Ann Ledger’s eye-popping costumes enhance every curve, reinforce every personality. I do, however, hate it when mikes are so very obvious, and I wish there were a way to avoid large, noticeable runs in so many of the stockings.
But what are a few mike cords and runs when a production has as much going for it as this one does?
Through June 29 at Village Theatre, 303 Front Street N., Issaquah, (425 392-2202) and July 5th through July 28th at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Avenue, Everett (425-257-8600). Online at www.villagetheatre.org.
In 2003 Erik Larson published “The Devil in the White City…” a best seller about the building of the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and the evil machinations of Mr. H.H. Holmes. Oh how easy it was for this suave sociopath to entice and murder any number of innocent young women who came to Chicago seeking thrills and wound up as corpses.
Now Jet City Improv does its take on these nefarious goings on. With a little help from the audience who offer story details the actors create a different show every night. The quick-witted cast, well costumed for the period, adapt the dialog to audience suggestions and change roles with each performance. Every night is a unique show.
It’s no “Second City” but it is good fun, crafted under the direction of Randy Miller and Brandon Jepson.
Thursdays and Fridays through June 21 at 5510 University Way NE, Seattle; (206 352-8291 or www.jetcityimprov.com/worldsfair)
This many-layered play takes us back to the 19th Century while rooting us sturdily in the 21 Century. It’s about obsessions—Beethoven’s with a rather mediocre waltz by Anton Diabelli and that of a dying musicologist determined to discover why Beethoven devoted so much of his dwindling energy in the last years of his life to this seemingly unimportant task.
Yet there are other threads woven through this piece, just as there are so many threads woven into the Beethoven Variations. How do we explain commitment, whether it’s the commitment of a scholar to uncover a mystery of the past, or the commitment of a composer to discover every permutation possible with the same few notes?
Playwright Moisés Kaufman also wants us to consider the commitments that human beings have to one another—parent to child, child to parent, genius to subordinate and vise versa. And as we grapple with these concepts, he’s seen to it that we listen to the diverse and beautiful variations that Beethoven created. In this production Katie Koch plays them in commanding style.
Director Christopher Zinovitch’s cast and crew have captured in real life all the passion and longing present in Beethoven’s 33 variations. The entire cast works well as an ensemble. Standouts include Jody McCoy as the ailing but determined musicologist, her daughter Clara, (Allison Standley) who captures the frustrations of a child helpless before her parent’s determination, and Mark Tyler Miller, the nurse who becomes Clara’s lover and effectively mixes compassion with passion.
The play, nominated in 2009 for a Tony in New York, is cleverly interlaced with counterpoints past and present. It’s powerful as an intellectual exploration and equally powerful as a love story. There’s much to commend it.
Through May 25, at Arts West, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle; (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org)
To close out its 50th anniversary, Seattle Rep offers up a 50-year old play whose title speaks volumes to Seattleites and whose subject reminds us of that early feminist time when women were savoring a newfound freedom and men thought they could have it all. “Boeing Boeing” is a farce complete with slamming doors and replete with nostalgic reminders of a time that was. Allison Narver has directed a glorious confection filled with giggles and gauffaws.
At the center of this tale is Bernard, elegantly played by Richard Nguyen Sloniker, all snazzed up in his shiny sharkskin suit. He’s got the good life all figured out. Three gorgeous airline stewardesses, each of whom thinks she’s engaged to him, spend their layover nights in his oh so au courant Paris apartment. All possible because he carefully tracks the airline schedules to assure they don’t bump into one another
What an apartment he has! Carey Wong and the Rep’s design team have created a sleek, elegant setting, filled with technological gadgets, white plastic pod chairs, beanbag chairs, zebra-pillows, and a stereo that plays ’60s music. The set is a marvel, and do spend time in the lobby looking at the display that explains how it was conceived.
Elegant as Bernard is, his friend Robert is without a clue. He arrives from the States just as the schedules suddenly change for Bernard’s carefully timed airline lovelies and they all arrive almost simultaneously. That’s where the doors start slamming and the action becomes frenetic.
Angela DiMarco, Cheyenne Casebier, and Bhama Roget, clothed in Frances Kenny’s svelte and racy costumes play the three babes with sexy delight. But it’s Ann Allgood as the cranky maid and Mark Bedard as the unsophisticated Robert who steal the show.
It’s a feast of pratfalls and sight gags, some of them carried on for a bit too long, but overall a delightful bit of fluff, that provides a fun night at the thetre.
Through May 19 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, (206-443-2222 or www.seattlerep.org).