Archive for July 2011

“Something’s Afoot” at Taproot Theatre

Okay, it’s supposed to be summer, and summer is the time for light, bright summer theatre. Taproot has come up with just the right fluffy nonsense to fill that bill. It’s a murder mystery musical whose cast gets killed off, one by one, during their supposedly jolly weekend at the country estate of Lord Rancour. What we have is a spoof on all whodunits with a tip of the hat to famous detective writers.

“Something’s Afoot” premiered in 1972 and has been a staple at theatres around the country ever since. Director Scott Nolte and his crew and cast have provided all the requisite bells and whistles—ingenious stagecraft, good vocals, and snappy band. With Edd Key as musical director, you know there’s going to be the necessary big sound, and there is. The only problem for me was Jenny Cross as the crucial character, Miss Tweed, amateur detective. Hers is the pivotal role, and she played it too much like a nanny rather than as Ms. Marple.

Given the space restrictions at Taproot, a production of this magnitude required some ingenuity. They solved the problem by placing the band out of sight below the stage. This is not an ideal arrangement, but they made it work. On the night I saw it, the timing couldn’t have been better.

There’s a reason why this musical parody is so popular. It’s just such a good piece of theatre. Taproot is celebrating its 35th Anniversary this year. It’s been their best season since I’ve been in Seattle (13 of those years).

Through August 13 at Taproot Theatre Company, 204 North 85th St., Seattle; (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org/buy-tickets/)

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at Arts West

Many of us remember those midnight shows in the ‘70s and ‘80s when dressed like our favorite characters and armed with candles, toast, water pistols and other paraphernalia we’d troop into movie theatres ready to sing along with Frank, Magenta, Brad, Janet and all the rest of the Rocky Horror cast.

The Arts West audience shouldn’t come with paraphernalia, but it is invited to dress appropriately for this show. And what a lively and terrific show it is! This sexually explicit cult classic has lost none of its appeal over time. And the Arts West energetic and talented group of young actors makes it sizzle.

They do full justice to Richard O’Brien’s memorable book, music and lyrics. The voices blend well together and some of them are truly outstanding. Directors Christopher Zinovitch, Kimberly Dare, and Bobby Temple have provided us with clever staging, good music, and snappy dancing. A few minor changes to the original have been made to adapt the play to this stage, but this production captures all of the original’s electricity.

It runs Wednesday through Saturday this week. So head over to Arts West for a nostalgia trip. And if you’ve never seen Rocky Horror before, you’ve got a terrific initiation in store for you. But do remember, this isn’t for children.

Through July 23 at Arts West Playhouse, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle; (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org)

“little book” by for/word company

Does your love of literature cause you to appreciate the well-chosen word and the perfectly punctuated sentence? Is the New Yorker one of your favorite magazines? And do you love theatre? If you answered yes to any of the above, then quickly order your tickets for “little book.”

Presented by for/word, a traveling theatre company in Seattle from July 14 through July 17, it is too good to miss. Built entirely from the written words of its three main characters, this incredibly clever production is a story of love, writer’s anguish, procrastination, as well as misguided criticism.

At their relatively new home in the backwoods of Maine, Katherine White, the famed New Yorker editor, and E.B. White, New Yorker writer and esteemed author, adjust to life in the country after years in Manhattan. He, fascinated by a little mouse who shares their dwelling, struggles to write a children’s story about a character he calls Stuart Little.

Meanwhile, back in Manhattan, the noted children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore relentlessly pursues her task of encouraging children to read and to use libraries. Her life and the lives of the White’s intersect—wonderfully and sadly.

Seattle’s own Peach Pittenger is the purposeful and prim librarian stalwart in her sometimes misguided decisions. Yet Pittenger manages to give her endearing undertones too. Christina Ritter in her Ferragamo shoes there in rocky Maine is all business yet also the adoring and kittenish wife. Christopher M. Roche’s portrayal of E.B. or Andy, as Katherine calls him, shows vividly the writer’s anguish as well as his wit.

“Delicious,” that’s a word E.B. might not have chosen, and Katherine would have been appalled, but this confection is just that. Jennifer Schlueter, who’s a great admirer of Book-It, wrote this delight. She is an enormous talent. Check it out and see for yourself.

Through July 17 at The Little Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E., Seattle; tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event /181507 or 800 838-3006.

“Gabriel von Max: Betailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul” at the Frye Art Museum

In this, the first United States exhibit of the late 19th Century German artist Gabriel von Max, the Frye Musueum has brought us a range of stunning paintings, prints and drawings that speak to the intellectual ferment of that time. Max was an intellectual as well as an artist and his works reveal the cultural and scientific tumult of his era.

Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species…” had been raising eyebrows since 1857. Freud was revolutionizing the concept of “human” with his explorations of the unconscious and his insights into our sexual nature. Goethe’s “Faust” was part of the cannon. The American philosopher William James was caught up in the world of the occult. Sophisticates of all sort met for séances where they communed with the dead. And Max tried to capture all of this in his paintings.

Martyrs abound, and they are mostly nubile women, with mournful or ecstatic faces. In “Outside the Arena” a young woman appears to be deep in thought. We have to ask if she’s anticipating her own death or expressing sadness at the fate of the real sacrificial victims.

In “The Anatomist” an attentive gentleman lifts the gossamer cloth to expose one breast of the dead young woman lying before him. Perhaps his anatomical study is as satisfying sexually as it is intellectually.

There are any number of paintings of monkeys behaving in human fashion. We see drawings to illustrate “Faust.” Numerous religious images depicting saints and biblical stories reveal the continuing importance of the church.

In the generally dark colors so common in his time period, Max probably outraged some and delighted others. Now we get a chance to see what the fuss was all about.

Through October 30 at the Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle; (206 622-9250 or fryemuseum.org)

“Synthetic” at Winston Wächter Fine Art

Isn’t it supposed to be summertime when the air is clear, the colors are bright, and life is savory? Seattle’s weather isn’t giving us all we hope for this year, but step over to the Winston Wächter gallery on Dexter Avenue, and you’ll find summer scenes, bright colors, and a vibrancy that the climate lacks.

Six artists working in different media titillate memory and senses. Liz Hickok offers translucent images of cityscapes that appear to be made out of jello. The shimmering, jello-mold models she creates deteriorate over time, but these cities of her imagination live on in her photographs.

Margeaux Walter is another photographer who creates scenes, but hers are 3-D lenticulars that consist of separate interlacing images laminated under a lenticular lens. The process causes the images to move about as the viewer looks at them from different angles. She invites you to imagine the story behind the image. Like Cindy Sherman, she plays roles, allowing wigs and costumes to transform her. Bathing beauties loll in a hot tub, a woman has an unfortunate accident with her cell phone, each large-scale image is precisely rendered, fun, and simply fascinating.

Shane McAdams creates “synthetic landscapes.” Imbedded within his large panels are exquisite depictions of the natural world. But they peek out at the viewer from behind a dense abstract overlay of color and texture. The viewer has the sense of gaining insight into a beautiful secret or gazing through an uneven peephole that reveals a wonderland.

Elizabeth Gahan explores the interrelationships of natural and manmade environments in paintings that combine media. Liz Tran’s collaged canvases combine the fanciful with the synthetic. Susan Dory’s pieces have large swaths of color that flow and intersect.

As the title “Synthetic” suggests, in this show you’ll find an interesting and quite satisfying combination of the natural and the man-made with summer color and evocative images. Take a look at the Wächter web site to convince yourself to go.

Through Sept. 2, 2011 at Winston Wächter Gallery, 203 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle, 206 652-5855 or www.winstonwachter.com.