Archive for October 2013

“The Wizard of Oz” at the Paramount”

It never loses its charm! It’s 75 years later and the movie is still standard fare on TV, and for local theatre groups throughout the country “Wizard…” is considered a sure-fire hit. Now comes a new and wonderful version of this old favorite with almost all the beloved songs from the movie along with a few additional ones by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

Danielle Wade an adorable Dorothy, filled with wonder, properly adventurous, believably frightened, is endowed with a Garland-like singing voice. She and Toto (who is right on cue throughout the production) make a fine pair. Their travelling companions in Oz, Mike Jackson as Tin Man, Jamie McKnight as Scarecrow, and Lee MacDougall as Lion do awfully well, but it’s hard to forget the memorable trio in the 1939 movie.

The good witch, Glenda, is a shimmering vision of beauty and kindness. Her gown and make-up glitter. Meanwhile her nemesis is a green toned somewhat sexy witch in a slinky dress with a slit up three-quarters of her leg, but even a slinky dress can’t hide a truly nasty character with a truly nasty agenda.

This show has a few new touches. There’s a chorus of crows that you’ll not forget. And Professor Marvel’s travelling cart is truly a marvel, especially its slide show. But the wonder, the true marvel of the production is the special effects. The storm that blows into Kansas will figuratively blow you away, and the cyclone is downright scary. And beware the flying monkeys. If your child is five or under and easily frightened this may not be for her or him. But for all the rest of us it’s a treat.

This fairy tale offers messages that resonate: perseverance, setting a goal and working to achieve it, knowing when to accept help. It’s a great show where the little girl is the hero.

Through Oct. 13 at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle, (877-784-4849 or stgpresents.org.tickets.com).

“The Walworth Farce” presented by New Century Theatre

In a dingy little theatre on Capitol Hill, the audience sits on funky chairs waiting for the play to begin. The lights dim; a woman pulls back curtains hung on what looks like a long shower rod to reveal a shabby apartment with decrepit furniture and too many locks on the door.

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Peter Crook, Peter Dylan O’Connor, and Darragh Kennan in The Walworth Farce. Photo by Chris Bennion

An older man splayed in a ratty chair listens to Irish music, while a younger man in his jockies irons a colorful fabric that turns out to be a skirt he promptly puts on. Another young man unloads a bag of groceries. And then the magic begins, begins in an environment that is perfect for it!

You won’t find out from me any plot details because to tell you would spoil the “Ah ha!” moment when you begin to understand the grim game played out on this stage. And oh how well it plays. The acting here is brilliant. Directed by John Kazanjian, actors Peter Crook, Darragh Kennan, and Peter Dylan O’Connor (and in the second act Allison Strickland) are fiercely into their roles.

Watch their faces. Of course the actors talking are intense, but so are the cast members watching them, listening to every word, anticipating what will next be said, gesticulating, building emotional bombshells in response.

This is not a pretty tale. Award winning playwright Enda Walsh (“Disco Pigs” and “Once” are his) has crafted a funny but gruesome family chronicle that grabs you and never lets go. And this cast plays it for all it’s worth. It’s not a theatrical event for those who thought “The Sound of Music” was a theatrical zenith. This is for theatregoers who love the many dimensions of absurdity, and relish the way theatre can work on their minds and generate complex emotions.

There are only 49 seats in this theatre, get one before the run is sold out. And get there early, as parking is a challenge.

Through Oct. 27 at the New City Theatre, 1404 18th Ave., Seattle (www.wearenctc.org/).

“The Taming” at Arts West Theatre

When a writer has a play that’s topical, a play whose topicality increases with each passing month, the impetus is to get it up and running as soon as possible. “The Taming” indeed deals with a subject—our malfunctioning national government—that increases in importance, not month by month, but day by day. The problem here is that the work has been rushed to the stage before it’s ready. Some thoughtful rewrite to get rid of clichés, stale jokes, sophomoric set ups, and gratuitous homosexuality could work to make this topical script a good night in the theatre.

Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Justine Rose Stillwell as Miss Georgia

In “The Taming” a fervid conservative and an impassioned liberal are locked in a hotel room without their cell phones or any other device that might set them free. Their captor is Georgia’s Miss American contestant who’s “gonna make her mama and Jesus proud.” The beauty contest will be her platform to force rewrite of the American Constitution, and her female captives, are just the people to make this dream come true.

Through some quick time travel, we realize that many of the battles waged by Congress, the Supreme Court, and the President were built into the Constitution by self-interest disguised as honorable intent. Self-interest and greed prevailed in 1787 just as they prevail today.

Should the Constitution be changed? What about the Electoral College? What about the definition of a militia? Does the Constitution suit the country today? All good questions, but this play isn’t the vehicle to address them.

A co-world-premiere, produced in association with Crowded Fire Theatre in San Francisco, it’s got lots of laughs, some better than others. Justine Rose Stillwell, Dayo Anderson, and Anna Townes perform well. The play doesn’t.

Through Oct. 19 at Arts West, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org).

Xanadu at Village Theatre

See my article in the Seattle Times:

http://seattletimes.com/html/thearts/2021883987_xanaduvillagetheatrexml.html

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“The Servant of Two Masters” at Seattle Rep

Mayhem, slapstick, and low-brow comedy are cleverly combined in “The Servant of Two Masters.” What you have here is Constance Congdon’s translation of Carlo Goldoni’s 1745 adaptation of 16th C. commedia dell’arte, further adapted and directed by Christopher Bayes, Director of the Yale Drama School. With ad libs, improvisations, and wry comments on today’s news provided by the cast.

That’s a mouthful! But it suggests the long theatrical roots of this play as well as its pertinence to Seattle audiences today. This production moves along with the speed of a bullet. Once it gets going there’s no stopping it, and if you like raw humor, whimsy, and physical comedy you’ll be laughing uproariously as love struck, befuddled, and wily characters seek to satisfy their not always noble ends.

At its center is Truffaldino, the conniving but not too smart guy who tries to serve two masters. Steven Epp (who collaborated with Bayes on this adaptation) is clown, dunce, and hungry fool as Truffaldino. He just wants enough to eat but winds up wrecking havoc in his quest. With comic ineptitude, in his tricornered hat and mask he’s the imp at the center of much of the action. Masks are worn by many of the players, a tradition that date backs to the 16th C.

Most of the actors have worked with Mr. Bayles in productions of this play done in other cities. How nice that Seattle locals, Julie Briskman playing the maid, Smeraldina, and Allen Galli as the enormously fat father, Il Dottore are perfectly integrated into the agile and clever cast where gestures speak volumes and the timing is everything.

Aaron Halva and Carolyn Boulay, the onstage musicians, add enormously to the frivolity. The set has a simplicity that speaks to the ancient roots of this play, but, when combined with the lighting and sound effects, this is a production for today.

The ad libs with current national and Seattle references are sometimes a bit flat but most are deliciously on target. If you’re a fan of the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, “I Love Lucy,” even “South Park,” you have been enjoying some of the modern descendants of the Renaissance comedians who wowed their long ago audiences with commedia dell’arte. It’s a form that has persevered because it’s just so, so satisfying.

Through Oct. 20 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle (206 443-2222 or www.seattlerep.org).