Archive for March 2018

“Hir” at Arts West, presented in collaboration with Intiman Theatre

It’s certainly not my family! And if it’s the family of the future, I’m glad I won’t be part of it. But it’s a family that electrifies the stage. The play grabs your gut, and the acting intensifies the experience.

Look at the word “Hir.” Note that it’s a combination of “him” and “her.” Playwright Taylor Mac suggests that there could be a future when sex roles and gender stereotypes simply won’t exist. Ideally there will be a melding. But getting there demands a war, and in this play it’s a gender war, a family war: a war against those assumptions and stereotypes.

Onto the stage and into his home blunders the newly discharged soldier/son Isaac (Evan Barrett). He’s stunned! He’s seen battlefields, but he’s never seen anything like the home that awaits him. It’s a combat zone. It’s in total disarray with clothing, detritus, kitchenware and garbage strewn over the entire stage. (Kudos to set designers Julia Welch and Timothy White Eagle for creating this almost unbelievable mess.)

Isaac’s father, dressed in a nightgown, his face smeared with lipstick, sits drooling in one of the few chairs that are upright. In comes Isaac’s “sister” (Adrian Kljucec) who appears to have had a sex change. Ruling over this catastrophe is his mother waging her war against the assumptions and stereotypes of a male dominated society. To her this unbelievable mess is definitely not a disaster. It is, perhaps, the cataclysmic requirement necessary to achieve gender-neutral society.

Gretchen Krich as Mom, the orchestrator of this revolting mess, is spunky, determined, and single minded. She thrives in the chaos she has deliberately let happen. Her husband, the drooling, seemingly demented, powerless male doesn’t do so well. It’s a terrible character to play, and Charles Leggett plays it brilliantly. I almost couldn’t bear to look at him.

So . . . have we here a look to the future? This production will certainly force you to think about that.

Through March 25 at Arts West Theatre, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle, 206-938-0339.

“You Can’t Take It With You” at Center Theatre presented by Sound Theatre Company

Oh, the continued pleasure offered by some of those charming 1930s plays! Sound Theatre has revived “You Can’t Take It With You” by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Truly an oldie but goodie, it first appeared on Broadway in 1936, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1937, was adapted for the screen and won an Academy Award for “Best Picture.”


If you like crazy humor, you’ll like this production directed by Teresa Thuman. It features a large cast (17 players), most of them playing members of the same eccentric family. It’s a family of nut cases. There’s Grandpa wonderfully played by Teotha Dennard. He’s a voice of reason yet a man with his own idiosyncrasies. He has never paid his income taxes, and he collects snakes and keeps them in the house.


He lives with his daughter Penny (who has her own peculiarities). Penny, played with verve by Shermona Mitchell is married to a man who builds fireworks in the basement. Don’t be surprised to hear that some of them explode unexpectedly from time to time.


My very favorite role is that of Essie. Essie is Shermona’s daughter, a young thing obsessed with ballet. She always wears ballet costumes and shoes and spends most of her time practicing her kicks, pirouettes and ballet positions. She’s very feminine and prances about with a girlish enthusiasm. The only strange thing about her is that Bo Melliger who plays her happens to be a young man. He makes a good ballet dancer and a pretty young lady!


That cross-dressing is simply one hallmark of this production. The cast has been selected to represent the breadth of humanity. There are players of all colors and all sizes and not all of them are in roles one would expect. There is even a wheelchair bound woman who turns out to be quite agile and a good actor. No stereotypes here, except possibly Mr. Kolenkhov (Chris Shea), the ballet teacher. He’s more Russian than the Tzar himself, charmingly so.


These various sane and not so sane individuals carry out their insanities absurdities in a well-appointed 1930s home, filled with the knickknacks, pictures, and paraphernalia of the time. Credit goes to Robin Macartney for the really fine set.


The production starts off a little slowly, partly because the audience is so unused to the amazing diversity of the actors and the roles they assume on this stage. Thus it is actually a bit distracting. The Company has very deliberately made this work an exercise in “inclusion.” We Seattle audiences don’t see that often. It takes a little getting used to for most of us. This is a production that breaks stereotypes. Fortunately it’s so well mounted and so funny that color, size, gender, and physical ability of the actors are not issues that demand attention. A great play well produced is what captures our interest, and that’s what we get here.


Through March 11 at Center Theatre, Seattle Armory, Seattle Center,