Archive for May 2013

“33 Variations” at Arts West

This many-layered play takes us back to the 19th Century while rooting us sturdily in the 21 Century. It’s about obsessions—Beethoven’s with a rather mediocre waltz by Anton Diabelli and that of a dying musicologist determined to discover why Beethoven devoted so much of his dwindling energy in the last years of his life to this seemingly unimportant task.

Yet there are other threads woven through this piece, just as there are so many threads woven into the Beethoven Variations. How do we explain commitment, whether it’s the commitment of a scholar to uncover a mystery of the past, or the commitment of a composer to discover every permutation possible with the same few notes?

Playwright Moisés Kaufman also wants us to consider the commitments that human beings have to one another—parent to child, child to parent, genius to subordinate and vise versa. And as we grapple with these concepts, he’s seen to it that we listen to the diverse and beautiful variations that Beethoven created. In this production Katie Koch plays them in commanding style.

Director Christopher Zinovitch’s cast and crew have captured in real life all the passion and longing present in Beethoven’s 33 variations. The entire cast works well as an ensemble. Standouts include Jody McCoy as the ailing but determined musicologist, her daughter Clara, (Allison Standley) who captures the frustrations of a child helpless before her parent’s determination, and Mark Tyler Miller, the nurse who becomes Clara’s lover and effectively mixes compassion with passion.

The play, nominated in 2009 for a Tony in New York, is cleverly interlaced with counterpoints past and present. It’s powerful as an intellectual exploration and equally powerful as a love story. There’s much to commend it.

Through May 25, at Arts West, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle; (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org)

“Boeing Boeing” at Seattle Repertory Theatre

To close out its 50th anniversary, Seattle Rep offers up a 50-year old play whose title speaks volumes to Seattleites and whose subject reminds us of that early feminist time when women were savoring a newfound freedom and men thought they could have it all. “Boeing Boeing” is a farce complete with slamming doors and replete with nostalgic reminders of a time that was. Allison Narver has directed a glorious confection filled with giggles and gauffaws.

At the center of this tale is Bernard, elegantly played by Richard Nguyen Sloniker, all snazzed up in his shiny sharkskin suit. He’s got the good life all figured out. Three gorgeous airline stewardesses, each of whom thinks she’s engaged to him, spend their layover nights in his oh so au courant Paris apartment. All possible because he carefully tracks the airline schedules to assure they don’t bump into one another

What an apartment he has! Carey Wong and the Rep’s design team have created a sleek, elegant setting, filled with technological gadgets, white plastic pod chairs, beanbag chairs, zebra-pillows, and a stereo that plays ’60s music. The set is a marvel, and do spend time in the lobby looking at the display that explains how it was conceived.

Elegant as Bernard is, his friend Robert is without a clue. He arrives from the States just as the schedules suddenly change for Bernard’s carefully timed airline lovelies and they all arrive almost simultaneously. That’s where the doors start slamming and the action becomes frenetic.

Angela DiMarco, Cheyenne Casebier, and Bhama Roget, clothed in Frances Kenny’s svelte and racy costumes play the three babes with sexy delight. But it’s Ann Allgood as the cranky maid and Mark Bedard as the unsophisticated Robert who steal the show.

It’s a feast of pratfalls and sight gags, some of them carried on for a bit too long, but overall a delightful bit of fluff, that provides a fun night at the thetre.

Through May 19 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, (206-443-2222 or www.seattlerep.org).

“The Taming of the Shrew” presented by Seattle Shakespeare Company

You’ve just got to love those rough living, rowdy folks in the down-and-out trailer park on stage in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s ‘Taming of the Shrew”. It may not be exactly as the play is usually presented, but it has all the bawdy, rollicking elements that would have delighted the Bard’s16th Century audiences.

In this adaptation it’s Mama Baptista who guards her daughters rather than their father. Karen Jo Fairbanks makes a shrewd Mama, yes a bit unkempt and lacking in decorum, but she’s a steel-willed autocrat who is determined to marry off Kate, her older, raging bull of a daughter before she’ll release her prized, lovely and lovable younger daughter Bianca. She doesn’t have much luck until Petruchio comes charging in on his motorcycle, backing up his swagger with buff masculinity and the tactics of seasoned battlefield general.

It’s a dream cast on stage here. Clearly the actors love their roles and love the joy their trashy production provides for audiences. Brenda Joyner’s Bianca is winning and willing. Kelly Kitchens as Kate is a bombshell in jeans and a tight top. You just don’t want to get near this firebrand, luscious as she looks! She not only eats up the stage, she eats up any male that comes near her…until Petruchio, that is. This man, marvelously played by David Quicksall, is wily, and has more than enough competence to bring his schemes to fruition.

All this angst plays out on a stage complete with junky trailers, pink flamingos, even a ceramic gnome. In Craig Wollam’s sets, schlocky human debris provides a sharp contrast to the stately trees above, and Jessica Trundy’s lighting emphasizes every mood.

Of course Kate is subdued, a little too quickly and a bit too easily for some of us. But that’s because her submission speaks so loudly of values of the past, not because of any flaws in this production.

Through May 12 at The Playhouse at Seattle Center, 201 Mercer St., Seattle; (206 773-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.org)