Archive for July 2012

“Miracle!” by Dan Savage invades Intiman

I’m still laughing at the sequin studded, outrageous “Miracle!” Not only is it one of the funniest plays on Seattle main stages in many a year, but the ending is so cleverly contrived you have to tip your hat to its writer/director, the irreverent Mr. Savage.

But be warned, as the sign in the lobby says, you’ll find: “disgusting language; simulated sex acts; vulgar, nasty jokes” and more. If you’re game for anything, don’t miss this. It’s a take-off on “The Miracle Worker” set in a drag bar, where there’s a problem.

The unruly, blind and deaf Helen Stellar is a wild thing. She continually trashes the wardrobes and makeup the queens use. What’s more, she’s destroying the ambiance of the club. But her father/mother Crystal Pain (the marvelous Burton Curtis) insists Helen perform. Meanwhile, Child Protective Services demands that she receive an education. In comes lesbian teacher Annie Sullivan (well played by Hannah Victoria Franklin) who is determined to tame the wild girl and teach her to understand language.

Jonathon Pyburn as Helen has a body made of rubber. It twists, spreads, falls, and eventually dances as he/she morph from creature to sentient person. He and all the males playing female roles are absolutely mahvelous bitchy queens. What’s particularly fun is remembering the roles they and the female actors play in the other offerings in this summer festival. One stand out is Timothy McCuen Piggee, the lecherous judge in Hedda Gabler and Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet. He makes a remarkable drag performer dressed in her skintight body suit.

So put on your bling; pad your buns and whatever else needs padding, and join the summer fun at Intiman. You won’t regret it.

In Repertory through Aug. 25 (check box office at 206 443-7178 or www.intiman.org for exact dates), Intiman Theatre 201 Mercer St., Seattle.

Intiman Theatre Festival—“Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen

From the minute Hedda walks onto the Intiman stage you know she’s not a nice person. And for the next two hours she does everything in her power to convince you that she really is quite despicable. Marya Sea Kaminski does an outstanding job of portraying her as a self centered, dishonest, manipulative user.

There’s nothing to like about her. And that’s the problem with Director Andrew Russell’s modern production. When Ibsen wrote the play in 1890, women were snared in a sexist society. They were controlled by their fathers, handed over to their husbands, given few opportunities to find their own lives.

Ibsen’s Hedda was a tragic neurotic, repressed by society. Trapped as she was, no wonder she couldn’t control her anger. Intiman’s Hedda, a modern woman according to her dress, has nothing about her to make one feel sorry for her. Okay, her husband isn’t a world beater, but as played by Ryan Fields he’s a nice enough guy, not the brilliant scholar he wants to be, but not bad.

I wanted to yell at Hedda, “Get a life! Go back to school. Get a job. Do good works. See a shrink about your anger issues. Do any of the things that weren’t available to 19th C. women.”

Of course she doesn’t, and wreaks havoc on all around her. But she does it on an intriguing set by Jennifer Zeyl. Both open and closed throughout the performance it suggests nuances that the rest of the production doesn’t. But one aspect seemed inappropriate. High above the set is a balcony of sorts, and on it, from time to time, sit the three men who in the 19th Century would have wielded power over Hedda. They don’t in this production.

The supporting cast works well together. Fawn Ledesma is especially adept at embodying all the conflicting emotions, fears, and aspirations of Thea, a likable neurotic woman.

In Repertory through Aug. 25 (check box office at 206 443-7178 or www.intiman.org for exact dates), Intiman Theatre 201 Mercer St., Seattle.

“Suddenly Last Summer” by Tennessee Williams offered by Theatre 9/12

No one could accuse Tennessee Williams of being subtle or emotionally restrained, and “Suddenly Last Summer” is one of his least restrained plays. So don’t go to Theatre 9/12’s production expecting a gentle little evening. Instead you’ll find a gripping, emotionally tense production from curtain up to curtain down. And of course, like so many of Williams’ other plays, there’s more than a little autobiography here.

As the curtain goes up on a lush, tropical New Orleans garden, we meet the wealthy Mrs. Venable. She’s a handsome woman, obviously well bred, and from a fine family. So why does she want the young Doctor Cukrowicz to lobotomize her niece Catherine? And why offer him a handsome gift for his research foundation if he does it?

The attractive young Catherine had witnessed the death of Mrs. Venable’s son, Sebastian, last summer on holiday in Europe. Sebastian usually traveled with his adoring mother who would do anything for him, anything at all. But Mommy had suffered a stroke and was no longer as attractive or young as Sebastian needed for his perverse purposes. He recruited the lovely Catherine as travel companion instead. And now Catherine is saying the most terrible things about his death, things too gruesome to even contemplate. She needs to be silenced.

Director Charles Waxberg has provided us with a carefully wrought production—from the sound system that reinforces plot and symbolism to his gifted cast. Lisa Carswell plays a taut Mrs. Venable. She captures all the anger and determination of this tightlipped woman even as she maintains her lady-like decorum.

In opposition to this controlled character is Sarah Milici’s Catherine who is often out of control. Her hands flutter and flail. Her body crumples. Her eyes reveal the horror she has witnessed. Her experience last summer with Sebastian has indeed inflicted a psychic wound, but we know she is in no way a candidate for a lobotomy. One of the strengths of this production is the powerful contrast between the two female leads.

Catherine’s mother (Kate Szyperski) and brother George (well acted by Eric Olson who appears a little too old for the role) beautifully reveal how greed warps minds and creates monsters. And this is a play about greed and about our capacity to devour one another as we use them.

Weekends through July 29 (check web site for exact dates), at 609 8th Ave. (Trinity Parish Hall), Seattle, 206 332-7908 or www.theatre912.com.

“The Producers” at Everett Performing Arts Center

If you missed seeing “The Producers” in Issaquah, order your tickets now while the production is still playing in Everett. You won’t be sorry.

Mel Brooks has the ability to conceive the unthinkable, present the outrageous, break every rule of political correctness, and cause audiences to howl with laughter at each breech of our social mores. Just in case you’ve somehow missed seeing the movie or the Broadway or traveling productions, just in case you’ve not heard about this work, I’ll quote from Mr. Brooks himself. This is “a gay romp with Adolf and Eva in Berchtesgaden.”

From the opening number to the spectacular second act highlight, “Springtime for Hitler,” you’ll find yourself doubled up with laughter. The book (Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan) is hard to beat, and this production directed by Steve Tomkins is first class. It’s full of clever stagecraft; the lighting highlights every move; the costumes are straight from Broadway. The only less than excellent aspect is the sound that doesn’t overcome the “miked” quality when the actors speak.

The entire cast is winning. Special kudos for Brian Earp who captures all the neuroticism of Leo Bloom and then bursts forth as he finds himself. With his great voice and fancy dancing, Earp makes one think of a young Matthew Broderick. And Jessica Skerritt as Ulla gives a heightened meaning to sex appeal.

This is a show where the smallest detail reinforces the humor and adds to audience enjoyment. Read the signs; study the costumes; listen carefully to the words; and let the delight overwhelm you.

Through July 29 at Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett, 425 257-8600 or www.villagetheatre.org

Orion Out Loud: Playwright’s Fest

One night only–July 28–to see the culmination of six weeks’ work by homeless and at-risk Seattle youth who have been guided by local theatre professionals in creating their own one-act plays. Each play provides insights into the experiences that mark their daily lives and explores their reactions to those experiences.

The performance will take place at the Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave., Seattle, on July 28 at 8:00 PM. There are no advance sales. Audience members will be asked for a $10 donation at the door to support the program as it moves forward.

For information contact sarah.e.grosman@gmail.com