Archive for May 2011

“Arms and the Man” at Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse

George Bernard Shaw—enemy of hypocrisy, pacifist, independent thinker, socialist, winner of the 1925 Nobel prize for literature, and author of “Arms and the Man.” The play was first produced in 1894 yet its rapier wit still resonates, and the targets of Shaw’s disdain are still worthy of scorn.

Shaw has little use for pretension or posturing, and the Bulgarian upper class family at the center of this work is filled with both. The family members deem themselves to be at the top of the social scale, and every proud boast simply reveals their lack of sophistication.

As the play opens, Bulgaria is at war. When a Swiss mercenary fighting for the other side hides in their house their lives are changed.

Seattle Public Theater’s production of this little gem starts a bit slowly. But the energy builds, and the second act is delicious. The acting is generally good, some outstanding. Brenda Joyner as Louka the maid has a plum part, and she makes the most of it. Frank Lawler as the Swiss Captain charms not only the ladies of the family but the audience too.

Director Shana Bestock clearly loves this antiwar and proto-feminist play. She’s given us a rendition well worth seeing.

Through June 10 at the Bathhouse, 7312 W. Greenlake Drive N., Seattle (206 524-1300 or www.seattlepublictheater.org).

 

“Seattle as Collector: Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs Turns 40” at the Seattle Art Museum

Throughout the public galleries on the main floor of the Seattle Art Museum are works by 112 Northwest artists. And all of them belong to the people of Seattle, part of the 2,800 portable works in the collection of the Office of Cultural Affairs.

This rich sampling includes paintings, prints, photographs, glass, ceramics, textiles, mixed media, and videos. Because they are in SAM’s public galleries, there is no admission fee to view them.

Included are artists from four decades. George Tsutakawa, Guy Anderson, Alden Mason, William Cumming, Gaylen Hansen, Chuck Close, Jacob Lawrence, Dale Chihuly, Ginny Ruffner, Preston Singletary, and so many more, all the greats are here. It’s an overwhelming artistic treasure proving the wisdom of our civic leaders who have kept the collection growing for almost half a century.

See my full Article in The Seattle Times NWTicket section of May 27. And don’t miss the show.

Through Oct. 23 at the Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave. For information 206 684-7171 or www.seattle.gov/arts.

 

“Brownie Points” at Taproot Theatre

Okay Seattle, most of us are proud of our liberal credentials. We abhor racism and certainly do everything in our power to eradicate it. Right? Well get yourself over to Taproot where you’ll get some fresh insights.

In Brownie Points” by Janece Shaffer, five mothers are chaperoning their young daughters during a weekend camping trip. They are a diverse mix—white Christian, white Jewish, African American, divorced, married—and what they and we find is that no matter who you are, if you’ve grown up in a society with racial and religious stereotypes, your behavior is influenced.

Cleverly written and beautifully acted, this play makes you aware of the subtle (and not so subtle) issues and confusions that lead to racism. Jews, African Americans, white Christians, we’re all different. You can define “different” any way you want. The play encourages its audience to try to understand how being different affects people.

Shaffer puts forward all the stereotypes here, but they seem to work to reinforce her concept. Although the play tries to cover too much, it’s marvelously funny with one-liners equal to those of Neil Simon.

I defy you to walk out of the theatre without wanting to discuss this play.

Through June 18 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N 85th St., Seattle (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org/buy-tickets/)

 

“Color Field Paintings…” at the Wright Exhibition Space”

New in the 1960s, paintings awash in color, huge paintings, overwhelming paintings, new techniques, and new names like those of Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski, and Kenneth Noland. You can see works by the top artists of this genre from their most productive years at the Wright’s elegant space on Dexter. Just remember that it is open only Thursdays and Saturdays from 10:00 to 2:00.

See my full review in The Seattle Times NWTicket Section on May 20.

Through Sept. 24, 407 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle (206 264-8200)

“The Talent Show” at the Henry Art Gallery

Do you ever feel your personal life has been invaded? Body scans in airports, tracking of purchases and whereabouts on websites and phones, cameras at street corners, we’re constantly under surveillance, constantly on view. Many of us hate it. Others seek more, their 15 minutes of fame—on reality TV, on You-Tube, in Face Book pages. The culture of celebrity that started with the Louds and Andy Warhol grows at the same rate as privacy disappears.

“The Talent Show” addresses this push/pull of “look at me”/”stop looking at me.” It’s particularly rich in works of art involving people who never knew their images or outputs were being appropriated by artists. Visitors to a 1970s Adrian Piper exhibition were invited to write comments in a prominently placed notebook. They didn’t know that some would wind up on the walls of the Henry and other museums.

Artist Garciela Carnevale invited friends to one of her exhibitions. After they arrived, she quietly left the gallery and locked them in. Then she had a friend document their experience. The photographs are in this exhibit. The guests finally got out when people on the street broke the gallery’s front window.

Phil Collins invited strangers to send him undeveloped film. He promised to develop it for them but he got to keep the negatives and use them as he pleased. His ten-minute slideshow of unrelated pictures grabs you and doesn’t let go. Who were those people? Why did they give up their privacy? Why do I look?

In one work after another this exhibit confronts you with issues of voyeurism and exhibitionism, power and control. It addresses our culture’s contradictory desires for notoriety and privacy. It will leave you with much to think about.

Through August 21 at the Henry Art Gallery, U. of Washington Campus, (206 543-2280 or henryart.org).