Archive for March 2017

“Dry Powder” at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Rapacious! Cut throat! High finance. Let me be exact, “highest” finance, the world where fortunes are made or lost by the decisions of private equity firms. “Dry Powder” by Sarah Burgess places the audience right inside one of those firms, and Director Marya Sea Kaminski makes sure you view its least admirable characteristics.

This is where competition is intense, and the players don’t give up easily. They make millions for themselves through deals that often end up with the little guys getting screwed and American workers being laid off. Oh well, that’s not their problem.

We meet the key players as Seth, performed with intensity by MJ Sieber, is pushing a deal that he thinks has everything going for it (American made luggage, a quality product, well priced, and made by American workers. It will create jobs!) Rick (Shawn Belyea), the fund’s President is enthusiastic. But then Jenny enters the picture. “Of course, we’ll off-shore it. That’s where the bigger profit is.”

Rick is a little uncomfortable with that idea. He just threw a large party, so large, so over the top that the press is blasting him. Jenny, however, is very convincing, and she doesn’t give up easily. Hana Lass creates a Jenny who is totally devoid of human kindness. As a woman, she’s fought extra hard to get where she is, and she didn’t get there by being compassionate. Her brain operates entirely as a profit and loss calculator. The playwright, director, and actor have made Jenny the woman you love to hate

These characters are stereotypes, but their clashes are never boring. There’s even a bit of compassion generated for Jeff (Richard Nguyen Sloniker). He’s the little guy whose company needs the money to manufacture his fine product, the guy who is little more than a pawn in the other characters’ high finance chess game.

This is a tale for our time where the struggle is between morality and money. The production is taut, played out on Matthew Smucker’s icy set that perfectly captures the cold short-term decision making at the heart of the action. Robert Aguilar’s lighting is another plus, reinforcing, as it does, the hard-hearted world of high finance.

Through April 15 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, 206 443-2222 or Seattlerep.org).

“Tribes” at ACT

“Tribes,” by Nina Raine now playing at ACT closes on March 26, and, if you haven’t already seen it, do yourself a favor and get tickets. It’s funny, deeply moving, and thought provoking.

This is an award-winning play, well produced here under the direction of John Langs, and featuring a splendid cast. It’s all about communication, how we hear or understand the people who are talking to us. Most of us listen. Some of us read lips or sign. In the hearing family on this stage there is one deaf member, Billy (brilliantly played by Joshua Castille, himself a member of the deaf community).

When Billy was an infant, his parents decided that they would do everything they could to overcome the limitations of his condition, so they made sure that he could read lips. They refused to have him taught sign language, believing that it would mark him as different, handicapped, not quite as good as hearing people.

Billy, became an accomplished lip reader and was never part of the deaf community. He “passed,” kind of like a light skinned child of parents of African American descent. His well-meaning parents removed him from what might have been his own community and inserted him into the hearing community. But then, a deaf sign-speaker enters their lives. The impact on Billy and his family is enormous.

This is a thought provoking and intense exploration of family, values, prejudices, and community. Yet it is also marvelously funny and performed by a splendid cast, including some of the best actors in Seattle. And, by the way, you’ll never hear a more beautiful and moving rendition of “Clair de Lune.”

Through March 26 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle, (206-292-7676 or acttheatre.org).

“Milk Like Sugar” at Arts West

Choices! We all want the ability to make our own choices, sadly, not all of us have the experience to do so wisely. “Milk Like Sugar” powerfully explores a choice made by three teen aged, low-income, African American girls. These are vivacious young women, full of giggles, smart-aleck comments, pent up energy, and, unfortunately, a narrow worldview.

Their choice is to get pregnant. They love the idea of having a shower, of people giving them presents, of being the center of attention. Their thinking doesn’t go beyond the presents. Their environment and its institutions don’t offer them a larger dreamscape. Since their lives have been limited, so too must be their dreams.

Annie (Allyson Lee Brown), the protagonist, lives with an angry, defensive single mother who has a dead-end job that offers little pay and few rewards. Annie learns few valuable life lessons this overworked, disappointed woman.

This award-winning play raises issues that we ignore at our peril. There’s an entire cohort of young people in our society whom we are failing. Playwright Kirsten Greenidge inserts into her play potential escape routes from the inevitable, but she shows how difficult it would be for Annie and her friends to follow them.

One of the charming elements in the play is the inclusion of a sweet, innocent boy who has gained the ability to look beyond the ghetto. He’s interested in the universe, the stars that light up the dark sky. It’s a lovely metaphor and a shrewd inclusion within the script, cleverly brought to fruition on stage.

Nastacia Guimont (Margie), Allyson Lee Brown (Annie), Jay O’Leary (Talisha), and Lindsay Zae Summers (Keera)

Under the direction of Malika Oyetimein, the actors capture all the jive and speech patterns of the ghetto. Verisimilitude fully achieved! I did, however, have some difficulty understanding all the dialog. Perhaps it was my hearing, or perhaps it was because the ghetto vernacular was foreign to me. I found it interesting to read on-line that when the play was performed in D.C. the dialog was projected above the actors to make sure it was decipherable to all in the audience.

That aside, this is an interesting and timely exploration of what poverty and the lack of hope do to the human soul.

Through March 25 at Arts West Playhouse and Gallery, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle, (206 938-0339 or www.artswest.org)