Archive for January 2012

New Theatre Awards for Seattle

There’s a new set of theatre awards in Seattle. The Gypsy Rose Lee Awards, inaugurated by a group of local theatre writers and reviewers were announced on January 20, 2012, to honor 2011 outstanding productions, actors, and all the professionals it takes to create theatrical magic.

For a full listing of the honorees go to Facebook and to the Seattle Theatre Writers page. There Miryam Gordon has posted a full listing of the winners. You’ll be reminded of how rich Seattle’s theatre community is and how lucky those of us who love theatre are to have so many choices of such top-notch work.

“How to Write a New Book for the Bible” at Seattle Rep

Well, yes there are references to the Bible here, but this isn’t exactly a “religious” play. Oh it’s about faith, but it’s mostly an emotionally rich, marvelously funny, and insightful exploration of family life—your family and my family as exemplified by playwright Bill Cain’s own family.

Bill Cain is a Jesuit priest who, as his order prescribes, is very much of the lay world. This autobiographical play takes place in his widowed mother’s house. He moved back in when the family learned she had terminal cancer. Through flashbacks, diary entries, encounters, and soliloquies the lives of this family emerge.

“Fights were the sacrament of our family,” he says. And they do fight and swear, but they always make up, and they never stop loving one another. It’s all about love, what parents do for their children because of love, how children respond to love, about unconditional love as well as conditional love. It’s about the fact that there are always things we would have done differently, about how we try and how we fail. It’s about being furious with a loved one and cherishing that same irritating person. It’s about the betrayal one feels at death.

Kent Nicholson directs the production that was developed in association with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The terrific cast is new to Seattle. I only hope they’ll come back. Linda Gehringer as the mother transforms herself in the wink of an eye. At one moment she’s a severely debilitated cancer patient then suddenly she’s a young and flirty newly married woman, a frustrated mother, or a grieving widow. You can’t help adoring her. Tyler Pierce as Bill carries the biggest load in this four-actor work, and in a packed theatre you have the feeling he’s chatting just with you.

Despite the fact that the play is a bit overlong, it’s a powerful piece, and this is an outstanding production.

Through Feb. 5 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St. Seattle (206-443-2222 or www.seattlerep.org)

“Coriolanus by Seattle Shakespeare

Oh brave Coriolanus, did you not know that pride goeth before the fall? But how could you? Your ambitious mother would never include that in her lessons. Sad for you. Your pride and vengeance will kill you in the end.

In this, one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedies, we see a brave and successful warrior undone by hubris and arrogance. He wins a mighty battle, returns to Rome a hero, but he won’t pander to the commoners he detests, and so, despite his valor, he’s exiled from the city he saved. Outraged, he encourages Rome’s enemies to renew their attack under his leadership. It doesn’t work out as he planned. Coriolanus pays with his life.

Director David Quicksall has staged this production in a way that sets it firmly in ancient Rome yet at the same time places it in modern times. He achieves this through Peter Rush’s clever costumes and Gordon Carpenter’s swordplay choreographed as a violent modern ballet. The modern touches reinforce the play’s pertinence to our own society and the world in which we exist. Not much has changed in politics or the power of the rich in more than 2000 years.

David Drummond’s tall, strapping Coriolanus is a presence to be reckoned with. He snarls, shouts angry epithets, spits out scornful curses. Yet despite the overall image of power that he projects, he can be vulnerable when the part calls for it.

Many in the cast deserve praise, especially Therese Diekhans as Volumnia, his ambitious, tough-as-nails mother, Shanelle Leonard as his loving but powerless wife, and David S. Klein and Gerald B. Browning as the conniving politicians who incite the rabble against Coriolanus.

Kent Cubbage’s lighting reinforces the tale, bathing the stage in blood red during battle scenes or harsh white light or key crowd scenes and personal encounter. And kudos to Nathan Wade for his sound.

Ralph Fiennes 2011 movie is due for wide distribution in the United States later this month. Reviews from film festivals and New York applaud it yet suggest it offers a slightly different take on some of the characters. It will be interesting to compare it with this splendid Seattle Shakespeare production.

Through January 29 at Center House Theatre, Seattle Center (206-733-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.org).