Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: Cannot send session cookie - headers already sent by (output started at /home/content/38/2135738/html/_artsstage-seattlerage/index.php:1) in /home/content/38/2135738/html/_artsstage-seattlerage/wp-content/plugins/custom-contact-forms/classes/class-ccf-form-handler.php on line 587

Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: Cannot send session cache limiter - headers already sent (output started at /home/content/38/2135738/html/_artsstage-seattlerage/index.php:1) in /home/content/38/2135738/html/_artsstage-seattlerage/wp-content/plugins/custom-contact-forms/classes/class-ccf-form-handler.php on line 587
nworssam | Arts Stage – Seattle Rage

Author Archive

“The Humans” by Stephen Karam at Seattle Rep

Here, right on this stage, we have the funny, sad, enduring life of a middle-class contemporary United States family. They have come together for the annual Thanksgiving celebration. Each member bringing his or her angst wrapped up in the good spirits the holiday requires.

Richard Thomas, Daisy Eagan, Pamela Reed, Therese Plaehnn, and Luis Vega. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

The gathering is at daughter Bridget’s new apartment shared with her lover, Richard. Bridget and Richard are thrilled with their new digs. Located in New York’s Chinatown, the place is spacious and even has a spiral staircase connecting two floors. What’s more, it’s affordable. Where in Manhattan can you find that? True, one of the floors is a basement, and there’s only one window in the entire apartment. In addition, there are loud noises reminiscent of the excavations required for the new 2nd Ave. subway. So what! For Manhattan it’s a deal.

Included in the family Thanksgiving celebration is Bridget’s older sister Aimee. She’s a lawyer who is suffering emotionally from a recent break up with her girlfriend. Meanwhile, she suffers physically from a gastric disorder. Their parents have joined them from Scranton, PA, and have brought along Dad’s mother, Momo, who has advanced dementia.

So yes, here we have a typical American family glad to be together celebrating our annual holiday of thankfulness. Yet, like so many middle-class Americans they suffer from the angst that comes along with modern life.

Aimee’s about to be laid off. Mom and Dad are struggling financially even though they have worked hard and productively all their adult lives, and what are they to do if Momo needs institutional care? Bridget loves her new apartment but her student loans hang like the sword of Damocles over her head. Meanwhile Richard has years of graduate school before he’ll be fully employed. And unbeknownst to the children, Dad has a distressing issue that we learn about late in the play.

Shouldn’t life be better? Shouldn’t there be more security? Not in this society for all too many of us. We must live carefully and avoid the mistakes that too often have serious consequences.

This is a thought provoking, prize-winning play (Tony Award, Best Play 2016) filled with funny dialog offered by a superb ensemble. Ordinary lives are presented with extraordinary precision under the direction of Joe Mantello. It comes to us straight from New York. After Seattle, this production will move on to theatres across the country.

Through Dec., 17 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, 206 443-2222 or seattlerep.org.

Acrobatic Conundrum at 12th Avenue Arts

They call it a contemporary circus. There are no animals, no clown costumes, no big top, but there are plenty of acrobatics and balletic moves, and I guarantee you will be astounded by some of the acts. A small band (bass guitar, guitar, and drums) accompanies the acrobats along with comedic introductions.

A man flies in on a rope then performs ceiling high “balletic dances” by twisting and turning on his sky-high perch. Another performer circles the stage in a gigantic hoop while juggling bowling pins. There’s lots of physical humor, and naturally there’s more than a little clowning, proving that clown costumes aren’t necessary to make people laugh.

Humor abounds with the actors playing off one another and offering smart repartee. Each weekend, there’s a small change in players and offerings.

One of the most amazing acts in last weekend’s shows consisted of Mama and Papa Gentile and their four children ranging in age from 21 months to 11 years. Not only are they all acrobats but also they have perfected the skill of foot juggling. Mama juggles everything from a table to a huge flowerpot, lying on her back while her feet madly move the goods in circles and at speed. It’s astonishing to see what she can do to that table. She also juggles her children who, amazingly, can foot juggle too. Even the 21-month old is incorporated in the act.

It may not be Cirque du Soleil but it is a fun and different night at the theatre.

Dec. 8-10 at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle, www.bit.ly/acrobaticdecember.

“A Civil War Christmas” at Taproot

Each year when planning their December offering, theatre’s must decide whether they should go with a well loved standard featuring Charlie Brown, Scrooge or some other icon of the season, or should they offer something new, something that captures the season but does so in a fresh fashion. Taproot this year went for the new, “A Civil War Christmas” by the esteemed playwright Paula Vogel.

Hazel Rose Gibson, Tré Calhoun, Dedra D. Woods, Maya Burton and Jelani Kee. Photo by Robert Wade.

For me, it wasn’t the wisest choice. Despite a fine, well-integrated cast and the well-chosen and well-presented musical numbers that enrich the production, it moved slowly and was far more historical than holiday. The characters range from young slave children to such significant historical persons as Lincoln himself, his wife, Mary, Robert E. Lee, and even John Wilkes Booth. They exist side-by-side with the slaves, weary Union soldiers and civilians.

