Thursday, September 30, 2010


Hinson/Palminteri Kick Ass

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 30, 2010
There is not enough hyperbole in my language arsenal to tell you how impressed I am with "Illusion/Allusion: Paintings by Barlow Palminteri and Ron Hinson" at the Minnaert Center Gallery at South Puget Sound Community College. This is the most impressive art exhibition I've seen this year.

To those who have been reading my column for these oh-so-many years, it is no secret that I think Ron Hinson is one of the best pure painters in the South Sound region. In some ways I'm even more impressed with Palminteri because he is self-taught and came to it late in life and now holds his own next to Hinson, who has spent a lifetime studying, teaching and making art.

Hinson's specialty is the painted construction. He cuts and assembles elaborate wooden structures, builds up textured surfaces and paints them with a combination of carefully planned patterns and rough, expressionistic brushstrokes. They are big, bold and - in some of his latest works - more colorful than ever.

Also somewhat new is his use of assemblage and collage. He has used some of that in the past, but never so extensively as in these recent works.

On your right as you enter the gallery is a painting labeled #10 (none are titled) that features a powerful contrast between the dark, heavy look of ancient wood or aged chunks of industrial materials in blocks of gray and brown on the left with a sheet of what is painted to look like blue-gray tiles on top and a decorative profusion of flowers and stripes painted on curvilinear shapes on the right. Bringing the flowery and playful together with the dark side without disrupting the unity of the whole is pretty amazing.

Something else Hinson has never before done in a gallery setting is to set up a display showing how he constructs a painting. (And yes, they are paintings, no matter how hugely three-dimensional; the essential visual elements are always approached from the perspective of painting on a flat surface.) This display is like a museum diorama of a Hinson painting from the planning sketches on paper to the construction of the parts that go together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to the final painting. It contains some of Hinson's most extreme use of assemblage and collage elements and reminds me a lot of some of Robert Rauschenberg's early assemblages.

Palminteri paints portraits of himself, his friends and family inside his studio employing a lot of trickery in terms of perspective and illusion, with people and paintings reflected and repeated.  There are pictures of himself in his studio with the same picture stacked against the wall in the same studio with open windows and doors bringing inside out, lending to his paintings the kinds of illusions we've seen in works by M.C. Escher and Rene Magritte.

In one of his paintings we see Hinson working with him in his studio (they visit one another's studios and exchange ideas). Hinson and Palminteri are facing each other on either side of a large easel; stacked around them are Palminteri paintings and pieces of Hinson paintings. It is painted in almost blindingly brilliant tones of red and orange with touches of blue, gray, green and violet. The figures are recognizable portraits painted in a style reminiscent of Red Grooms (another favorite artist who is seldom given the recognition he deserves).

Just as Hinson is showing a display of a work in progress, Palminteri is showing a series of paintings that show racks of preliminary sketches beneath rows of finished paintings. The comparisons are fascinating, and the display racks are fine woodworking sculptures.

Illusion/Allusio: Paintings by Barlow Palminteri and Ron Hinson

Through Oct. 28, Wednesday and Thursday noon to 4 p.m. and by appointment
South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Hairspray" at Paradise Theatre in Gig Harbor sets sassy, upbeat tone

Pictured from left: Annette Seymour as Motormouth Maybelle, Howard Knickerbocker as Edna Turnblad and Eli Ghorley as Wilbur Turnblad in "Hairspray" at Paradise Theatre

Published in The News Tribune, Sept. 24, 2010

I really enjoyed “Hairspray” at Paradise Theatre in Gig Harbor. It’s not great theater and doesn’t pretend to be. It’s light, toe-tapping entertainment with a simplistic teenage love story and equally simplistic takes on the important issues of race and body image in the fictional era when the big concern of the day was which dancer on the “The Corny Collins Show” is going to be selected “Miss Hairspray.”

Based on the 1988 John Waters movie starring Divine as the overweight, working-class mother Edna Turnblad (John Travolta in the 2007 film remake), it translates easily from film to stage. In fact, it’s more naturally suited to the musical stage.

Howard Knickerbocker plays Edna in the Paradise production, and Emileigh Kershaw plays Edna’s spunky daughter Tracy. The part could have been written with Kershaw in mind. From the plaintive opening number, “Good Morning Baltimore,” which she performs after waking up in a cleverly constructed upright bed that turns on rollers to become the door to a house, she beautifully personifies the character of this dreamer who refuses to entertain the thought that being short and fat could possibly get in the way of becoming a dancing TV star or finding romance. And it doesn’t.

