Double entendres, slippery syllables, rapid-fire wordplay, and sly jokes! If you are a fan of any or all of these, if you like Shakespeare, then “Holiday for Errors” is for you. Written by Seattle actor and writer Frank Lawler and Washington, DC, actor and Shakespeare authority Daniel Flint, this is a production that provides “the definitive” answer to the relationship between Shakespeare and Marlow, and in the process creates a Christmas confection composed of fractured bits from “Twelfth Night,” “Richard III,” and a bit more.
Sound impossible? Not so. This melange brings forth the lame Richard III in company with the gartered Malvolio. You’ll not be surprised that it also has a girl masquerading as a boy. It offers a saucy (let’s say horny) Queen Elizabeth who spends more time plotting her bedroom romps than attending to affairs of state. Unfortunately her stuffy Chamberlain is of the Puritan persuasion and would close down all the theatres and do away with Christmas celebrations. Of course, Christmas and the theatres are saved. Marlow serves as Shakespeare’s muse, and all’s well that ends well.
Richard Schaefer’s simple but elegant set is absolutely lovely, evoking Christmas and serving as a fine Elizabethan background. Schaefer is also the man who designed the lighting that features the most delicate and arresting silhouettes. I’m always amazed when a small theatre company manages to mount a play with lavish costumes. Justine Wright’s Elizabethan outfits for the cast are wonderful.
So, if you’re a Shakespeare fan or enjoy broad humor, come on down to the Center Theatre where Director Teresa Thuman’s concoction offers an unusual Christmas treat.
The evening’s about to begin at Valerie’s popular Parisian cabaret, but she’s got troubles. The cook’s suddenly missing, and there’s no replacement, that is until an unexpected man walks in to fill the bill. The musicians play. The chanteuse sings. Valerie (acted with panache by Faith Russell) breathes a sigh of relief. And all is well.
But this is 1933, and all is not well in Europe. Memories of WWI resonate. The economic instability reinforces the right wing. There’s an increase in xenophobia; riots break out; and the call for “traditional values” increases in volume. It doesn’t bode well.
“Le Club Noel” directed by Karen Lund and written by Seattle locals Candace and Sam Vance is a show that combines harsh political and social realities with the joy and even the miracle of Christmas. It’s filled with good music and humor as well as a few lessons on compassion, trust, and valor.
Candace and Sam Vance, accomplished musicians and actors as well as playwrights, bring a depth of feeling to two of the lead roles. Their young son appears to have inherited their talent. Playing the son of the chanteuse, he transforms from a somber, emotionally wounded child into a joyful magic maker.
On Christmas Eve, Le Club Noel dons festive garb. Its big-hearted, no-nonsense owner Valerie leads the entire audience in a Christmas carol sing-along even as she manages to keep the fascists at bay. Edd Key and Mark Tyler Miller the Club’s two guitarists and Ms. Vance on accordion provide the accompaniment.
This is a refreshing departure from the usual Christmas fare, and it’s a splendid introduction to Taproot’s refurbished home. The theatre company has managed not only to survive the tragic fire of a couple of years ago, but to raise the funds needed to expand its facilities. The handsome new lobby and cafe area along with all the backstage necessities for a growing theatre are now in place.
It is indeed a merry Christmas at Taproot, celebrated with a spirited production.
Through Dec. 28 at Taproot Theatre, 204 North 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).
The original Sherlock Holmes story of the Baskervilles and their hound by Arthur Conan Doyle is probably the most complex of all his works. Transferring it to the stage creates enormous problems. Not all of them have been overcome in this adaptation by David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright, but Seattle Rep’s production offers astoundingly good stagecraft and fine acting.
Through brilliant sets, the audience is transported to London in the late 19th C. and then to the desolate moors in Devon. L.B. Morse, who has designed the set, lighting and projections is the star of this show. A blood red curtain welcomes the audience to the theatre. Surrounding it are walls of brick, and centered above is the diabolical head of a snarling mastiff. When the curtain opens Holmes’ study looks out over the streets of London. Morse’s production team has combed archives for period photos. Projections of them fill the stage behind the walls and furnishings of the interiors of each locale. Each scene is stunning and the transitions are breathtaking.
Director Alison Narver’s cast captures the times and the tension around which the story evolves, though Darragh Kennon, one of Seattle’s finest actors, doesn’t have the gravitas I expect Holmes to have. Perhaps that is unfair criticism. My favorite Holmes is the Basil Rathbone rendition in that 1930s movie shown so often on TV. Kennon’s Holmes is far quieter, far less magisterial. It’s hard to know whether the director or the actor sought that interpretation.
If you don’t already know this story of murder and mischief in the West of England, you might want to read a synopsis before you go. Pichette and Wright have done very well in condensing the complicated plot, but for the uninitiated it might be confusing.
Despite my carps, this is a splendid example of Seattle’s outstanding theatre community. The cast, the production team, the adapters, and the director are all local. We who love theatre are so lucky to live here.
Through Dec. 15, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle (206 443-2222 or seattlerep.org)