Archive for August 2017

“Much Better” presented by Really Really, a new Seattle theatre group

Poor Ashley (Alysha Curry), life isn’t going that well for her, at least she thinks it’s not. In many ways, Ashley is her own worst enemy. She’s not the best at fulfilling her responsibilities. Reality seems to elude her, replaced instead with fears. The most mundane subway ride could be a murder waiting to happen in her mind. But then her coworker Morgan (Ali Lawrence) tells her about a new medical procedure called “Neuroclear.”

Neuroclear is reputed to “make you the best version of yourself.” Just as a facelift takes what’s there and reworks it to make it beautiful or young, Neuroclear will take your not-so-great personality and emotional issues and make you outstanding. Think plastic surgery for the personality. After a visit to Dr. Keith (very well played by Lamar Legend)” Ashley signs right up.

Gradually she changes. Now she gets to work on time, learns the meaning of “moderation,” loses the constant fears. But in the process she seems to have lost herself. As she learns, almost too late, there’s a price for everything, including a changed personality.

Director Henry Nettleton and his scenic designer Angela Alvarez work wonders with a pared down set design. The characters move easily from home to work, from indoors to outdoors, and to various other locations with the simplest but most evocative props and furnishings.

One significant problem for me with this production was the sound level. I had a hard time understanding all of Alysha Curry’s lines. And I guess it goes without saying that, when you can’t understand the main character’s lines, you’re at a disadvantage.

The play, however, raises a serious question: When does one cease to be oneself? It was a semi-finalist at the 2017 O’Neil National Playwrights Conference, and the playwright Elisabeth Frankel has won a number of other awards.

Through Sept. 2 at 12th Ave. Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle, Wed. through Sat., 1-800-838-3006 or www.really-really.org/much-better.

Goblin Market Produced by Sound Theatre Company

Just as Eve, spurred on by the serpent, couldn’t resist the apple, so too Laura, the inquisitive sister in this theatrical, can’t resist the fruit offered by the mysterious goblin men. This is a musical about two sisters losing innocence. Played out on a gorgeous set suffused with ethereal music, we watch these two sisters face temptation to step beyond 19th C. standards for women.

Photo by Ken Holmes

Written by Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon, the production is based on Christina Rossetti’s 19th C. poem. Rossetti lived in a time when female sexuality was little understood and even less talked about. We’ve come a long way since then, though certainly not far enough, given the fact that some men still think they have the right to maul and manhandle women. But at least women today can recognize and revel in their sexual appetites.

This production, so creatively directed by Theresa Thuman, opens onto the long unused playroom of Laura and Lizzie. As the now grown women gradually remove the sheets covering all their goods from so long ago, their memories are vivid, especially memories of the goblin men who sang, cavorted and tempted in the nearby woods when they were young.

It was Laura, who couldn’t resist their songs, who followed them into the woods, who innocently brought back the fruit that could unleash their sexuality. Sister Lizzie is the less bold sister, the one who is frightened, wants to take no chances. Laura, the seeker of the true fruits of life, wants to know if they are really available to women. In the end Lizzie must risk her life to save Laura.

Four actors rotate in the roles of the two sisters and their spiritual guides (Miranda Troutt, and Kelly Mak as Laura and Justine Davis and Claire Marx as Lizzie.) On the night I was there all the acting was outstanding as was their singing. Nathan Young directs the music.

Thuman’s crew, especially Production Designer Montana Tippett, Lighting Designer Richard Schaefer, and Sound Designer Lisa Finkral have created an eerie yet magical environment for these spooky psychologically complex goings on. They’ve created a beautiful production, one you’ll be thinking about long after you leave the theatre.

Through August 27 at Center Theatre in the Armory at Seattle Center, 206 856-5520 or www.soundtheatrecompany.org.