“The Hunchback of Seville” produced by Washington Ensemble Theatre

It’s a fairy tale, history lesson, political commentary, laugh riot, and it’s sheer magic! Though I must issue a warning. If Fox News is your favorite TV experience, this isn’t for you.

In this, their last production in the small theatre on 19th Ave. East, before their move to a more central Capitol Hill location, WET is offering the world premiere performance of this inventive and sly tale. Playwright Charise Castro Smith would probably have been totally at home with the Monty Python crew. Their work has much in common.

Although some of the humor (for example, a plethora of cats in the beginning) doesn’t quite make it, the flaws are minor. What we are offered here are exaggerated expressions and lunatic actions combined with the slamming doors and physical humor that creates laugh-out-loud farce. Yet the playwright has cleverly inserted within this tomfoolery a powerful assessment of the horrors of colonialism and pertinent reminders of contemporary issues.

Director Jen Wineman sees that the timing is just right and offers numerous stage tricks that reinforce the madcap milieu and more serious messages. Every one of her truly fine actors, led by Sami Detzer as Maxima, the hunchback, are up to the demands of the script. Detzer scurries around the stage, her hunchback wobbling as she goes. She of the brilliant mind and amorous proclivities has to contend with both Queen Isabella (the regal Maria Knox) and Infanta Juana (Libby Barnard).


Cast of “The Hunchback of Seville”
photo by Cassandra Bell

Infanta Juana is as dumb as Maxima is smart, and, at one point, she has a temper tantrum that is the pi├Ęce de resistance of all temper tantrums. You’ve heard the term “tear up the stage.” Well Barnard does that and more. Meanwhile her mother, HRH Queen Isabella, schemes, as she is slowly fading away, and kudos to the production team that masterminded that demise.

Maniacal humor played by an outstanding cast is what you get here, along with a lot more.

Through June 30, Thurs.-Mon., The Little Theatre on Capitol Hill, 608 19th Ave. E., Seattle, (206-325-5105 or washingtonensemble.org).

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