Friday, January 25, 2008

‘Crazy/Naked’ scores political, comedic points

Published in The News Tribune, Jan. 25, 2008
Pictured: Yana Kasala, left, Luke Amundson and Eric Hartley. Photo by Tim Robinson

Theatergoers who have never experienced a Breeders Theater production at the E.B. Foote Winery in Burien should go at least once. It is quite an experience.

And this political season is the perfect time to go because their current show is a comedy/drama about a campaign we can all recognize. Try to recall the most absurd statewide campaign you’ve ever experienced, change the names and, in some cases, the gender of the candidates, and you have “Crazy/Naked,” a play about a senatorial race written by local playwright T.M. Sell, founder of Breeders Theater and teacher of political science, economics and journalism at Highline College.

The play is funny, cleverly written and politically astute. It is also magnificently acted. So well acted, in fact, that the audience tends to forget they are watching a play, this despite the fact that it takes place on the bare concrete floor of a winery between rows of wine barrels with no real set and no theatrical lighting other than the lights going off and on at the end of each scene.

I could tell that the audience was getting swept up into the politics because some audience members seemed to be applauding the political speeches rather than the acting. One man sitting three seats away from me applauded so enthusiastically that he scared me when right-wing nut job Sen. Patty Proud (Kelly Johnson) vehemently defended the right to bear arms.

In the opening dialogue between political operatives Cindy (Yana Kesala) and Tom (Luke Amundson), it seems the writer is trying too hard to be clever (a fault shared with the likes of Neil Simon). He even trots out an old political saw, “I profess to be a pimple on the derriere of politics,” which I probably wouldn’t have recognized had I not heard a variation the night before in Olympia Little Theatre’s production of “Moonlight and Magnolias.”

And at the end of the play the writer climbs on his soapbox in the person of political hack Arch (Eric Hartley) for an unnecessary harangue about taking responsibility for electing idiots. Everything in between these two moments is sheer lunacy mixed with political acumen.

The three major actors, Kesala, Amundson and Hartley, are all believable as campaign workers.

Kesala, a Shakespearean actress who recently arrived here from England, is the glue that holds this production together. She’s an old-line ’70s-style feminist who does not trust her male co-workers. It is wonderful to watch Cindy’s anger slowly melt in the face of Tom’s obvious sincerity. There is one marvelous scene in which the two of them circle one another in a kind of wary ballet, or like boxers in a ring afraid to engage one another, and Kesala and Amundson’s subtle facial expressions are a demonstration of what great acting is all about.

Also outstanding are Johnson as the outlandish, pistol-packing Patty Proud, who wears an ill-fitting blond wig and struts like a rooster; and J. Howard Boyd in a variety of supporting roles including the title role of crazy naked guy (who doesn’t actually get naked).

One other actor of note is Teresa Widner as left-wing senatorial candidate Lucinda K. Fielding. She is as self-righteous as Patty Proud but without the absurd posturing. Widner plays this role with absolute sincerity. She also doubles up in a few other roles, including a delightful but brief appearance as a seductress who tries to entice a political doorbeller.

The central conceit of the show is phantom candidate Mike Wayne, who may or may not really exist. Wayne is put up as a candidate for state senator, and an entire political campaign is waged on his behalf without him ever showing up. Whether or not he actually exists, and if so, who he is and where he’s been during the campaign, is all made clear in the ironic twist at the end.

The show includes wine tasting and hors d’oeurves.

WHEN: 7 p.m. tonight, Saturday, Wednesday and Feb. 1-2; 2 p.m. Sunday; 1 p.m. Feb. 3
WHERE: E.B. Foote Winery, 127-B S.W. 153rd St., Burien
TICKETS: $20 available at the winery and at Corky Cellars, 22511 Marine View Drive, Des Moines; 206-824-9462
INFORMATION: E.B. Foote Winery, 206-242-3852

No comments: