Archive for August 2013

See my Seattle Times review of Karen Schminke’s show at the Patricia Cameron Gallery.


Evening Blues

Evening Blues

“The Wild Party” presented by Sound Theatre Company

A wild party indeed, a jazz age bacchanal! “Wild Party,” written and composed by Andrew Lippa, is based on a 1928 poem that was banned because of its decadence. It’s definitely not a Noel Coward sort of evening. Instead it’s a highly erotic jazz opera, a mixture of Kurt Weill and “Frankie and Johnny.” And this amazingly ambitious production by a small theatre company is very well done. But note, it’s definitely for mature audiences.


Tori Spero as Queenie with admirers

Director Corey McDaniel and his production team have pulled out all the stops. Candace Frank’s costumes marry sleaze to elegance and turn up as sexy. Richard Schaefer’s set evokes both the era and an appropriate East Side Manhattan locale, and his lighting imaginatively uses color to startle and soothe. And musical director Carl Petrillo’s small band sets the mood with its big sound and lively tempo.

The white and black, gay and straight cast is up to all the challenges of the piece, and there are many. Jessica Low’s classy yet demanding choreography requires not only good dancing but also significant acrobatics, all of which have to be executed in a space that is just a bit too small. This is a production that would have been even better had it been performed on a larger stage in a bigger theatre.

Tori Spero exudes eroticism as Queenie, the burlesque hottie whose party it is, and Troy Wagemen as her big, buff lover brings both tenderness and brutality to the role. There are so, so many good actors here, but special mention must be made of Allison Standley as Kate who wants to cut in on Queenie’s territory, and Leslie Wisdom as the lesbian with oomph.

The voices are strong individually and well blended as an ensemble. Yet, like all operas, this one would have been enhanced by a libretto or the projection of text above the stage. Too many of the words are unintelligible. But even if you can’t understand all the words, you know what’s going on, and this is a party you won’t forget.

Through August 25 at Center Theatre in the Seattle Center Armory, Tickets at (or see or 206 856-5520)

“Gruesome Playground Injuries”

Richard Nguyen Sloniker and Amanda Zarr

Amanda Zarr and Richard Nguyen Sloniker

Reckless daredevil meets emotionally wounded depressive in Rajiv Joseph’s heart wrenching play impeccably offered by Azeotrope, and here for only one weekend more. If I were asked to describe it in one word, that would be WOW!

As directed by Desdemona Chiang, there not one unnecessary gesture, not one superfluous element here. We see incidents in the lives of two damaged people over the course of 30 years, beginning when they are eight year old boy and girl, but not presented in chronological order. We watch their contradictory responses to one another: attraction/repulsion, need/nurture. Their relationship is intimate though distanced. That sounds contradictory, and so it might be if Richard Nguyen Sloniker and Amanda Zarr weren’t consummate actors capable of the most nuanced performances.

Under a less gifted team this could be melodramatic. The heartaches and wounds, and there are oh so many wounds, could become cloying but they never do. The characters are beautiful misfits, drawn to each other yet incapable of providing what the other needs. One has to feel sorrow and tenderness for them. Each is so appealing. You yearn for their happiness. It’s not to be.

You know from the moment you enter that this theatre company knows what it’s doing. Deanna Zibello’s deceptively simple green and white set is eerily modern, minimal, and a forecast of what’s to come. There are hospital curtains hanging from metal rods above the stage. The cast simply alters their position to separate each scene. Complementing this set are sound and lighting systems that reinforce mood and action.

Azeotrope is a relatively new company, begun three years ago. This is its third production. The first two won raves. If I were you, I’d catch this one and keep my eyes open for the company’s next project.

Through Aug. 11, The Little Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E, Seattle

“Das Barbecü” in concert Aug. 12-14

I don’t usually do previews, but “Das Barbecü” produced by Sandbox Radio is playing in concert form at West of Lenin, for three days only. And for those of you who like your Wagner light, here’s a heads up. “Das Barbecü” is an alternative or a complement, or maybe just an egregious take-off on Wagner’s renowned “Ring” Cycle that has just begun at McCaw Hall.

Commissioned by Seattle Opera Company some years ago, “Das Barbecü” gives you in just about two hours, what in opera halls takes about 15 hours. But of course it’s not quite the same. Instead of Nordic mythology it gives you Texas shtick. Instead of arias you get Texas twang. It’s an outrageous adaptation that’s got love, hate, feuds, a magic ring, and lots of laughs. So if that interests you, put on your cowboy boots, dig out your Stetson, and mosey on down to see what Sandbox Radio does with this distorted Cliff Notes view of that sacrosanct Wagnerian opus.

It plays Aug. 12-14 at West of Lenin, 203 N 36th Street in Fremont. Tickets at