It’s a cold December 1864, in Washington, D.C., as Christmas draws near. Peace is longed for though it seems only a distant possibility. It’s a time of scarcity. Even Christmas trees are in short supply since many have been chopped down for firewood. Soldiers long for their families. The country longs for peace.

But there is the promise that Christmas brings along with its carols and festivities, muted though they are in wartime. There’s lots of music here including Negro spirituals, songs from the Civil War period, and yes, a few Christmas Carols too. Music Director Ed Key and Co-Directors Karen Lund and Faith Bennett Russell have integrated it all very nicely.

This is a play that offers good historical information, and the production provides a compelling sense of the privations and sadness of a period where there is no peace and little good will. If, however, you are looking for a rousing Christmas festivity you won’t find it on this stage.

Through Dec. 30, at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, 206 781-9707 or box@taproottheatre.org.

“The Nance” at Arts West

Welcome to Manhattan in the 1930s. Despite the efforts of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, burlesque is big business in New York, and among its most popular forms is the nance. The main attractions of nance are the male performers who amuse the audience with their caricatures of homosexuals. Oh how audiences laughed at those campy gays. Yes clubs offering the nance also have sexy women performing, but it’s the guys playing gays who draw the audiences.

Most of the nance performers were straight, but in this production the nightclub’s nance, Chauncey Miles, is indeed gay, though that’s his deep secret. Richard Gray as Chauncey provides all the verve and brilliant showmanship Chauncey’s audiences expect, but below that jovial exterior is a sad man who can’t be himself except surreptitiously. Off stage he frequents places where quick and furtive liaisons are possible, and he tries to make himself believe that that’s a reasonable life. Gray is brilliant portraying the nance performing on stage and heartbreaking as the real man who society has deemed unacceptable.

Richard Gray as Chauncey Miles in The Nance. Photo by John McLellan.

When Ned, a needy young man enters his life (wonderfully played by Drew Highlands), there’s almost a chance of real happiness for Chauncey. Sadly, he lives in a world where that’s not to be.

Performing at the club with Chauncey is Efram. Jeff Steitzer excels inthe role. Sprightly and silly, he wows us with his verve, his costumes, and patter. And we learn that underneath the grease paint, he’s a compassionate individual.

The three excellent actresses, who dance, sing, strut, sashay, and perform for the club’s audiences (and, of course, us), are excellent in their routines. These buxom females bump and grind in low-cut satin dresses and back-seamed stockings held up by garter belts. Each of them (Ann Cornelius, Jasmine Jean Sims and Diana Cameron McQueen) is also quite moving as a caring friend of Chauncey.

Nance shows were wildly popular in an age when homosexuality was reviled. Arts West has masterfully recreated the ambiance of that era with its voyeurism. The theatre itself has been transformed into a nightclub. Strings of white lights hang from the rafters and form patterns on the walls. Cabaret tables (at which audience members can pay to sit) surround the two stages within the main stage where the performers dance and sing. The carpeting has a ’30s quality, and as the performers come and go, one is indeed thrust into a previous era.

Director Mathew Wright has done it again! He’s establishing a record of hit after hit at Arts West. This one is an especially powerful show that captures all our emotions. Funny? Oh indeed, it’s full of laughs and gaiety, but you may also find yourself wiping away a tear or two.

Through Nov. 19 at Arts West, 4711 California Ave., SW, Seattle, http://www.artswest.org/theatre/buy-tickets.

“Burn This” Presented by theatre|twenty-two (T22) at 12th Ave. Arts

Anna (Carolyn Marie Monroe), the lithe and lovely dancer/choreographer is grief stricken. Robbie, her dance partner and housemate has been killed in a freaky boating accident. She’s heartbroken, too, that his family never knew the brilliant Robbie, Robbie the dancer/choreographer. The Robbie they knew was gay. That was sufficient.

Photo by Margaret Toomey

Her other housemate, gay Larry, played sensitively and with fine humor by Alex Garnett, is also devastated by this senseless death. He uses wry comments to conceal his grief. Clearly this downtown loft is a house of deeply felt but restrained mourning.

All restraint is lost, however, when Robbie’s cokehead brother, Pale, played by Tim Gouran, slams his way into the apartment and spews forth his rage. Of course he’s devastated by his brother’s death, but for him grief isn’t a quiet or contained emotion. He’s a madman, has the emotional control of a tiger in heat. He thrashes and crashes through the apartment. Inevitably, Anna’s straight boyfriend, Burton (Jason Sanford) has his encounter with the wild-eyed, half-mad Pale. The contrast between the two types (archetypical males) is one of the fascinating elements of the play.

Director Corey McDaniel knows how to get the best from his actors. All four masterfully deliver the marvelous dialog provided by playwright Lanford Wilson and bring a shattering physicality to each of their roles.

It all plays out on Margaret Toomey’s set that captures the essence of a downtown New York loft apartment. It has floor to ceiling windows made up of blocks of glass, some colored, some not; an open upper room, and the locks and padlocks that New Yorkers know they need.

By the way, when this play opened in New York in 1987, Steppenwolf’s John Malkovitch played Pale and its Joan Allen played Anna to rave reviews. This cast deserves similar praise.

Through Nov. 18 at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave., info@theatre22.org or 206-257-2203.