Friday, November 28, 2008

Gol-lee, if I hadn't told you it was me you wouldn't have recognized me. That's because I've been letting my hair grow -- well, you know, except on the top where there ain't none.

The young guy with me is my son, Noel. BTW, that painting on the wall is one of mine.

OK, now let's zoom in for a little closer shot. You might notice what my friends have been telling me lately -- that I'm starting to look a lot like George Carlin, who, coincidentally, we watched in the hilarious movie "Dogma" right after this picture was taken.

Ensemble brings magic to musical ‘Stardust’

Stardust for Christmas

Published in The News Tribune, Nov. 28, 2008
Pictured: Adrian David Robinson and Louise Stinson
photos by Tor Clausen

For 14 years during the holiday season, Harlequin Productions has visited the Stardust Club for a bit of nostalgia and swinging 1940s-style musical entertainment, except last year when the Stardust singers and dancers flew to Africa to entertain the troops. These World War II songfests have been a holiday tradition almost as long as Harlequin has been in existence – 18 years.

The current outing, “Stardust for Christmas,” is the fifth in the series that I’ve reviewed, and I think it is the best of the five.

It has a better balance of story and song and an overall better cast. (Earlier installments may have had a few more outstanding soloists, but this cast works better as an ensemble.)

All of the Stardust shows are credited to the mysterious writer Harlowe Reed, whose biography is a well-kept secret. Whoever he is, he spins lightweight yarns that are highly entertaining but not in the least bit believable.

In this episode, nightclub singer Loretta Mae (LaVon Hardison) thinks she has just bought the Stardust Club but soon finds out that what she purchased with her life’s savings was a worthless piece of paper, and the real owner of the club is now a gangster named Salvatore Mantolini, aka Uncle Sal (Russ Holm). It’s Christmas Eve 1941, and Sal and his hired thugs are trying to wrest the club away from Loretta Mae and her fellow entertainers while they rehearse for their Christmas show.

Hardison and Holm are both veterans of previous plays in the Stardust series. Hardison is a jazz singer who has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald. She has great range and easily goes from softly swinging jazz such as in “Blue Skies” with guitar accompaniment by Vince Brown to the rocking gospel-soul “Baby King,” a big production number with full company and six-man band. Not just a singer, Hardison has proven acting ability, as seen in the sweet drama “Intimate Apparel” last year. In this play her comic skills shine, most notably while dancing with Uncle Sal and fending off his clumsy romantic advances.

By the way, if audience members think there’s something familiar about Hardison and her guitar accompanist (Brown), it’s because they play area venues as a duet under the name Red and Ruby.

Holm does not come across as a song-and-dance man, but he manages to hold his own, and whatever he might lack in musical aptitude, he more than makes up for with great comic acting. He plays the old gangster as a parody of Mafioso types with shoulder shrugs and facial twitches evoking Rodney Dangerfield. Even in the big song-and-dance numbers with much better dancers to watch, it was hard for me not to keep my eyes on Uncle Sal.

Every other actor shines as well, with each bringing unique talents to the stage.

Megan H. Carver looks a bit like Bette Midler, sings with beautiful bell tones, dances with wild abandon, and has a dazzling smile. She is also the choreographer for this show, and the choreography is outstanding.

In the rousing production that closes Act 1, her choreography is dazzling as the whole company breaks out in a brawl while jitterbugging. Wow! You have to see this one.

Adrian David Robinson as the reluctant hoodlum, Alonzo, is over-the-top funny and lovable, and he’s the best of many great dancers in this production.

Courtney Freed is a soulful and sultry singer. I loved her rendition of “The Man That Got Away.”

Jessica Blinn remains mostly in the background until she picks up her violin and wows the audience with jazz licks on a duet with saxophonist Dan Blunck.

Sammuel Hawkins as the crooner Jimmy Ladino and Kevin McManus as Salvatore’s arrogant and ambitious nephew both sing and dance with high energy, and Louise Stinson with her blonde wig and big batting eyes plays a great gang moll.

