“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at the Bathhouse Theatre

No need to be a Chekov aficionado to appreciate this charmer presented by Lamplight Productions and Katie Soulé. It adds to the fun if you have even the tiniest understanding of Chekov so you can appreciate all the sly and not so sly references to his plays, but this award-winning work by Christopher Durang can stand completely on its own.

Directed by Ted Jaquith, the cast does well at capturing the angst of two siblings trapped by their own inertia in the house paid for by their successful sister Masha who is threatening to sell it. Masha, an actress reaching that dangerous age for women, shows up with Spike, her studly man/boy of the moment. She’s here to attend a neighbor’s costume party as Snow White. Her plan is to have her sister and brother dress as a couple of dwarfs. Of course it doesn’t go quite as well as Masha has planned.

Molly Hall as Masha captures all the egocentricity and imperiousness we expect from this the successful sister. Yet she also shows her vulnerability, especially when Spike, her current boy-toy (well played by Connor Kinzer) finds younger attractions.

Cindy Giese French as Sonia, the sister with the dull little life does well capturing the emptiness of that life. But sometimes, a little brown wren can outdo a colorful cardinal, and so she does. French gives the character just the right emotions.

Terry Boyd as Vanya brings a poignant sense of failure to his role as the brother with not much to look forward to and not much about his past life to remember with joy. “I’m in mourning for my life.” is a line that equally applies to both brother and sister. Yet this is a very funny play, with a poignancy here that is deeply moving.

The play was well received on Broadway in 2013, and since then has been mounted on stages throughout the country. By the way, there’s a cherry orchard on the property.

Through September 17 at The Bathhouse Theatre, 7312 West Green Lake Dr. N., Seattle, www.lamplightproductions.org.

Last Chance to See “Edible City: A Delicious Journey” at MOHAI

MOHAI’s ten-month long exploration of food and its place in Seattle’s economy and culture closes Sept. 10. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and stop by. Then again, you who have already enjoyed it may want to get another look at the history of Seattle’s tastes and innovations in food production and distribution.

Seattle food culture is rich, unique, and distinguished. From the oyster middens and spear fishing of its Native American peoples to the farmers markets and award winning restaurants of today, people in Seattle have sought great eats and have learned to capitalize on the riches that abound here.

This exhibit touches on many of the foods Seattleites of all ethnicities cherish. We learn of their history and the myriad ways we use this plethora of good things to eat. There are sections of the exhibit that explain how we’ve collected or harvested the wild foods as well as the farmed. Sure there are sections on salmon, morel mushrooms, huckleberries, oysters, cherries and so many more raw ingredients, but you’ll also learn about the industries that have grown up around our foods both wild and farmed.

Fascinating, too, is the story of the innovative food culture that developed right here in Seattle. Starbucks anyone? Canned salmon anyone? Five star restaurants anyone?

I would say this exhibit is a tasty treat, but I dare not lest you groan and throw tomatoes (locally grown of course) at me.

Through Sept. 10 at the Museum of History & Industry, 800 Terry Ave. N., Seattle, 206 324-1126 or mohai.org

“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.

“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?