Archive for November 2011

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens at ACT Theatre

This is one of those oldies but goodies. No matter how many times you see it, it still warms the heart. For many of us it’s one of the Seattle Christmas traditions that can’t be missed.

This year’s version, directed again by Allison Narver, plays as one act for 90 minutes. David Pichette and Jeff Steitzer who alternate in the role of Scrooge are seasoned actors who can be very mean indeed. That is until the three Christmas spirits reveal the error of Scrooge’s ways to them and prove that redemption is possible. And oh how scary is Burton Curtis as the Ghost of Jacob Marley.

Sweet Christmas carols, charming children, and lively traditional English dances offer a counterpoint to the rattling chains and eerie, ghoulish ghosts of Marley and Christmas future. Mr. Dickens would be very pleased with this production.

“Bah humbug,” says Scrooge at the very thought of charity, of providing for the poor. “Are there no prisons . . . no work houses? . . . let (the poor) die and decrease the surplus population.” What a timely reminder that greed and selfishness are not admirable characteristics. Where are the Christmas ghosts when we need them?

Through Dec. 24 at ACT Theatre 700 Union St., Seattle. (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org)

“Beasley’s Christmas Party” at Taproot Theatre

“Beasley’s Christmas Party” which began as a Booth Tarkington short story has been beautifully adapted for the theatre by C.W. Munger. And Director Scott Nolte’s production captures all its sweet wonder.

Set in the first decade of the Twentieth Century in small town Indiana, it’s the tale of neighbors, assumptions, misunderstandings, and most of all great goodness. The Beasley of the title is a popular politician, a bachelor whose behavior has become quite strange, strange enough for most people to shake their heads in confusion and a few to see this as a chance for personal gain.

Gradually the audience learns that “strange” can sometimes mask benevolence. By the end, when Beasley throws his sumptuous, spectacular, and wondrous Christmas party, we all share in the good fellowship of the season.

The excellent cast of four (Don Brady, Aaron Lamb, Frank Lawler, and Lisa Peretti) play numerous roles. Their quick changes are both funny and terribly clever.

Like so many Christmas productions, the message here relates to kindness and good will. Unlike so many Christmas plays, this message is presented with quiet subtlety. Taproot has given us a charming production, and, if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye . . .then look carefully into your heart.

Through December 30 at Taproot Theatre, 204 North 85th Street, Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org). Taproot suggests that children attendees be at least 8 years old.

New Century Theatre’s Free Reading Salon

If you love theatre, you’ve got to love the fact that you live in Seattle. Yes, we’re a long way from Broadway, but we have exquisite talent here and untold opportunities to see what it can do, sometimes even without cost. I’ve already written about the Endangered Species Project that offers wonderfully good free readers’ theatre at various Seattle theatres every third Monday of the month. Now let me tell you about another little gem.

Every third Monday of the month at Solo Bar (200 Roy St.) cast members of the New Century Theatre Company read from a script selected by one of the troupe. It too is a free evening (donations accepted). The reading starts at 7:30. You can buy some food and drink if you are so inclined or just settle in on one of the comfy chairs and enjoy the performance.

On Nov. 21 “Holy Days” by Sally Nemeth was featured. You probably never heard of it, and that’s one of the reasons it was chosen. It’s a stark tone poem of a play about four struggling people in the dying Dust Bowl plains of Kansas during the 1930s.

Hans Altwies, Darragh Kennan, Jen Taylor, and Amy Thone played the brothers and their wives who desperately try to hang on as their world steadily blows away. Overall the acting was powerful. But Amy Thone as one of the wives was incredible. She looked weary at the start; gradually more and more life was sucked out of her. She morphed into a Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange portrait of suffering womanhood. What a performance!

Check out the company’s web site. Not all theatre is dark on third Monday nights in Seattle.

New Century Theatre Company 1122 E. Pike St. #598, Seattle 98112 or info@newcenturytheatrecompany.org

“Double Indemnity” based on the book by James M. Cain at ACT Theatre

Don’t go to ACT expecting Billy Wilder’s 1944 classic noir film. Oh you’ll see “Double Indemnity” all right, but this manifestation more closely corresponds to the original James M. Cain book from which the movie was adapted. Written by Seattle favorites David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright, this stage version will keep you on the edge of your seats, just as the movie does.

The provocative though murderous blonde (Carrie Paff) meets “everyman” in the person of Water Huff (John Bogar) an insurance agent who, a little too quickly and enthusiastically, becomes her accomplice in the plot to kill her husband and collect the insurance. Ah, how easily lust takes control! In Director Kurt Beattie’s mind, the play is metaphor for much of contemporary society.

Paff’s greedy Phyllis is thoroughly evil. She’s grasping and will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what she wants. Huff hasn’t the moral fiber to resist her charms or her schemes. Why should he? All too happy to win the luscious babe and a share in the hefty insurance settlement, he helps her plan the perfect crime. Only it isn’t perfect.

Paff is better as evil witch than seductress. Bogar manages to be both wily and naïve. The supporting cast is strong and amazingly versatile as they each take on multiple roles.

It all plays out on a stunning stage (designed by Thomas Lynch) that appears to be made of highly polished malachite. As panels of this green box slide away, scenes are revealed. A revolving segment of the floor offers other clever set spaces. Like Phyllis this set has no soft edges. Rick Paulsen’s lighting enhances the effect. Here visual purity is in sharp contrast to moral depravity.

Through November 20 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle. (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org)