Theatre Reviews

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.

“Greensward” Presented by MAP Theatre

Madcap mayhem! It’s written by Seattle’s own R. Hamilton Wright, directed by local actor/director Richard Ziman, and playing for only two more nights at 12th Ave. Arts. If you like social commentary encased in broad humor, try to get here this weekend.

Poor agronomist Dr. Hei (pronounced “hay” as in the variety of grass and here played with charming naiveté by Kevin Lin) has come up with a hardy grass seed that produces lawns that never need to be mown. Plant them once. You’ll have a lush greensward from hence forward. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Well not so fast . . . if you are a lawnmower manufacturer, own a lawn maintenance company, sell grass seed or have any other business interest in lawn maintenance, this breakthrough spells economic disaster.

All too soon, those whose business interests are endangered by his brilliant discovery overwhelm him. They, of course, want to quash word of his miraculous seed. They have, however, a formidable opponent—a hard driving PR consultant, well played by Peggy Gannon, whose feminine charms equal her business savvy.

From Congressional hearings, to a party at the French Ambassador’s house, our poor naive hero is catapulted into a new world. And one of the really, really wonderful things about all that happens to him is the manner in which the playwright has inserted references and even characters from cultural icons like the “Maltese Falcon”, “Day the Earth Stood Still” and several others. Added fun is in seeing how many you can identify.

The play could use a little judicial cutting, but it offers food for thought wrapped in a remarkable humor.

Through July 29 at 12th Ave. Arts, 1620 12th Ave. S., Seattle, Map tickets are always offered at “Name-Your-Own-Price, http://greensward.bpt.me?

“Persuasion: A New Musical” at Taproot Theatre

Jane Austen set to music? It’s been done before, and now we have a new effort, a really good effort. You’ll find much to like in this world premiere Directed by Karen Lund and now playing at Taproot.

Written by Harold Taw with music and lyrics by Chris Jeffries, it began as staged readings at The 5th Avenue Theatre in 2015 and since then has been work-shopped around the country. Now we have the full-blown production, and it is a delight.

Director Karen Lund and her staff have carefully honed every aspect. Sarah Burch Gordon’s costumes provide lush examples of early 18th Century clothing.

Mark Lund’s set deserves special attention. It’s quite bare yet works marvelously well. The floor has no carpets. Instead it consists of a stunning geometric pattern that resembles parquetry. There are no large pieces of furniture. In their place are 10 low wooden tables of various sizes, probably  few more. Cast members cleverly rearrange them throughout the production to create an amazing variety of scenes. It’s fascinating to watch the transformations.

Music Director Michael Nutting’s four-piece orchestra is located at the rear of the stage out of sight, but that doesn’t diminish their role. There is almost as much music in this work as there is dialog. As in opera or operetta, the cast sings consistently, and does it well.

Cayman Ilika & Matthew Posner in Persuasion at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Cayman Ilika gives just the right amount of reticence to her portrayal of the demure, unassuming, ever-giving Anne Elliot. She’s the one everyone uses, even dismisses. She’s the one you can always count on, yet Ilika never lets you forget that this is a character with a rich private life. She is one who yearns, who dreams but who unselfishly sees that others are well served, even when her heart is breaking. The lovely Ilika brings all these emotions as well as her rich singing voice to the role.

This is one of Austen’s most popular books, and it’s been brought to the stage in a polished fashion. If you’re an Austen fan you won’t want to miss it. And if you’re not . . . this might persuade you otherwise.

Through August 26 at Taproot Theatre 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).

Theatre 9/12 Presents “It Can’t Happen Here” Two performances Only

“It Can’t Happen Here” Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 satirical novel imagines the coming of a Fascist dictatorship in the U.S.A. and examines the responsibility of each of us to protect fragile democracy. It was timely indeed when it came out, given the rise of Hitler and Fascism in Europe and the candidacy of Huey Long in Louisiana. The New Yorker called it “a frightening book for a frightening time.”

Shortly after publication Lewis and John Moffit adapted it to the stage. Today there’s been increasing interest in the play, and a new adaptation premiered at Berkely Rep last year. Now Seattlites have an opportunity to see a staged reading performed by 17 well-known local actors.

It will be presented by Theatre 9/12 in the Parish Hall of Trinity Church, 609 8th Ave. on Sat., July 29 at 8:00 and Sun., July 30 at 2:00. Theatre 9/12 is known for superb acting. This presentation certainly has piqued my interest. You may want to see it too.

“Hoodoo Love” Presented by Sound Theatre Company

This is a tale of love, magic, music, and jealousy. It’s a probing look at the life of a black woman in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1930s, a look that leaves us asking how much has changed. It’s a stunning play with fine music, and a marvelous production, presented by Sound Theatre Company in collaboration with the Hansberry Project.

The story revolves around Toulou (Porscha Shaw) who lives a run-down life in a run-down shack in the Negro part of Memphis. But she has ambition. She wants to be a blues singer, even has a come-again/go-again lover, Ace of Spades (André G. Brown), who has had some success himself, but can’t or just doesn’t bother to bring any to her. Her brother (Corey Spruill) a born again Christian who cloaks himself in piety, waltzes in and out of her life, and is at heart a vile monster. The only steady force for her is the CandyLady (Eva Abram) her next door neighbor who practices a little hoodoo herself.

This all plays out on a wonderful set by Margaret Toomey and Savannah Brittain, a set carefully illuminated by Matthew Webb’s subtle lighting. It most effectively evokes place and provides a terrific setting for the superb actors. There’s not a weak one among them.

As directed by Malika Oyetimein, this is a gut-wrenching production sprinkled with blues music. You can’t leave the theatre without asking some serious questions about the life led by black women then. And if you are any kind of thinker, you have to question women’s lives no matter where they live or what their color. Yet the play never sinks to the level of polemic. It is, however a trifle too long. Some judicious cutting might make a good thing even better.

The playwright Katori Hall uses Black English the way Shakespeare used Elizabethan English. She captures the patois perfectly, and Director Oyetimein and her actors make it sing. I did have a little problem understanding some of the accent, but my companion had no trouble at all. So I figure that was my fault.

Playwright Katori Hall is a young woman to watch. She’s been likened to Zora Neal Hurston and Toni Morrison. She’s willing to take on tough subjects and explore them without ever lecturing. No wonder Lynn Nottage chose to mentor her.

Through July 30, at Center Theatre in the Armory at Seattle Center, soundtheatrecompany.org. or 206-856-5520.