From the moment of her first audition for Corny Collins’ dance show, everyone falls in love with her – from Corny (terrifically played by Jonathan Bill) to the vast TV audience in Baltimore, to the teen heartthrob Link Larkin (Grant Troyer) – everyone but the stereotypically self- centered diva Amber Von Tussle (Tia Langley) and her manipulative mother Velma (Stacee Villa).

The orchestra under the direction of Vicki Knickerbocker is larger than the usual at Paradise and sounds better than I’ve ever heard them.

Jeff Richard’s set is colorful, and the pieces easily move to make changes unobtrusive. The lighting with all of the flashing and revolving colors is dramatic and, in some of the musical numbers, heightens the intensity. In other numbers, it is overdone and distracting. The following spotlight in the opening-weekend performance often missed the actors.

Vicki Richard’s choreography is outstanding, and the ensemble dancing is good.

Many of the actors turn in notable performances. Eli Ghorley is a lovable Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy’s dad. Troyer’s moves are perfect for the slick teen Elvis wannabe, and his singing is wonderful.

Krista Curry is expressive as the very excitable Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend; and Jesse Smith as Penny’s boyfriend Seaweed J. Stubbs has great dance moves and a beaming smile. Shannon Burch makes for a truly funny Prudy Pingleton, Penny’s uptight mother. (She reminded me of Ruth Buzzy as the frumpy lady in Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh-In,” who kept hitting mashers with her purse.)

The real knockout is Annette Seymour as the strong and sassy Motormouth Maybelle. Her soulful solo on “I Know Where I’ve Been” is a show-stopper that leaves you breathless.

“Hairspray” is light entertainment loaded with upbeat music that will transport you back to 1962 in a delightful way.

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 3; dinner theater performance at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1
Where: Paradise Theatre, 9911 Burnham Drive N.W., Gig Harbor
Tickets: $10-$22, dinner theater $20-$40
Information: 253-851-PLAY,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Disorienting space

8th Annual Juried Exhibition at Tacoma Community College

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 23, 2010
Pictured: "Schuster Parkway," mixed-media painting by Marsha Glaziere

There is a quiet and dignified exhibition of photographs in the small entryway of The Gallery  at Tacoma Community College. The photographs are pretty traditional not very exciting, but they are nicely done. One in particular, "Lake Washington Bridge" by Jim Oliver, does wonderful things with water and shadows. These photos are the first things you see when entering the 8th Annual Juried Exhibition at Tacoma Community College.

And then you step into the main gallery and glance to the left and become suddenly disoriented because the paintings you see there are rough, with harsh angles, jarring colors and skewed perspectives that can easily induce vertigo. The most disorienting of all, and my pick for best in show is Marsha Glaziere’s large acrylic and mixed-media painting "Schuster Parkway". It is a view of the road as seen from a worm’s-eye view at a curve and looking up at the underside of an overpass. Everything is tilted to the right. The colors are dull and chalky and the painting is harshly expressionistic. This painting fairly leaps off the canvas and grabs you by the throat.

Next to Glaziere’s painting is an expressionistic nude by David Roholt called "On Her Side, On Her Knees" that is equally jarring. The standing figure is subsumed into an energetic field of primary colors with thick, slashing paint application. Roholt does a good job of integrating the figure into the background, but even though it is an attention grabber it doesn’t wear well over time. It needs some restful areas to play off against the agitated forms.

Frank Dippolito has four pieces in the show, all of which are pretty impressive. "Demente Toro" is fascinating in its technique. It is a swirling abstract pattern made of ribbons of paper mounted edgewise on canvas. His "Still Life", assemblge and collage, is solid in design and uses nice contrasts of dark and light and large and small shapes.

I like Dorothy McCuistion’s little linoleum cut and watercolor titled "Cut. "It’s a drawing of a scissor in white line on black with a highly dramatic, solid black shadow.

The great duo of Ric Hall & Ron Schmitt is represented with a pastel called "Theoretical Comparison". After years of viewing their work I am continually amazed that they can work collaboratively the way they do, drawing in tandem almost as if their four hands belong to one person. This drawing is dark and cartoonish, as their works always are, both ominous and funny, and full of surprises.