It’s great lighthearted entertainment, and the music rocks.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 31
WHERE: State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia
TICKETS: $34-$38; rush tickets, $12-$20 half-hour before curtain
INFORMATION: 360-786-0151;

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pierce at Pierce

Juried art exhibit at Pierce College

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov 26, 2008
"The Valley - Skagit," oil on canvas by William Turner
"Byzantine," charcoal by Kathryn Baur
"Zones," acrylic and collage by David N. Goldberg
photos courtesy Pearce College

In all the years I’ve been reviewing art exhibits, I’ve never reviewed one at Pierce College, mainly because college art galleries are terrible about not notifying the press of their shows. But the new gallery director at Pierce College, Jennifer Olson-Rudinko, who also runs the gallery at Tacoma Community College, invited me to this show. Thank you, Jennifer.

It’s a small show with no more than 18 pieces hanging on the wall and a single little sculpture by LeeAnn Seaburg Perry, which is very sweet but easily overlooked. The vast majority of these works are photographs, and few of them stand out. They’re mostly landscapes — some quite beautiful but not unlike a million other nice pictures — and two very nice photos of Frank O. Gehry buildings. You can’t go wrong there. Any photo of any Gehry building taken from any viewpoint is going to be attractive. It just can’t be helped.

Kathryn Baur’s charcoal drawing of a middle-aged man, titled "Byzantine" — despite looking like a very competent student drawing, which it’s not — is one of the most striking pieces in the show. The larger-than-life head is dramatically posed, and the dark and light contrasts and subtle shading go from velvety black through shades of gray to brilliant white. The face has huge eyes, shaggy eyebrows and an intense expression.

Next come two acrylic paintings by David N. Goldberg, "Mythos" and "Zones." These may be toss offs. They’re not the best Goldberg paintings I’ve ever seen. But they’re still the best things in this show. Both are abstract paintings with hints that they may have been inspired by urban scenes or perhaps bits and pieces of mechanical equipment or computer circuitry. Circles and half-circles and squiggly blobs of paint dance in apparent randomness over a field of squares and rectangles in a cacophony of color. The patterns in "Mythos" are overall and sort of fit into a grid with all of the shapes approximately the same size. "Zones," which I think is the stronger of the two, has a less regular pattern, and there is greater variety in the sizes of the squares and circles and dabs of color. This one looks more like an urban scene. You can almost make out buildings and walking figures and scribbled but unreadable graffiti.

Next to Goldberg’s paintings are two abstract landscapes that are similar to works by Richard Diebenkorn, but not nearly so solidly structured. Despite some obvious differences between these two paintings, they are enough alike that I thought they were by the same artist until I read the labels. One is "The Valley - Skagit," oil on canvas by William Turner, and the other is "River to Ocean," acrylic by Sarah Kemp Waldo.

Turner’s painting breaks the Skagit Valley fields of flowers into rows and planes like shards of glass with rectangles and triangles of vivid red and orange receding in the distance to a serene mountainous horizon. The paint application is expressive and goes from flat and loosely brushed to a heavy impasto in the red and orange bands.

Waldo’s is less abstract with hills separating bodies of water in large areas of freely applied color. In both Waldo’s and Turner’s landscapes perspective is tilted upward to create areas of relatively flat color in shallow space. Both are well designed, but I was not comfortable with the colors — dark greens and grays in Turner’s and light blues, tans and yellows in Waldo’s. In each, the color schemes are interesting but slightly off key. In Waldo’s painting, for instance, everything except for one large yellow area is close in value and intensity, but that one big yellow blob breaks up the unity of the composition.

Overall, it’s a nice little show.

[Pierce College, Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday 8 a.m.-noon, through Dec. 12, 9401 Farwest Drive S.W., Lakewood]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prints on Imagekind

I now have prints available on Imagekind. It's a cool site where you can select an image and order a print on your choice of paper or canvas, framed and matted or not, and in a wide selection of sizes -- or even printed on greeting cards. To check it out, click on the Imagekind banner below.

