Archive for August 2016

“One Man, Two Guvnors” Produced by Sound Theatre Company

There’s no hyperbole in the label “the funniest show on the planet” that’s been affixed to Richard Bean’s English comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors.” Never have I heard any play generate such sustained laughter as this one does.

It’s very loosely based on the 18th C. Goldini play “Servant for Two Masters,” yet there isn’t a genre of humor that’s not cleverly woven into this script. Of course there’s a whiff of commedia del arte. but there’s also a touch of the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, farce, slapstick, pantomime and more. But there’s so much more than funny lines. You’ll find wry physical humor and clever gymnastics woven in to match the verbal laugh lines.

It’s an example of just how good the Sound Theatre Company is that it can pull this off. This is not an easy play to produce, especially in a space as small as the Center Theatre. The acting has to be superb. Many of the actors have to be gymnasts as well as thespians. Timing has to be perfect. With twelve actors cavorting around the stage in a play where physical humor is a strong component, there’s no room for sloppiness. Director Ken Michels has honed his cast to a finely polished ensemble.

The play originated in England and it needs the English accents. The cast does them well, but for American ears some of the language can be confusing. That’s the only negative issue with this wonderful production

David Roby. Photo by Ken Holmes

David Roby. Photo by Ken Holmes

I won’t even try to summarize the plot with all its complications. Of course there’s a thwarted love angle, and there’s a touch of criminality. There is music, very good music with some unexpected instruments to accompany Elijah Pasco’s piano and Jon Brenner’s bass and guitar. There are songs, especially noteworthy are those by Daniel Stoltenberg (who also play guitar) and Madison Jade Jones.

Just know that almost every aspect of this production is funny. The cast, led by David Roby, is universally good. Roby, himself, is phenomenal as he tries to serve his two Guvnors. If you love to laugh, this is for you.

Through August 27, at the Center Theatre in the Armory, at Seattle Center, (BrownPaperTickets.com).

On August 20 at 2:00 pm, the theatre is offered an autistic friendly performance. If you or a member of your family would enjoy this “Sensory Friendly” performance use the code SOUNDFRIEND at BrownPaperTickets.com

“Terra Incognita” at Annex Theatre

Annex prides itself on mounting new works by local playwrights; works such as this world premiere “Terra Incognita” by Benjamin Benne. Benne, a relative newcomer to Seattle, has gained attention at conferences and festivals around the country. “Terra Incognita” was a semifinalist in the 2014 O’Neil Playwrights Conference. His long-time friend Pilar O’Connell directs this production.

On a stark stage with little more than two folding chairs, initially, young Nadia (wonderfully played by Lillian Afful Straton) hesitantly begins her first session with the much older social worker/therapist, Sheila. As played by Gretchen Douma, Sheila is motherly but matter of fact. She’s not going to push, but she’ll get where she wants to go through quiet perseverance and wile. Douma, as does Straton, plays her character with finesse.

Both women are needy, but for different reasons. Through their interactions they are strengthened, even, perhaps freed from the past. “Old things we carry weigh us down,” says Sheila early in the play. It serves as a touchstone for the entire work.

Highlights of the production, in addition to the quality of the acting, are the scenes projected behind the actors (Leo Mayberry, Projection Designer). At one point the two women take a ride on Seattle’s Ferris wheel, and we go with them. It’s a great effect.

What was less effective for me was the “crow woman” who cawed her way to the stage at the play’s opening as deafening drumbeats accompanied her. She appears again later on. Crows, in various forms, are a metaphor for the angst suffered by Nadia. Ben Burris is responsible for the cleverly conceived crows that appear in light boxes at different points in the action. These well presented crows were a good addition.

Edgy, thoughtful, and presented by fine actors!

Through August 20, Annex Theatre, PMB 1440, 1122 E. Pine St., Seattle, (206 728-0933 or info@annextheatre.org).