Archive for July 2014

“An Evening of One Acts” at ACT

Director R. Hamilton Wright offers us three one act plays by three great contemporary writers, and I defy you not to find something to like here.

Steve Martin’s “Patter for a Floating Lady” and Woody Allen’s “Riverside Drive” reflect on the love life of both writers. They are certainly not autobiographical, but the manner in which they address those most basic human emotions—love and lust—suggest personal experience.

They make up the first act of this three-play presentation, and by the time they are completed you will be weak from the bombardment of merciless humor. I can’t remember when I have heard an audience laugh so hard and so continuously.

Steve Martin presents a cocky magician (David Foubert) who promises to levitate his incredibly attractive assistant (Jessica Skerritt). He’s all exaggerated gestures, pomposity, and hyperbole as he waves his magic wand and places her on the bench that he’ll cause to lift into the air. He tries mightily and with incredible ineptitude to reignite the spark he presumed existed between them. But sometimes lovers are just too dense, make just too many demands. His failure is both poignant and hilarious.

ACT-AnEveningOfOneActs-RiversideDrive - Eric Ray Anderson and Chris Ensweiler and Jessica Skerritt_thumb

Eric Ray Anderson, Chris Ensweiler, and Jessica Skerritt “Riverside Drive”
Photo: Chris Bennion

Woody Allen takes us to a walkway along the Hudson River on the Westside of his beloved Manhattan. There Jim, an insecure, neurotic writer à la Allen himself (played wonderfully by Chris Ensweiler) encounters a crazed street person (played marvelously by Eric Ray Anderson) who claims, not only to know Jim, but to have collaborated with him on all his work.

Jim denying any connection with this crazy person gradually falls completely under his spell. Embedded in their looney conversations are sophisticated references to philosophy and literature. The apparently deranged street person spouts intellectual jargon and offers marriage counseling and bizarre problem solving for the Woody Allen character who becomes all the more vulnerable when his fetching, gum chewing mistress (Jessica Skerritt) shows up. The deeper he falls into the mad reality of the street person, the funnier it all becomes. Only Woody Allen can weave such a spell.

Sam Shepard’s “The Unseen Hand” offered as the second act tries hard, but its humor seemed a poor vehicle for Shepard’s deeply hidden philosophical wanderings. Out in the vast empty spaces of the southwest three old-time desperados, two brought back to life by an alien from another galaxy, are asked for their help in saving the alien people. They’re not quite up to it, but an unfortunate high school student who comes across this scene offers quite a paean to good old American values.

Two winners and one also ran! It would be nice if all three of these plays were terrific, but the two that are make the evening more than worthwhile.

Through August 17, “An Evening of One Acts” at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street, Seattle, (206 292-7676 or www.acttheatre.org)

Steve Schneider’s Rock and Roll Photos at The Triple Door

All the greats are there! Guitars flashing in the spotlights, hair flying, even sober moments hunched over their instruments. Most of these large-scale color prints were taken at performances in this region. Kurt Cobain, Dave Mathews, Neil Young, Talking Heads. Lucinda Williams, Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck, and even Mick Jagger are all there along with many others. If you are interested in the history of Rock and Roll you’ll find it here on the street level floor of this night spot.

The Jeffrey Moose Gallery is presenting the exhibition.

Through Aug. 31 at the Triple Door Musicquarium, 216 Union St., Seattle, after 4:00 p.m. (206 836-4333).
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“Jane Eyre” at Taproot Theatre

In the year 2000 this musical opened on Broadway for a relatively short run, kept alive at the end by more than $100,000 of free tickets offered to senior citizens. Yet it was nominated for a number of Tony awards. Only the actress playing Jane won.

Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 Gothic romance novel, on which this musical is based, was groundbreaking. Here was a pre-feminist heroine, a badly treated, unfortunate girl who turned herself into an independent woman, made it on her own, and eventually found love, and made a family. But getting there was an arduous journey, perhaps a bit too complicated and emotionally wrought for this script by John Caird with music by Paul Gordon and lyrics by Gordon and Caird. Despite the two plus hour running time, it doesn’t capture all the plot complications or the symbolism within the story. We’re given snippets.

Especially weak is the attention given to the mad woman in the attic, who is such an essential plot element. There is, however, in this production some strong acting. Art Anderson as Jane’s love interest is quite good. His voice is powerful and pleasant, and he creates a dignified yet poignant Rochester. Pam Nolte is always good playing English spinsters or upper class snobs, and her portrayal here of Mrs. Fairfax is no exception. She provides much of the humor in this mostly dark tale. Jessica Spencer portrays Jane appropriately with minimal make-up, plain hairdo, and dowdy clothes, but despite her fine singing, the script provides her with little spark. The dynamic character of the book is rather colorless here.

Though Edd Key’s musicians played the score well, I found it to be unremarkable. In fairness you should know that the music was nominated for a Tony. I, however, couldn’t remember or hum a single tune on my way out of the theatre.

Director Karen Lund chose this script because she felt it gave the story “a soaring and heroic lightness.” That may be exactly the reason it didn’t work for me. “Jane Eyre” mixed with “Sound of Music” is a poor fit.

Through August 16 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).