Another truly amazing painting is Alain Clerc’s "Cuban Breeze". It is so simple that it could easily be dismissed at a first glance. It’s a simple chalky blue sky with chalky white clouds painted over a geometric linear pattern that breaks the space into jagged plains. The longer I looked at it the more it grew on me.

Other paintings of note are Don Don Haggerty’s "Earth Dance" and Sarah Waldo’s "Taos". There are very few sculptures in the show. The most enjoyable of these is Joe Batt's comical "Plow."

 [Tacoma Community College, 8th Annual Juried Art Exhibition, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, through Oct. 15, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma.]

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tacoma Playwright premiers

Received this press release today from Tacoma Little Theatre and thought it worth passing on:

Tacoma Little Theatre presents the world premier of UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, a new full-length play by Tacoma playwright C. Rosalind Bell. The play opens October 1, 2010 at 7:30 PM.

The story revolves around the long distance friendship between writer Josephine Cohen in New Orleans and up and coming writer Amanda Brown, now living in Tacoma. Together they share a love for feisty wit and fine literature. Their friendship is strained when Josephine's shocking new book is published.  UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES explores the relationship between words, friendship, and our own sense of self.

About the Playwright

Louisiana native and Tacoma resident C. Rosalind Bell is the Dollover Artist in Residence at University of Puget Sound. She is the author of three plays, 1620 BANK STREET, UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES and THE NEW ORLEANS MONOLOGUES, developed and produced at University of Puget Sound in  2007.   Bell was awarded a City of Tacoma Arts Grant in 2009 and received a 2010 commission from Northwest Playwrights Alliance. One of her short stories, FIRST FRIEND, was adapted into the short film, TOOTIE PIE, and was screened at THE SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL and shown on PBS' KCTS in Spring 2010.  Her play, THE NEW ORLEANS MONOLOGUES, named a Top Ten Entertainment by The News Tribune, will have simultaneous November 2010 productions at City College San Franciso and UC Santa Cruz's Rainbow Theatre. One of her screenplays, Le Cirque Noir, about the rise and fall of the Duvaliers of Haiti, received a staged reading at the 2008 Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival. An excerpt of her novel-in-progress, LOVE, ME was featured in the magazine, City Arts Tacoma, May 2008. She is a director of the August Wilson Play Reading Series produced by Northwest Playwrights Alliance/Broadway Center/Washington State History Museum/The Conversation.  COLORLINES, the national news magazine on race and politics, featured Rosalind among its INNOVATORS FOR 2008. She is a member of Macondo, a Writers Workshop conceived by author Sandra Cisneros in San Antonio.  She is a member of The Conversation and The Black Collective.

UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES is directed by Tacoma Little Theatre’s Artistic Director, Scott Campbell, and features LaNita Hudson as Amanda and Julie Novak Weinberger as Josephine.

Founded in 1918, Tacoma Little Theatre is the oldest theatre company in the west.  The theatre is located at 210 North I Street in Tacoma’s historic Stadium District.  UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES  runs October 1 through October 10, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. Ticket are $15.00.  To reserve seats, or for more information, please call 253-272-2281 or visit

Friday, September 17, 2010

Laughter and tears with a Southern accent with 'The Dixie Swim' at Olympia Little Theatre

Published in The News Tribune / The Olympian, Sept. 17, 2010
Pictured, from left: Teresa Wall as Dinah, Christine Goode as Vernadette, Jennie Jenks as Sheree, and Kristina Cummins as Jeri Neal.
Photo by Toni Holm.

Prepare to laugh. And maybe even cry a little bit. “The Dixie Swimclub” at Olympia Little Theatre is a bittersweet Southern gothic comedy in the tradition of “Steel Magnolias” and “Crimes of the Heart.”

Writers Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten built their play around a tried-and-true literary device: revisiting the same characters over a lifetime. Five women, each with her unique eccentricities and all members of a championship college swim team, gather together every August in the same cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

We first meet the quintet of swimmers in 1984, 22 years after they graduate, then again in 1989 and 1994, and finally in 2010 when they are all 70 years old.

The writers consistently carry the individual characters’ quirks and peculiarities throughout the years – consistent to the point of seeming contrived in some instances, such as Vernadette (Christine Goode) arriving every August with a new injury and immediately running to the bathroom, and Lexie’s (Maureen O’Neill) obsession with her appearance and the men in her life.

