Archive for April 2018

ALS Midsummer Night’s Dream Co-Directed by Howie Seago and Teresa Thuman

“Midsummer Night’s Dream” has always been Shakespeare’s most “magical” play with all those fairies and humans cavorting and scheming in the woods. Well, add to that a cast that speaks in both voice and American Sign Language and “magical” scarcely does this production justice.

This collaboration between Sound Theatre and Deaf Spotlight includes a cast of 20 seasoned actors. Among my favorites was Ryan Schlecht who brings all the required humor, and physical versatility to his role as Bottom. He’s not alone in providing humor, but there’s a certain élan to his performance that particularly delighted me.

Another standout in an outstanding cast is Thawin Choulaphan who plays the father of Hermia (Elizabeth Ayers Gibson, who also deserves kudos). As in so many of Shakespeare’s plays, value conflicts are highlighted, some conflicts as significant today and they were in olden times. Here we find Hermia who loves and wants to marry Lysander. Her father has selected Demetrius instead. In those days her failure to follow her father’s orders could result in her death. These, however are magical woods, and it’s a magical midsummer’s eve.

The action all plays out on a simple but ingenious set composed of risers joining each other at various angles (credit goes to Margaret Toomey and Kellie Martin). It’s effective without imposing a time period despite its modern look.

The genius of this production is the manner in which it serves both it’s hearing and its deaf audiences. On the night I was there, both were well represented and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the show.

The only time the two groups responded in their own unique fashion was during the “curtain calls.” Hearing members of the audience clapped as they are used to doing. Deaf audience members waved their arms vigorously over their heads, as they are used to doing. Soon, we were all responding with the joyous arm waves, all of us having appreciated a fine night at the theatre.

Through May 12 at 12th Ave. Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle, tickets@soundtheatrecompany.org., 206 856-5520.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Book-It production of this Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel written by Junot Diaz introduces its audience to the corruption in the Dominican Republic and the difficulties of its immigrants who seek a new life in the United States. The adaptation and direction are by Elise Thoron.

Photo by John Ulman.

The play’s hero, an overweight recent arrival in the United States has dreams of grandeur while living a life of limits. He’s a nerd who loves science fiction and would love even more to have a girlfriend. He’s poised somewhat treacherously between two worlds: the world of his childhood and the contemporary world of the United States which doesn’t turn out to be quite as wonderful as he had anticipated.

This one-man show is fortunate to have a consummate actor playing the full cast that makes up the play. Elvis Nolasco is astounding. He’s Oscar, his friend, his girlfriend, a police sergeant, thugs, mother, sister, grandparents, and more. And he does all this with no costume changes. Instead it is through his voice, his gestures, his posture, and facial expressions that he populates the stage.

Meanwhile, we are given a powerful picture of life in Santo Domingo (that’s the country occupying the same Island as does Haiti.) Here corruption is rampant. Poverty, extreme poverty, is pervasive. The model for appropriate male behavior is the macho swaggering stud. Poor Oscar! He’s escaped that to be thrust into a world where fat kids are teased unmercifully and he has to learn a new language. Where loneliness and isolation are his lot. Nolasco captures all of it, all the heartbreak, violence, and naiveté of our young hero.

Kudos to the production team that has created a rather dark set that captures the mood. It’s perfect for this play.

Through May 6 at Center Theatre Seattle Armory, Seattle Center, 206-216-0833 or Book-It.org.