Archive for May 2014

“King Lear” at Seattle Shakespeare

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The cast of Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of “King Lear.” Photo by John Ulman.

Oh Lear, how could you be so foolish? There you are, a seemingly well-liked and quite competent king, and what do you do but give away your assets and your powers to the next generation. Your vanity demands that the distribution depend on how each of your three daughters lauds you and professes her love for you. Goneril and Regan, the avaricious two, rise to the challenge with smarmy declarations. Cordelia, the one who really loves you and whom you knew really loves you, wants to play no word game. If only you weren’t so vain.

Of course, once they get their power, Goneril and Regan with their husbands plot your end. Cordelia never waivers in her love for you even after you banish her. Meanwhile in the Duke of Gloucester’s family, bastard son turns against legitimate son. It’s a rapid spiral down for all. The plight of old age with all its losses and the potential tensions and the rivalries within families are certainly here, but the overall production lacks fire.

There are powerful moments. Dan Kremer as Lear has gravitas when sane. He doesn’t make a very good mad man. Michael Winters triumphs as Gloucester, the man who grows in stature and reason as the play progresses and who is so horribly wronged. The scene with the blinding of Gloucester is devastating.

Linda K. Morris as Goneril and Debra Pralle as Regan have moments of true grace. They can move from haughty to vicious in the blink of an eye. The decision to play the Duke of Kent as Duchess of Kent was brilliant. Amy Thone owns the role. She exudes fortitude, wisdom and an ability to see life’s ironies even in the most difficult circumstances.

But great bits and pieces don’t make for a great production. This plays on the large Cornish Playhouse stage (formerly Intiman), and Director Sheila Daniels decided to mount it with minimalist set and with costumes that are neither modern nor early 17th Century. The huge stage seems to overwhelm what goes on within it. This is especially true in one of the memorable moments in the play—the storm. Here again it was too little for the big stage.

So, despite some really fine high spots, this turns out to be a long three hours.

Through May 11 by Seattle Shakespeare Company at Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, (206 733-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.org).

“Truth Like the Sun” at Book-It”

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The Cast of Truth Like the Sun
Photo by Chris Bennion

Seattle boosterism! Seattle enthusiasm! Seattle nostalgia! “Truth Like the Sun” by local novelist Jim Lynch bursts onto Book-It’s stage with the opening party for the 1962 World’s Fair. Seattle is about to present to the world a fair filled with futuristic wonders—the monorail, the space needle, the science pavilion. Goodbye sleepy backwater! Hello major metropolis! If you adore Seattle history this production, adapted by Kevin McKeon’s and directed by Jane Jones will please you.

At the novel’s center is Roger Morgan (Chris Ensweiler), a visionary backslapper who saw the potential for such an enterprise. His energy and contacts did much to make it happen, and he actually designed the Space Needle on the back of a napkin then helped find funding for it.

Just imagine the celebration on stage! The excitement, the lively party! Then all too soon, the play’s time shifts to 2001 when the overly ambitious Helen Gulanos (Jennifer Lee Taylor), a new to Seattle reporter for the P.I., learns about the fair and Roger’s role in its development as she covers Roger who is now a candidate in Seattle’s mayoral race. Despite Roger’s overwhelming charm, there’s something about him that bothers her. What she finds convinces her that he’s not quite what he appears to be. There are probably some pretty smelly deals in the background of this enthusiastic glad hander Thus begins her quest for information to support an exposè that might well earn her a Pulitzer Prize.

Unfortunately, in this production, the three separate stories (Roger Morgan’s story, Helen’s story, and the story of Seattle’s coming of age) aren’t effectively woven into one overriding tale. The individual bits and pieces never come together. The drama does raise some interesting questions about journalistic ethics, but these aren’t really explored.

Seattle in the 1960s is well presented in Catherine Cornell’s clever set. It features a series of changing Seattle photomontages that work as a backdrop to the action. There’s something charming and naive about the images of the Fair and Seattle in that transitional time. We’re a very different city now.

Book-It is renowned for it’s ability to adapt literature for the stage. This is one of their less successful adaptations.

Through May 18 at Center Theatre in the Armory in Seattle Center, (206 216-0833 or boxoffice@book-it.org).