The five actors are just as consistent in portraying the uniqueness of these characters. They play them almost but not quite as caricatures of comedic types, but just when you think they’re going over the edge into absurdity, they bring them back down to the natural and believable. What’s really outstanding about all five characters, both in how they’re written and how they are portrayed by the actors in this production, is that we feel we know them. We all have sisters or aunts or cousins who are exactly like Lexie or Sheree or Dinah.

Sheree (Jennie Jenks) is the organizer who is obsessive about planning every little detail and who serves her friends snacks they can’t stomach. They throw them out the window or spit them out in a flower pot.

Dinah (Teresa Wall) is a sharp and sharp-witted lawyer who can successfully deal with everybody’s problems but her own.

Lexie keeps getting facelifts and breast augmentations and “just positively refuses to give in to age.”

Vernadette is plagued by bad luck but never loses her good spirits.

And finally there is Jeri Neal (Kristina Cummins), the nun who leaves the order and gets pregnant and faces life with a Pollyannaish attitude. She is simply delightful.

The humor is outstanding, and it is easy to sympathize with each of these women as life batters them like the storms that pound the Outer Banks.

My only criticism is that the Southern accents make it difficult to hear all of the dialogue – it takes most of the first act to get used to them – and the breaks between acts are awfully long and distracting as stagehands move props. Unfortunately this is something the audience just has to put up with because of the nature of the play and the arrangement of the stage area.

When: 7:55 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 1:55 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 3
Where: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. N.E., Olympia
Tickets: $10-$12, available at Yenney Music Co. on Harrison Avenue (360-943-7500) or www.buyolympia. com/events
Information: 360--786-9484, http:// olympialittletheater.Org

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tacoma's got talent

Greater Tacoma Community Foundation or Art Award show

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 16, 2010
Pictured: "Heavy Seas" by Jeremy Mangan
"Filament Structure"  by Yuki Nakamura
photos courtesy University of Puget Sound

There’s some great stuff in the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation show at Kitteredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound. This exhibition of nominees and winners of the Foundation of Art Award includes work by the 25 nominees from 2008 to 2010. It is very likely the best selection of art from Tacomans you’re likely to see in a single gathering.

But there are some clunkers, too. For starters, most of the freestanding sculptures are boring. No matter the subject, they all look like scale models of houses. Among the few exceptions are a couple of colorful pieces by Nicholas Nyland: "Dog Love," glazed ceramic, and a free-hanging sculpture called "Garland." "Dog Love" is a decorative little statuette that looks like a circle of butt-sniffing Dalmatians with big yellow flowers. "Garland" is a series of ripped sheets of watercolor paper with colorful patterns hanging on rope through grommets. The rope and grommets are outsized in proportion to the flimsy paper, and it is the contrast between light and heavy media that lends this piece power.

Speaking of colorful and decorative, Mauricio Robalino’s two prints and two paintings are exceedingly bright but a bit too illustrational and cutesy for my taste.

Jeremy Mangan is represented by two paintings: "Heavy Seas" (Mangan at his best) and "Row of Sheds" (definitely not one of his best). "Heavy Seas," a tiny painting at 11-by-14 inches, pictures one of Mangan’s signature barnlike structures adrift in a stormy sea. The power of the waves and the oddness of the structure combined with the artist’s meticulous painting make for great art.

Among my favorite works in the show are four transparency print photographs by Victoria Bjorklund. These are transparent photographs, mostly of urban scenes, mounted over other photographs. The transparencies create the effect often seen in glass-fronted stores or restaurants where you see overlapping reflections and outside scenes — a natural phenomenon that can be very beautiful. The soft gray tones of Bjorklund’s pictures add considerably to the mood and the beauty.

Other favorites include a set of three paintings in aerosol, black gesso and colored pencil by Jeremy Gregory. His dark colors are marvelous. His figures are cartoonish but fully modeled. My favorite is "Return of the Breeder," a cut-out image of a horse with a woman’s face and breasts in front of a shadow-box landscape.

Yuki Nakamura’s "Filament Structure," porcelain and LED light tubes, looks like a Donald Judd sculpture. I love the repetitive, minimalist form and the soft blue light. But the pinhole surface decoration is superfluous. She should have let well enough alone with the strong basic forms.

