Archive for December 2013

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at ACT

It wouldn’t be Christmas in Seattle without ACT’s presentation of “A Christmas Carol,” the Dickens’ fable about greed, love, compassion, and most of all redemption. The production varies from year to year—actors, set, emphasis—with some versions better than others. This year’s version is based on the one presented in 1996, not one of ACT’s most powerful offerings.

Of course, it captures the mystery and message of the holiday. But the ghost of Marley isn’t as frightening; the circumstance of the Cratchits isn’t as moving. The Fezziwig’s celebration isn’t as merry. The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future aren’t as arresting. ACT’s done it better in the past, but even so, the story is a hallmark of the holiday season with a message of good will whose repetition benefits us all. You’ll not be sorry to partake of its magic.

Peter Crook as Ebenezer Scrooge is outstanding; he personifies a true monster of a man before he meets his Christmas Eve apparitions. His ecstacy when he’s reborn on Christmas day is truly infectious. And Justin Alley as the ill-used Bob Cratchit is like a whipped dog when in the company of Scrooge, his nasty employer. But what a lovely father he is when freed from his office.

Despite its limitations, this Christmas standard will move and cheer you.

Through Dec. 29 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle, (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org).

“Hope in Hard Times” At Highline Historical Society

For too many of us, life is not easy these days. Economic uncertainty, unemployment, dislocation, not enough to eat, it all exists, exists here in Washington state. The current exhibition at the Highline Historical Society looks back at another time of economic stress in the United States: the great depression of the 1930s.

This exhibit, originally created by the Washington State History Museum, is touring the state in traveling form, and HIghline is the only King County venue on the schedule. The informative panels with photographs have been enhanced by artifacts of the period contributed by local residents. You may have heard of flour sack dresses: now you can see one and so many other objects of those years.

Curated at Highline by Nancy Salguero McKay, the exhibit runs through January 4, 2014.

Highline Historical Society, 216 SW 153 St., Burien, www.wahopeinhardtimes.net.

Les Miz

See my review in The Seattle Times.

A fine Les Miserables at Village Theater

“Holiday of Errors” Presented by Sound Theatre Company

Double entendres, slippery syllables, rapid-fire wordplay, and sly jokes! If you are a fan of any or all of these, if you like Shakespeare, then “Holiday for Errors” is for you. Written by Seattle actor and writer Frank Lawler and Washington, DC, actor and Shakespeare authority Daniel Flint, this is a production that provides “the definitive” answer to the relationship between Shakespeare and Marlow, and in the process creates a Christmas confection composed of fractured bits from “Twelfth Night,” “Richard III,” and a bit more.Matt Fulbright, Elinor Gunn, Frank Lawler, photo by Ken Holmes

Sound impossible? Not so. This melange brings forth the lame Richard III in company with the gartered Malvolio. You’ll not be surprised that it also has a girl masquerading as a boy. It offers a saucy (let’s say horny) Queen Elizabeth who spends more time plotting her bedroom romps than attending to affairs of state. Unfortunately her stuffy Chamberlain is of the Puritan persuasion and would close down all the theatres and do away with Christmas celebrations. Of course, Christmas and the theatres are saved. Marlow serves as Shakespeare’s muse, and all’s well that ends well.

Richard Schaefer’s simple but elegant set is absolutely lovely, evoking Christmas and serving as a fine Elizabethan background. Schaefer is also the man who designed the lighting that features the most delicate and arresting silhouettes. I’m always amazed when a small theatre company manages to mount a play with lavish costumes. Justine Wright’s Elizabethan outfits for the cast are wonderful.

So, if you’re a Shakespeare fan or enjoy broad humor, come on down to the Center Theatre where Director Teresa Thuman’s concoction offers an unusual Christmas treat.

Through Dec. 21 at Center Theatre in the Seattle Center Armory, in Seattle Center (www.BrownPaperTickets.com or www.SoundTheatreCompany.org).

“Le Club Noel” at Taproot Theatre

The evening’s about to begin at Valerie’s popular Parisian cabaret, but she’s got troubles. The cook’s suddenly missing, and there’s no replacement, that is until an unexpected man walks in to fill the bill. The musicians play. The chanteuse sings. Valerie (acted with panache by Faith Russell) breathes a sigh of relief. And all is well.

But this is 1933, and all is not well in Europe. Memories of WWI resonate. The economic instability reinforces the right wing. There’s an increase in xenophobia; riots break out; and the call for “traditional values” increases in volume. It doesn’t bode well.

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Mark Tyler Miller, Candace Vance and Edd Key in Le Club Noel at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

“Le Club Noel” directed by Karen Lund and written by Seattle locals Candace and Sam Vance is a show that combines harsh political and social realities with the joy and even the miracle of Christmas. It’s filled with good music and humor as well as a few lessons on compassion, trust, and valor.

Candace and Sam Vance, accomplished musicians and actors as well as playwrights, bring a depth of feeling to two of the lead roles. Their young son appears to have inherited their talent. Playing the son of the chanteuse, he transforms from a somber, emotionally wounded child into a joyful magic maker.

On Christmas Eve, Le Club Noel dons festive garb. Its big-hearted, no-nonsense owner Valerie leads the entire audience in a Christmas carol sing-along even as she manages to keep the fascists at bay. Edd Key and Mark Tyler Miller the Club’s two guitarists and Ms. Vance on accordion provide the accompaniment.

This is a refreshing departure from the usual Christmas fare, and it’s a splendid introduction to Taproot’s refurbished home. The theatre company has managed not only to survive the tragic fire of a couple of years ago, but to raise the funds needed to expand its facilities. The handsome new lobby and cafe area along with all the backstage necessities for a growing theatre are now in place.

It is indeed a merry Christmas at Taproot, celebrated with a spirited production.

Through Dec. 28 at Taproot Theatre, 204 North 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).