Archive for September 2011

“An Ideal Husband” by Oscar Wilde at Taproot Theatre

Karen Lund, this production’s director, reminds us that “righteousness and pride can be just as wrong as manipulation and deceit.” It’s certainly the lesson in “An Ideal Husband”, but, when Oscar Wilde moralizes, he makes sure witty lines, elegant settings and glorious costumes buttress that lesson. This production has them all.

Mark Lund’s set is quite simple, yet the mural backdrop with its graceful swirl of Renoir-like colors provides majesty to the whole stage. And Nanette Acosta’s velvety-satiny costumes typify the opulence of late 19th C. upper class life as well as being nicely chosen to represent the personalities of the characters who wear them.

The actors work well together as an ensemble. And there are a few delicious parts that give their performers a wonderful opportunity to strut their stuff. Lord Goring, like Wilde himself, is a witty and lovable dandy. He’s a modern man in an old fashioned world. Aaron Lamb as Goring moves with just the right assurance and nonchalance the part demands. Nolan Palmer makes an ideal Lord Caversham, harumping and sputtering at his displeasure with his son, the insufficiently serious Lord Goring.

One of the wonderful aspects of seeing an Oscar Wilde play is to hear again or be introduced to so many of his bon mots. They are sprinkled throughout the script. You might want to think about how apt they and the whole concept of the play is for modern audiences.

Through Oct. 22 at Taproot Theatre, 204 North 85th St, Seattle. (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org)

Sculpture from Zimbabwe now in Ballard

On a quiet street in Ballard, dozens of stone sculptures from the artist colony of Tengenenge, in Zimbabwe are on view and for sale. They are elegant works combining the aesthetic of the Shona tribe with the modernism that Picasso provided in his interpretation of African art.

On display are representations of animals and mothers and children. They range in size from about six inches to five feet. The artists have had major shows in Chicago as well as in San Francisco and are represented in museum collections in the United States and Europe. Their presence in Seattle is an interesting story.

Susanne Martin Herz and Arnd Herz, two pediatricians formerly of Seattle visited Zimbabwe, saw these sculptures made by members of the Shona tribe, loved them, and decided to market them for the betterment of the artists and their communities. They established a nonprofit agency called House of Stone and recruited Jean and John Boliver, at whose home the sculptures are displayed, to its Board.

In 2010, House of Stone helped fund a preschool for the deaf, provided education and warm meals for 270 preschoolers, supported job-skills training for vulnerable girls, and maintained programs at preschools that were under threat of closure. Over 95% of funds raised go back to help the children of Zimbabwe.

More than half of the recent shipment has already been sold, but a wide variety of work is still available.

Stone Sculpture from Zimbabwe, (john.boliver@comcast.net)

“Carolee Schneemann: Within and Beyond The Premises” at the Henry Art Gallery

If you are nostalgic for the late ‘60s and the ‘70s, or, if you never experienced them and you want to see what its avant-garde art scene was like, then head over to the Henry for its current show of the quintessential Carolee Schneemann. Her work and that of others led to the heady days when Karen Finely smeared chocolate on herself and presented it as performance art then caused an outcry with her parody “Poo Poo and Pee Pee.” These were the days when artists were most interested in shocking their audiences, producing social commentary rather than memorable art.

Featured in this exhibit are videos, implements, paintings, works on paper, and constructions, almost all of it “courtesy of the artist.” Draw your own conclusions.

Schneemann contributed to body art, performance art and feminism. Here you’ll get to see “Meat Joy” a film in which raw chickens, sausages, and fish vie for attention with semi-nude blood-smeared human bodies. There’s also “Up To and Including Her Limits” featuring, and here let me quote, “the ecstatic-endurance spectacle of the artist’s nude body swinging from a harness as she draws.”

Schneemann’s work, and that of many of her contemporaries contributed mightily to the effort to free our society from the hang-ups and prudery of the past. For that we have to thank them, so this exhibit is of considerable historic interest. Besides, without them there’d be no “South Park.”

Through December 30 at the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington Campus, 15th Ave. NE and NE 41st St., Seattle. (206 543-2280 or www.henryart.org)

“Prey” and “Projects” Two Shows at Winston Wachter Gallery

Predator/prey, a shift of balance, one moment the predator, the next the prey, so it goes for both lower animals and humans. Explore that relationship with the photographs, mixed media constructions, works in glass and encaustic currently on view at Winston Wachter.

One piece not to miss is Casey Curran’s “Modus Vivendi” (49 X 114 X 15 inches). This large mixed media piece consists of individual wood duck feathers, each within a wood frame, and, in the middle of them, the reconstructed bird, made of hand scored, hand cut brass feathers. Curran bought the dead duck on eBay. His piece speaks to death but also to everlasting existence. The duck is gone; its feathers may disintegrate over time; the brass construction will live on.

Deborah Horell’s painted or enameled birds on glass play on the shifts of balance between prey and predator. The photographs by Juniper Shuey and Zoe Scofield offer Freudian glimpses into unconscious realities. “Straight Line” shows an unending line of white-painted, puff-headed, faceless nude women deep in the woods. But wait, aren’t they all the same woman? “Prey” is filled with works that demand your attention and play with your brain as well as your eyes.

Complementing “Prey” is “Projects,” solo installations by Chris McMullen and Chris Pfister who share an interest in industrialization and the economic expansion that resulted. McMullen creates structures that move. The enormous “Crank” overwhelms the visitor who can turn its wheel and initiate slow rhythmical movement. It looks like a machine but like so much in our society, what does it do?

Pfister is represented by a stunning grouping of oil paintings that look like old snapshots capturing Western United States in the late 19th C. The sepia and grey coloring and the way in which the individual paintings relate to each another draw one in. They demand reflection on what was and what is now.

Through Nov. 3, Winston Wachter Gallery, 203 Dexter Ave., Seattle, (206 652-5855 or gallery@winstonwachter.com).

“Mary Stuart” by Friedrich Schiller at ACT

When two of Seattle’s finest female actors take the stage in two of theatre’s most dynamic roles . . . well then you can expect a thrilling experience. And you get it here in Director Victor Pappas’ production.

Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots (Anne Allgood), has been locked in the Tower for almost 20 years by her Protestant cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England (Suzanne Bouchard). Elizabeth must do all necessary to protect her throne. Mary must protect her life. The two women might have worked it out except for the manipulations and ambitions of the smarmy men surrounding them.

This somewhat fictionalized history reaches its climax when the two women meet. On Broadway a rainstorm increased the dramatic tension of the meeting. There’s no rain in this production, but the scene will put you on the edge of your seats anyway.

The entire cast deserves praise. You can almost feel the stomach-churning bile that accompanies the subservience of the male courtiers as they deal with these strong-minded women. And the love and heartbreak of Marianne Owen as Mary’s nurse/confidant is palpable.

Kudos to ML Geiger for lighting that intensifies the drama throughout, and to Frances Kenny for costumes that reinforce both the sexism and the power struggles.

But be aware that this is a nearly three-hour production. In these days of instant-on and quick-dissolve TV our capacity for intense concentration over long periods has been reduced. Prepare yourself for that.

Through Oct. 9 at ACT Theatre 700 Union Street, Seattle, 206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org