All of the available prints are computer manipulated images taken from the old "Surburbanite" series from the late '80s -- also known as "The Gerbils" -- paintings of swimmers and people in beach chairs done in oil stick on paper and later scanned, cut-and-pasted and reworked in a computer paint program.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wait Until Dark

"Wait Until Dark" at Olympia Little Theatre

published in The News Tribune, Nov. 21, 2008

After the final ovation at Olympia Little Theatre’s opening night performance of “Wait Until Dark” I overheard an audience member say, “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”

That must be exactly the reaction the writer, Frederick Knott, and director, Patrick McCabe, hoped for. I was not that fearful or that spellbound, but it was because I’ve seen it before, and it’s hard to be scared by a thriller once you know what is going to happen.

It is a scary show. Set in Sam and Susy Hendrix’s basement apartment in Greenwich Village in 1965, it’s the story of a quick-witted blind woman, Susy (Amy Hill) who is threatened by some very strange visitors, none of whom are quite who they seem to be. Susy’s husband, Sam (Kelly S. McCabe) has brought home a doll that turns out to have been stuffed with drugs by someone, and now it is supposedly hidden somewhere in their apartment, and the bad guys are after it. One of them, going by the name Mike Talman (Samuel S. Johnston) pretends to be an old army buddy of Sam’s. Another (Christopher Connors) pretends to be police Sgt. Carlino. And yet a third (Ward Glass) passes himself off as a very bizarre intruder who goes by the name Harry Roat, Jr. And oh yes, this character also pretends to be Harry Roat’s father, Harry Roat, Sr.

If I explain the story it will ruin it for any reader who has not already seen either the play or the popular movie version starring Audrey Hepburn. Suffice it to say that things get stranger and stranger as the story progresses, and Susy, with the masterful deductive reasoning of a detective, deduces clue after clue until she understands that she is in danger and that the only tool she has is her blindness -- and something she’s not sure if she can count on: the help of her bratty 11-year-old upstairs neighbor, Gloria (Julia VanDerslice).

Hill is excellent as Susy. Never once during the course of the play do her eyes focus as a sighted person’s eyes focus, and her bumbling attempts to find her way around her own apartment are absolutely realistic. (Susy was blinded in an accident and it hasn’t very long, so she is still learning how to navigate.) With nuanced facial expressions, Hill lets the audience see her mind at work as she figures out what is going on. Similarly, her face expresses her growing fear. Her acting is intense, but never overdone. A bonus to having cast Hill as Susy is that she is a very petite woman, which adds greatly to her vulnerability.

No one else in the cast comes up to Hill’s level of excellence, although Connors as the fake cop comes close. Glass and Johnston as the other two criminals are suitably slithery. Both of them skirt dangerously close to coming across as stereotypical bad guys.

I also really liked VanDerslice as the young girl, Gloria. Even though she looks a little too old for the part, she really nailed the mannerisms of a youth, and it was easy to forget that the actress was really not that young.
For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on Kelly McCabe did not ring true as Susy’s husband, Sam. But his role is so inconsequential that it doesn’t much matter, and what he does wonderfully is the lighting design for this show which is crucial, and very effective. Working with McCabe as co-lighting designer is his mother, Beth McCabe, who is also director Patrick McCabe’s wife -- making this a real McCabe family production.

The set by Paul Malmberg and Patrick McCabe is a very convincing basement apartment, especially considering that Olympia Little Theatre has stadium seating on three sides, meaning it is almost in the round and yet must have walls and doors and windows that look realistic -- plus light fixtures and appliances that are more than props – they are crucial to the plot.

The details of plot and set are engaging. The fright factor is not as intense as I think it should be, but Hill’s acting makes it worth seeing.

WHEN: 7:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 30
WHERE: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia
TICKETS: $10-$12, available at Yenney Music Co. on Harrison Ave (360-943-7500) or on-line at
INFORMATION: 253-272-2281,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grit and fire

Urban reality abstracted by Laura Hanan

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 20, 2008
pictured: "Fingertag," computer-manipulated photograph by Laura Hanan

Brick & Mortar Gallery has not gone away; it’s just been on a long hiatus. And gallery owner Laura Hanan has been hard at work on a fascinating series of paintings that she will present at Art Walk today.

Talk about Grit City, Hanan has taken photographs of the grittiest of the gritty — drug dealers dealing in alleyways, drunks pissing on walls, fires aflame in the city — and turned them into beautiful abstract paintings in which only the tiniest hint of her source material remains.

