Archive for March 2011

“The Beams are Creaking” at Taproot Theatre


There sometimes comes a time in one’s life when being on the right side intellectually and morally isn’t enough, when circumstances demand that you take action. Such is the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian in Hitler’s Germany.

Bonhoeffer’s church was co-opted by the Nazis, as were all social organizations in the Third Reich. Bonhoeffer’s Christian conscience forbade him to accept what he saw happening to his society. He believed that the concepts at the heart of his religion were more important than the organized church that was being corrupted.

Taproot’s fine production of this play documents his efforts against the Nazis. We see his courage and determination.  We smell his fear. We shudder at the expanding milieu of hatred and jingoism that surround him. It’s a well-acted, well-directed production that will indeed keep you on the edge of your seats.

Of course there’s intrigue, attempted assassinations, clandestine plotting, secret codes and messages. And of course there’s prison and a tragic ending. But there is so much more here as we ask ourselves what makes this play so pertinent today.

“It couldn’t happen in Germany,” say many of its citizens in the 1930s despite seeing books burn, people wearing Jewish stars or carrying their identity papers, despite hearing words of hate shouted at rallies and on broadcasts.

Did they not realize that democracy demands vigilance, and that fascism is a powerful enemy that can sneak up on unwary societies? Hasn’t history proven that would-be demigods are always waiting in the wings? “The Beams are Creaking” offers a gripping night in the theatre with a plot that’s well worth thinking about.

Through April 23 at Taproot Theatre or 206 781-9707


“The Owl & the Woodpecker: Photographs by Paul Bannick at the Burke Museum

Amazing, surprising, beautiful photographs of birds doing what they do but what we rarely see. Nature lover and photographer Paul Bannick has been photographing birds for much of his life, and his new show at the Burke Museum features two varieties that play a significant role in maintaining biological diversity. The show runs through August 7.

See my full review in The Seattle Times, NWTuesday section of March 22.


“Distracted” at Arts West

See my full review in The Seattle Times, NW Tuesday Section on March 15.

“Distracted”  addresses the tendency to overmedicate ourselves and our children in a society where TV, cell phone, iTunes, and electronic communication blast at us 24-7. Playwright Loomer suggests that this is society’s sickness, this unwarranted medication of what is probably normal behavior. Great topic! One worthy of serious concern, but it’s presented like a TV sitcom with stock characters and the requisite number of laugh lines. A little too over-the-top for me.

Through April 2 at Arts West (206 938-0339 or

“The Happy Ones” at Seattle Public Theater

Have you ever had the feeling that life is so good, so very, very good, that there must be some disaster waiting just around the corner? Walter Wells, the main character in Julie Marie Myatt’s “The Happy Ones” has such a wonderful family and life that he thinks it’s almost too good to be true. He’s right. Tragedy strikes, wiping out his family. Bewildered and bereaved, he’s left to reframe his existence.

If you think this will be the worst downer of a play imaginable, think again. It’s funny, upbeat, poignant, and sad all at the same time. The topic is handled with great sensitivity and insight. Through loss one can gain. Guilt and forgiveness transcend cultures and personalities. There are many lessons here, and they are presented in unexpectedly appealing and humorous fashion.

It’s 1975 in a suburban development in Southern California and Walter (insightfully played by K. Brian Neel) is living out the American Dream until the fateful day. This is the time of leisure suits, “Gunsmoke” on TV, disco, too much drinking, tuna casseroles, the aftermath of the Vietnam war, and music that brings back memories—The Momas & the Papas, Pink Floyd, Credence Clearwater Revival, and so many more.

David Hsieh as Boa, the insecure, despondent Vietnamese refugee who caused the catastrophic accident gives a heartbreaking performance. Shawn Law as Gary, Walter’s charming but raunchy, wild buddy has just the right combination of concern and ineptness. He’d do anything to help his friend but too often makes a mess of it. Though why the playwright made him a clergyman is questionable. Macall Gordon is brilliant as Mary-Ellen the divorced and oversexed neighbor. She has a heart of gold and the good sense of a stone. Her lines are the funniest in the show and she delivers them with the aplomb of Tina Fey.

Seattle Public Theatre took a risk with this play. It could have been maudlin or just uncomfortable to watch. Instead, thanks to the insightful direction of David Gassner, and the witty dialog of playwright Myatt, it’s a great night at the theatre.

“The Happy Ones” at Seattle Public Theater through April 10. (206 524-1300 or


“In Theater: Installation by Eric Eley” at Suyama Space

Eric Eley likes to play with concepts and space. His current work at Suyama Space does both. It’s open and airy yet it represents a safety shield. It references military constructions yet it has a festive quality. Let your eyes take in the whole construction,then look at the individual parts and see how the artist flirts with your perceptions.

See my full review in The Seattle Times of February 25 in the NWTicket section.

Mondays through Fridays until April 8 at 2324 Second Ave., Seattle (206 256-0809 or