Archive for June 2011

“Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World” at ACT

The “new world” of the title is the one we all encounter with some regularity, all of us, even those who aren’t immigrants in a strange country. In this lively though somewhat preachy comedy, having its world premier at ACT Theatre, Musa, a New York cabbie from Egypt, hooks up with Sheri, a sassy American waitress whose free wheeling lifestyle amazes and delights him.

Of course they sleep together; of course they fall in love, but Musa never gets around to telling her that he’s engaged to Gamila, a Muslim woman who’s planning their wedding. She’s the antithesis of Sheri—elegant and controlled where Sheri is brash and insecure. The women meet under remarkably inappropriate circumstances, and Musa has some explaining and decision making ahead of him.

Five characters, and all are good actors, but the three leads are superb. Shanga Parker as Musa, Carol Roscoe as Sheri, and Kimberley Sustad as Gamila give their characters just the right nuance and flavor. You can’t help rooting for all of them.

The writing is overall sharp and funny. The issues the play raises within what is essentially a lighthearted romantic comedy are powerful and pertinent. They give new insights to the challenges that immigrants who cross any borders face in their daily and ongoing lives.

Unfortunately, the playwright felt it necessary to reinforce these ideas with the appearances and dissertations of a ghostly philosopher. He should have let the play speak for itself. It doesn’t need  exegesis.

Through July 17 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle, (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org)

 

Endangered Species Project

Want to know the best theatre deal in town? Go to www.endangeredspeciesproject.org where you won’t learn about the Adriatic Sturgeon or the Grosbeak Bunting. Instead you’ll see a listing of the once-a-month staged readings provided by some of Seattle’s finest theatre artists and offered at no cost to the people of Seattle. (Though of course donations are accepted.)

You know what a staged reading is, right? No set, props, or costumes, just the voices and gestures of the actors to work their magic.

Last night I was transported to late 19th C. Russia as characters from Anton Chekhov’s “The Wood Demon” came to life before my eyes. All their neuroses, fantasies, yearnings, loves and hatreds were right there before me. It was simply wonderful.

The group performed at Seattle Public Theatre at the Bathhouse yesterday. Next month on July 18 they’ll be at Taproot Theatre offering a staged reading of “They Knew What they Wanted” by Sidney Howard.

The actors and directors who offer these free delights want to provide you with an opportunity to experience some of those neglected plays that should be produced but won’t be because it would cost too much in today’s harsh economic environment. Take advantage of their generosity. You won’t be sorry.

 

 

“Think Twice: New Latin American Jewelry” at Bellevue Arts Museum

This is an exhibition that offers a whole new way of thinking about jewelry. The materials are both familiar and unexpected. The design concepts draw from the past and look to the future. The pieces range in scale from tiny to gigantic.

Included are more than 130 works by almost 100 artists from 25 countries. Many of them tell stories that address the cultures of Latin America or the history of this vast area. It’s sure not Van Cleef and Arpels, but it sure speaks to contemporary aesthetics.

See my full review in The Seattle Times NWTicket Section of June 3.

Through Oct. 16 at Bellevue Arts Museum 510 Bellevue Way N.E. Bellevue (425 519-0770 or www.bellevuearts.org).

“The Gene Pool” Arouet Productions

The family in “Gene Pool” is composed of son, Peter (well played by Kyle Johnson) and his mom Mira and and his mom Claire. At Peter’s eighteenth birthday, he requests, among other things, information about the male whose genes he carries. This causes no little consternation in his tight-knit family. Sadly it comes at a time that there’s also a heart- breaking rift between the moms.

It’s a thought provoking, heart tugging, laugh inducing play by Christi Stewart-Brown, well directed by Roy Arauz, and featuring a cast of highly competent actors. Amelia Meckler and Colleen Carey as the Moms are splendid as are  supporting players Zandi Carlson and Bruce Erickson.

See my full review in The Seattle Times NWFriday section of June 10.

Through June 19 at Annex Theatre, 1100 E. Pike St, Seattle. (800-838-3006 or www.annextheatre.org).

“Sense and Sensibility” by Book-It Repertory Theatre

Book-It does Austen again, and does the lady proud. “Sense and Sensibility” is their fourth rendering of a Jane Austen novel, and it’s charming. The audience is immersed in 18th C. drawing rooms, concepts of class, and rules of etiquette. This time it’s the Dashwood sisters who love, lose, and love again.

Oh the difficulties unmarried sisters face when their father’s male heir inherits everything, as is the custom in England. They are forced out of their family home with scarcely enough to provide them a gracious life. The brother’s wretched wife can’t wait to get rid of them after cutting them off financially. With their mother, they bravely set forth. Sensible Elinor and her more quixotic sister Marianne learn some difficult lessons but triumph in the end.

Kjerstine Anderson as Elinor and Jessica Martin as Marianne lead a steller cast. Both actors embody the manners and social codes of their time yet also convey the distinct personality differences of each sister. Be especially aware of Anderson’s eyes; she says as much with them as she does with her mouth. They and the rest of the cast are clothed in lovely costumes by Deane Middleton that cleverly morph into other outfits as demanded by the script.

This is a complicated book with many, many characters connected to one another in various ways. It isn’t an easy task to translate it to the stage, but Jen Taylor’s adaptation is successful. So too is Makaela Pollock’s direction, for the most part. Book-It decided to mount this with audience in front of the stage and at the back of the stage, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite work in this theatre for this play. Ask to sit in front when you buy your tickets.

Through June 26 at Seattle Center House Theatre, Seattle Center. (206 216-0833 or www.book-it.org).