Hanan describes the work as “a culmination of my two-year obsessive quest using a crappy old video camera to fight ongoing criminal activity in my neighborhood.

“For a period of time I couldn’t look out of my living room window without seeing a drug deal or people brazenly smoking crack on the sidewalk across from my apartment in downtown Tacoma.

Out of frustration I began videotaping the antisocial and illegal activities I regularly witnessed, and I sent mass e-mails of the visual documentation to the police, city leaders, business owners, and residents.”

Hanan said she started experimenting with the huge visual volume on crime she had amassed. She manipulated still images from her videos, had them commercially printed on canvas, cut the images into jagged shards, rearranged them and pasted them onto larger canvases, which she had partially painted by slinging threads of black paint à la Jackson Pollock, and then she painted back into them and finished them off by mounting them on black boards (more slung paint) and framing them.

The resulting images are powerful representations of the underbelly of Tacoma that are equally arresting as abstract arrangements of shapes and colors.

I last saw Hanan’s paintings four years ago. At that time she was doing large and very busy abstract paintings with bright colors and gritty textures and with shapes delineated — as they still are in her latest paintings — by Pollock-like splatters of black paint. The difference in her latest works is that they are built from recognizable photographic images and the designs are much more coherent. This is not to say that they are not nerve jangling, just as her earlier paintings were, but they are nerve jangling in a more controlled way. The parts are more unified — even if they are unified in the way of jagged shards of glass crammed together into broken-mirror images.

Also, the colors and textures — first created on a computer and then painted over — are rich and dense with areas that look to be spray painted (they’re not) and areas of collaged textures. There are patches of blue sky between buildings that are unusually brilliant and dark and velvety greens and reds. In a very few of the paintings there are colors that are slightly too harsh. Her reds and yellows in particular tend to be too raw, but the dark greens and purples and all that deep, deep black are marvelous. As corny as it may sound, the colors in these paintings remind me (in a good way) of paintings on black velvet. And the paint, which is acrylic, looks more like enamel.

As an added bonus, Hanan will be showing some of the photographs that were used as starting points for these paintings, which will give the viewer an opportunity to see how they developed.

The photograph printed here is one of the pictures she cut up and reassembled and painted. The final version is quite different, but you will have to visit Brick & Mortar to see for yourself.

[Brick & Mortar Gallery, Crime & Punishment, opens Nov. 20, 5-9 p.m. and by appointment through Dec. 31, 811 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.591.2787]

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Leading Ladies

This review was supposed to have been printed in The News Tribune Friday. Since I don't get the print version of the paper, I can only assume it was published on schedule, but it never showed up in the online version. I don't know what happened. Also, since subscribers to my blog get new posts the day after I put them up, some will not get this until Sunday, Nov. 16, and Sunday's matinee performance will be the final performance.

Pictured: Lew Gorman as Jack Gable/Stephanie and Bill Read as Leo Clark/Maxine in "Leading Ladies." Photo by Dean Lapin.

Director Doug Kerr does all he can to make a rousing entertainment of Ken Ludwig’s marginally funny “Leading Ladies.” As farces go, this one is in league with Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo” and “Lend Ma A Tenor,” but I don’t think it compares with such outrageously funny farces as Larry Shue’s “The Nerd” or “Foreigner” or the similarly farcical English pantos that play every year at Centerstage. Nevertheless, there are plenty of laughs in this nutty little comedy.

The story is slow to develop. Two has-been Shakespearean actors with the corny names Leo Clark (Bill Read) and Jack Gable (Lew Gorman) try to pass themselves off as girls Maxine (Read) and Stephanie (Gorman) in order to bilk an inheritance from a dying old lady, the girls’ Aunt Florence (Dana Galagan), who stubbornly refuses to kick the bucket.

Clark and Gable’s two-person “Scenes from Shakespeare” at the local Moose Lodge is cleverly written, but Read and Gorman are no better and no worse as the inept thespians than a slew of other comic actors playing bad Shakespearean actors. And when they plot their devious scam on a train trip to York, Penn., the jokes fall a bit flat despite the energizing presence of Audrey (Alexandra Hockman) a sexy bubblehead on roller skates wearing a 1950s carhop costume.

