Archive for March 2013

Copious Love presents “Cedar and the Redwoods”

“Cedar and the Redwoods” the first dramatic play by this one-year-old company deals with death . . . the death of a sister, the death of dreams, yet there’s a new life for the lead character, Cedar, well played by Reagan Dicky. The hallmark of the company is that it produces only original work, work that its members conceive and develop. They create modern plays tied in some way to Seattle. It’s an ambitious goal they set for themselves.

In this production, Cedar and her subconscious companions set off for home after learning that her sister has succumbed to the cancer she’s come so close to beating. Instead of travelling toward California on I-5, Cedar is encouraged to take the more circuitous Route 101 through the redwood forest. There among the towering trees she comes to terms with the demons that have been plaguing her for most of her adult life. In effect, she’s reborn.

The three other cast members in this production assume nine roles, playing her car companions, relatives, lover, teacher, and others. It’s understandable why a new company, probably operating on a shoestring, would want to cut down on the number of actors, but it’s a bit much to pull off. C0-Directors John Paul Sharp and Lucy Sarco have obviously guided the players to provide unique characterizations for each role. Despite this effort, it is sometimes confusing for the audience and too demanding for the actors.

The play, too, is a bit rough. Yet the concept is a good one, and with a little more work, it could be quite strong. The company didn’t start writing until September 2012, so we are seeing a very early iteration.

Production values are high. The company’s tech designer, Tony Gavilanes, achieves all sorts of miracles with limited resources. There’s a spectacular moonrise, a clever device to suggest the highway trip, and some fine lighting effects. Set designer Jessica Pickett has created a remarkably apt redwood forest. Kudos to both of them.

Warning: disregard information that suggests the play begins at 7:00. It starts at 7:30.

Through April 6 at Washington Hall, 153 14th Ave., Seattle (www.CopiousLove.org)

“Good People” at Seattle Rep

So what defines good people, and who are the good ones on this stage? David Lindsay-Abaire’s Tony nominated play doesn’t provide easy answers. At the end of this splendid production you may well be wondering just how to answer that question. Meantime you’ll laugh loudly, weep silently at desperate lives, and question just where the truth lies here and in so much else in life.

This production directed by David Saint and co-produced by Seattle Rep and George Street Playhouse is brilliant. I saw the play in New York, and it’s better here. James Youmans’ set with its stage-wide panoramas of Boston’s Southside neighborhood draw you into that community even before you meet the beleaguered Margaret whose difficult life is the central story.

Ellen McLaughlin as Margaret epitomizes a world-beaten woman who is forced to face still one more devastating blow. Her shoulder shrugs, eyebrow lifts, lip clenches, and every other body gesture tell everything. Cynthia Lauren Tewes as her landlady cum friend and Marianne Owen as her well-meaning friend spit out their funny lines with verve and perfect timing.

The entire cast has been faultlessly chosen, just right for their parts. Watch Zakiya Young playing the upper class wife of one of Margaret’s former boyfriends. He’s the only Southie Margaret knows who has truly made it, and Margaret wants a favor from him. Young’s character has a lot to take in when Margaret drops by, and she, too, says so much with body language and facial expressions.

This is a play about class differences. It’s an exploration of the role luck plays in our lives, but, above all, it’s an exploration of what constitutes a good person. Fine play combined with a superb production make it a real winner.

Through March 31 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, (206 443-2222 or www.seattlerep.org)

“Love’s Labour Lost” Produced by Seattle Shakespeare Company

Get here early and walk into a theatre that’s been transformed into a classy salon of the 1920s. Men in formal dress are cavorting, fixing drinks at a well-equipped drink cart, and prancing like fey Oxbridge students or upper class gentlemen in the confines of their private clubs. The sumptuous stage set, designed by Andrea Bryn Bush, is one of the stars of the production, and this pre-show entertainment is a delight.

When the play begins you learn that these frolicking gentlemen include the King of Navarre and three of his noblemen. They agree to eschew the company of women for three years and devote themselves to study. Ha! You can just guess how successful that will be, especially as the lovely Princess of France is due to visit with her attractive ladies in waiting. When the ladies arrive in Deane Middleton’s elegant costumes, you know the men are lost.

“Love’s Labour Lost”, one of Shakespeare’s early comedies, is not among his most popular with modern audiences. Wordplay is one of its key attractions, but some of that is unfamiliar today, and, in this production, much of the dialog is lost because a number of the performers are difficult to understand.

One actor whose every word is clear is David Quicksall as the fatuous Spanish swordsman who has his own romantic desires. Even with his thick Spanish accent, Quicksall’s every word is precise, and most of them are funny. In demeanor, comportment, and posture, Quicksall steals the stage. Another scene stealer is Micky Rowe as the small but agile Moth.

Paul Stuart excels as Berowne, one of the king’s three noblemen. This is his first Seattle performance, and I, for one, hope he sticks around. Shakespeare’s language rolls off his tongue with grace and great clarity.

This is a very funny production. There’s a wonderful bit between effete secular and religious scholars, exposing their snobbery and ridiculing it. This is just one of the delightfully silly antics in the second act.

Director Jon Kretzu’s production has much going for it. It would have been better had I understood every word.

Through April 7 at Center House Theatre, Seattle Center, (206 733-8228 or www.seattleshakespeare.org)

“Next Fall” at Arts West

It’s not easy to be gay if you’re a Christian Fundamentalist. Here, poor Luke (David Elwyn Traylor) knows that his southern family would be horrified if they knew of his sexual preference, and even more distraught if they found out his lover, Adam (Christopher Zinovitch), was a nonbeliever. Life can be hell, but he makes it work because he also knows that as long as he believes in Jesus his carnal sins will be forgiven. Maybe that’s why he prays after sex.

That praying stuff is rough on Adam, but he really loves his much younger bedmate and revels in their relationship. Then tragedy strikes. Luke is hit by a cab and lies in a coma close to death. Of course his divorced parents arrive and take over.

One of the play’s values is its insight into the effect repressive laws have on gays and lesbians. Adam isn’t allowed in Luke’s hospital room. Family members only are permitted. His four-year relationship with Luke is unrecognized. His emotional pain receives no sympathy, isn’t even recognized.

Nuance isn’t this play’s strong point. It’s filled with shopworn elements. There’s the stereotypic fag hag, Holly, played with empathy by Kate Witt. Patricia Haines-Ainsworth as Luke’s mother is marvelously funny as the southern bimbo, but she’s straight out of a TV sit com. We know little about Luke’s father, tritely named Butch, except that he’s harsh. And Brandon, Luke’s friend, is a curious presence who sits beatifically on the couch through most of the play.

The play’s nomination for a Tony when it appeared in NY in 2010 was probably related to its political timeliness not its quality. Perhaps we’re more sophisticated about the issues today and want more insightful attention to them, something with tighter focus and greater depth.

Through April 6 at Arts West, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle (206 938-0339 or www.ArtsWest.org)