The laughs don’t really start coming until Gorman in drag as Stephanie, who is supposed to be deaf and dumb, starts talking. And then it shoots off into comedic orbit in the second act when Dr. Meyers (Michael Dresdner) and his son Butch (Blake R. York) both try to seduce Stephanie, who (remember she’s really Jack Gable) is constantly trying to seduce Audrey -- which he does whether as himself or as Stephanie. The big seduction scene is by far the most hilarious moment in the play. Dresdner -- proving his natural comic ability again -- is outstanding, and Gorman in drag is almost as sexy as the luscious Audrey and fabulously ambiguous in his/her gender roles.

There is not a bad actor in this play, but some shine much more than others -- probably due more to the nature of their characters than their acting skills. Mick Flaaen, for example, is believably greedy and arrogant and uptight as the very unlikable character, The Rev. Duncan Wooley, but it is hard to enjoy this character (he’s not even fun to dislike). And although Read does everything you could ask of an actor playing a bad actor pretending (badly) to be a woman, he is too much like too many other actors playing similar roles. From “Twelfth Night,” which they parody well, to “Some Like it Hot,” this is a comic bit that’s been done far too often.
On the other hand, Gorman brings an indefinable flair to a role that’s been done too much, and lifts it above the mundane. His sly winks and nods and his girlish walk and the seamless way he transitions from male to female all make his characters shine. If anyone can be said to make this show, it is Gorman.

Also delightfully charming in their unique ways are Molly Calender as Meg Snider (((cq))), Rev. Duncan’s fiancé who falls in love with Leo (or actually Maxine), and Galagan as the feisty spitfire Aunt Florence.

Kerr does an excellent job of directing, and he is responsible for a well designed set -- the living room of the Snider house. I particularly like the doorways and beams that cutoff in mid air and the painting and mirror that float over blank space.
Farce is one of the more difficult of genres to perform, as Kerr explains in a program note: “Playing farce well demands that the performances seem natural and right. …actors must play their roles honestly and sincerely while inhabiting a world that is full of improbabilities and silliness.”

It’s not meant to be great theater, but it is a lot of fun.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sundays through October 5
WHERE: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N “I” St., Tacoma
TICKETS: $16.00-$20.00
INFORMATION: 253-272-2281,

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Worn and torn

DANIEL MEUSE: Untitled #1, from The Packard Plant Series, hangs at the Minnaert Center.
Photo: Courtesy Photo
Old things made new at SPSCC

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov 13, 2008
Pictured: Untitled photograph from the Packard Series by Daniel Meuse
"Bonnor County Blowout," collage/construction by Michael Lindenmeyer
photos courtesy SPSCC

There’s a lot to like in the latest art exhibit at South Puget Sound Community College. Michael Lindenmeyer’s constructions and Dan Meuse’s photographs complement each other well. Lindenmeyer’s constructions are colorful, inventive and humorous; Meuse’s photographs are somber and classical. What they have in common is age — the look of age. Lindenmeyer’s collage elements and the subjects of Meuse’s photographs are worn, torn and forlorn. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Meuse is showing a series of photographs taken in an abandoned Packard automobile plant. Who even remembers Packards? They were the last of the great American luxury cars, but they went out of business in 1958. So these photographs are a poignant and disheartening record of a better day smashed and forgotten — and hopefully not a forecast of the fate of America’s “Big Three” automakers.

Meuse’s pictures are classical in their use of balanced design and strong contrasts in black and white. Stylistically they are a lot like the great Margaret Bourke White. Many of them are close-ups of a single object: a chair, a broken broom, pieces of machinery. They are enigmatic and sad.

Lindenmeyer’s pieces are just the opposite. They are exuberant and playful. The press release called them collages, but I think “constructions made of old pieces of wood and cardboard and various objects such as dolls and bullets” would be a much more accurate description.

He is showing 14 works in all from three distinct series: Wanted, Love and Bullets and Blowout. Stylistically what each series has in common is that disparate elements come together to form a single unified image. These are Dadaistic pictures with narrative coherence. (Those who know the history of Dada understand that narrative coherence would be anathema to Dadaists.)

The best of these are the Love and Bullets series. Narrative constructs are built around a central image such as a doll or a photograph. The background and most of the various collage elements except for the central image and a few other objects are spray painted a single color (a different color in each work but almost a monotone within each). The colors are rich and bright but slightly smoky. He does marvelous things with deep blues and bright reds that look like fire (blue fire? Yes) glowing through smoke.

Girl of the Golden West features a photograph of a woman wearing an Indian skirt and leather vest leaning seductively in the doorway of a saloon. Surrounding her is an ornate old picture frame and a tangle of black hose spray painted gold. Surfin’ has an Eskimo doll on a red surfboard on a crescent shaped background in deep cerulean blue with bullets and a hunk of an old tire and a circuit board all painted blue. High Voltage features a string of firecrackers painted hot pink.

The Wanted series is less attractive and less cohesive visually but highly inventive and funny. It’s a bunch of wanted posters on pieces of old board that could have been ripped off of a Wild West building. The criminals on the posters include a guy named Reginald Van Brushstroke, wanted for making “Bad Art,” and a woman named “Acid Annie,” who is wanted for running an unlicensed speakeasy.

I would not call any of this great art, but Meuse’s photographs are strong pictures in a respected tradition, and Lindenmeyer’s constructions are skillfully put together and full of invention.

[Kenneth J. Minnaert Center, Michael Lindenmeyer and Dan Meuse, through Nov. 30, noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road S.W., Olympia, 360.596.5660]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Proposition 8 Protest

Olympia will join cities all around the world in protest of the passage of Proposition 8 in California, the measure that took away hard-earned equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians. The Olympia protest will be at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, at City Hall. Please come, rain or shine.

For information contact me or Anna Schlecht at or go to

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lakewood Playhouse stages marvelous ‘Macbeth’

Published in The News Tribune, Nov. 7, 2008
Pictured: Bryan K. Bender as Macbeth, and Rebecca Wood as Lady Macbeth, photo by Dean Lapin

I’ve seen quite a few performances of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” and the one now playing at Lakewood Playhouse is the best in my memory. The dramatic staging and lighting, the sets and the acting are all outstanding. Special kudos to director Scott Campbell and costume designer Naarah McDonald.

One of the best things about this performance is that all of the actors clearly enunciate their lines while remaining fully in character and not sounding like they’re making an effort to articulate well. That might seem insignificant, but since Shakespearean language is hard for many contemporary Americans to understand, it is important.

The one thing that is not outstanding is the sword fighting. The fight scenes seem a little anemic to me, but that does not bother me much as the play is about the human conflict, not physical fights.

Erin Chanfrau’s scenic design smartly creates a mood rather than a specific look of various scenes, and the movement of props on and off stage is kept to a minimum. Gnarled tree limbs made of twisted brown paper line the entries and three walls of the theater – which is simple, creative and highly effective.

Bryan Bender plays Macbeth, the anguished general of the Scottish army, whose blind ambition, aided by the machinations of his treacherous wife, drives him to murder the good king Duncan (Christopher Gilbert). This is a tough role to pull off because of the intensity of Macbeth’s anger, fear and sorrow. It is a role that could easily be overly dramatized. Bender plays it with controlled intensity – likewise Rebecca Wood as Lady Macbeth.

Unlike the complicated Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, King Duncan is transparent in his simple love of his country and his fellow men. Gilbert fills the role with natural grace, easily conveying the good king’s naiveté. And then, after Duncan is murdered, Gilbert ably doubles up in the roles of Old Siward and other minor characters.

Luke Amundson is outstanding as Macbeth’s friend and fellow general, Banquo, who is murdered by his best friend and comes back as a ghost to haunt him. His bloody makeup is remarkably grotesque.

Also outstanding in a variety of small roles is veteran South Sound actor Scott C. Brown. Since Brown has played many lead roles (most notably R.P. McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Salieri in “Amadeus”), his appearance in this play as various soldiers amounts to a series of cameos. And he really stands out in his brief comical turn as the drunken porter. This small scene is the epitome of comic relief.

Finally, a word about Rebecca Wood. She is the first Equity actor ever to appear on the Lakewood Playhouse stage, and she is absolutely believable as the strong-willed and devious murderess who succumbs to madness when overwrought with guilt. Lady Macbeth does not have as much time on stage as her husband, but in her scenes all eyes are riveted on her.

The staging, lighting and costuming of the three witches and all of the attendant hocus-pocus and supernatural weirdness was done with great style and just the right touch of theatricality to be effective without overwhelming the narrative. And, while all of the witches are good, I was especially impressed with Katy Shockman in her Lakewood Playhouse debut.

Finally, a word about Josh Johnson pounding on the big drum at every scene change – what a wonderful way to bring actors on and off stage.

If you like Shakespeare, no matter how many times you may have seen “Macbeth,” and even if you are not familiar with his plays, I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy this one.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 16; actor benefit performance Nov. 15 at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood
TICKETS: $22 general admission, $19 seniors and military, $16 for 24 and younger, $14 14 and younger
INFORMATION: 253-588-0042,

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hot new gallery in T-town

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov 6, 2008

Pictured: installation shot of gallery and "while you're here," acrylic on panel by Tad Crawford. Photos courtesy Robert Daniel Gallery.

Listen up, Tacoma. There’s a new gallery in town, and it’s the real deal. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, a nondescript warehouse on the corner of Fawcett and 25th Avenue. But inside it’s big and bright with four major gallery spaces plus a whole bunch of alcoves and smaller exhibition spaces. And the paintings and sculptures inside are all abstract works of the type you might expect to see in a designer’s showroom or in a major city gallery — you know, like that city up north. In fact, at least one of the artists in the current show, Patricia Hagen, is a painter whose work I’ve seen in Seattle.

My one hesitation in giving this gallery a rave review is that a lot of the work is a little too slick.

I’m told that shows will run six weeks at a time. There are more than a dozen artists showing there now, including Andrew Glass, Christopher Hoppin, Dave Haslett, Dawn Sorrell, Debra VanTuinen, Eve Chang, James Minden, Jan Rimerman, Jay Lazerwitz, Karen Schroeder, Katie Harkins, Lyria Schaffer-Bauck, Martha Pfanschmidt, Patricia Hagen, William Turner, and Tad Crawford. And I may well have left someone out.

I can’t begin to review them all, so I’ll just say a few words about the ones that impressed me the most, starting with Hagen.

Hagen paints abstract biomorphic forms that float on a mostly milky white background, with wonderfully subtle color changes and textures in the background and wet looking, loosely drawn forms in front. Some of them look a whole lot like paintings by Phillip Guston although Guston’s paintings are figurative and hers are abstract. Her surfaces are wonderfully rich and gooey like cake frosting. There is one painting of hers that I didn’t like. I didn’t take note of the title, but if you visit the gallery you’ll know which one I’m talking about. It’s the one that’s very tightly controlled and carefully painted. The others are less precise and more spontaneous, and that’s her strong suit.

The other artist whose work I really like is Crawford. His most outstanding work is a large piece called "while you’re here." Large prismlike circular forms that look something like lenses float over a deeply layered background, and superimposed over this is a grid of black circles that cover the entire surface. Painted in acrylic with paper and resin, this picture has an amazing illusion of shallow space as if you’re seeing through layers of glass, and the whole painting seems to bow out in the middle. But that’s an optical illusion.

A similar depth illusion takes place in a piece called "Hindenburg," which has red and brown circles floating over a sea of bright yellow. And he has a group of three small paintings with the same kind of spatial effects on a mostly white background that looks as cold and clear as fresh snow. Plus some nice little drawings in paint of tools that remind me of some of Jim Dine’s tool paintings — same kind of sure graphic touch — and one painting with semicircles on a grid that remind me of paintings by David Goldberg, one of my favorite Tacoma painters.

Another painter whose works complement Crawford’s is Glass. He also fills the surface with prismatic forms on a grid, but his shapes are squares filled with energetic marks that seem to be derived from fronds and blades of grass with dark and acidic colors.

I also was struck with Hoppin’s unique sculptures of animal heads that look like hunting trophies but in jewel-like colors. I didn’t ask about the media, but they look like they’re coated with hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny ceramic tiles.

The Robert Daniel Gallery may be off the beaten path, but I recommend beating a path to its door.

[The Robert Daniel Gallery, 2501 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, 253.227.1407]