Marc Dombrosky is showing what looks like one sculpture made of old cardboard scraps with words scribbled on them like beggar’s signs. The labels indicate they are four separate pieces. As individual pieces they are boring, but seen as a holistic installation they are very nice. Perhaps the confusion (one piece or four) is the point.

Kyle Dillehay’s "Lines of Earth" is an attractive piece that dominates one wall of the back gallery. Knots of root clusters extend outward in a semi-random order from a flat white board upon which is attached a box like a window flower box with dried red peppers. The root clusters extend beyond the frame and crawl up the wall and onto the ceiling.

This is an impressive show.

[Kittredge Gallery, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., through Oct. 2, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Books from ClaytonWorks Publishing

Coming this fall from ClaytonWorks Publishing - three exciting new books:

Practicing Zen Without A License
by Jack Butler

Practicing Zen Without A License is a treatise of religion and philosophy as written by Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams in the year 2450 AD. Or something like that. Wisdom and practicality lurk beneath the bad jokes and worse puns and purposeful disregard for convention and grammar, or as OB Wanda (Roshi) would have it, “dialect, slang, anecdotes, wild-ass metaphors, jokes, free association, word-music”
“The Kid Who Wanted to Be A Spaceman” has grown up.

Jack Butler is the author of eight previous books in sixteen editions worldwide:
  • West of Hollywood 
  • Hawk Gumbo and Other Stories
  • The Kid Who Wanted to Be a Spaceman
  • Jujitsu for Christ (1986)
  • Nightshade (1989)
  • Living in Little Rock With Miss Little Rock (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize)
  • Jack’s Skillet: Plain Talk and Some Recipes From a Guy in the Kitchen
  • Dreamers

Pakuwon City: Letters from the East

by Ricker Winsor

Ricker Winsor is an artist, writer and blues musician. Pakuwon City is a collection of letters he wrote while teaching in Bangladesh from 2002 to 2004 and Indonesia from 2009 to 2010 plua essays from earlier trips to Mexico in 1962 and Europe in 1964.

Reunion at the Wetside
by Alec Clayton

Romance blossoms at Barney's Pub between Alex, a leftwing Democrat, and Jim, a Libertarian-leaning Republican - old friends from half a century ago.

Meantime, someone is killing off all the old drag queens, and Jim may be the only person who can catch the killer

... if he doesn't become the next victim.

"If you like murder mysteries with a bit of meat and history on them, you will love Reunion at the Wetside.  Alex Clayton lovingly and skillfully unveils the layered secrets behind of a series of murders, which turn out, not surprisingly, to have their roots in what happened among a group of children (and the young adults they became) decades ago.  Once again, the past not only isn't gone, it isn't even the past.  And this past is a killer!" - Jack Butler

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tacoma Little Theatre's whodunit 'Sleuth' heaps on humor

Published in The News Tribune, Sept. 10, 2010
Pictured: Alan Wilkie as Andrew Wyke and Christian Doyle as Milo Tindle (in a clown suit). Photos by Dean Lapin.

“Sleuth” by Anthony Shaffer is much more than a mind-boggling mystery. It is a chess game of the mind with life-or-death consequences between two clever adversaries. In the Tacoma Little Theatre production directed by John Munn the adversaries are Alan Wilkie as Andrew Wyke and Christian Doyle as Milo Tindle.

While perusing the Internet for specific information on this play, I noticed many reviews of ”Sleuth” in other theaters carried a common theme: that bad acting had destroyed what was an excellent play when it premiered in London with Anthony Quayle and Keith Baxter in the lead roles and in the American the film version starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.

This is a play that puts great demands on the lead actors. To be effective, Wyke has to be portrayed as lovable and intelligent with a mischievous streak. He has to dance on a tightrope between being likable and detestable -- not an easy task, but Wilkie does it so well that I didn’t question the duality of his character.

Tindle, on the other hand, has to play dumb and innocent but prove to be intelligent, and he has to master pratfalls that could seriously injure a less skilled actor. The way Tindle stumbles in clown feet, as a prime example, could easily devolve into stupidity. Those who saw Doyle in his recent role as Rosencrantz in “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” at Lakewood Playhouse know that he is more than capable of pulling off just such pratfalls, and he did. Buster Keaton couldn’t have done it any better.

Doyle and Wilkie have to carry the weight of the play. The other supporting actors’ roles are too miniscule to mention, with the exception of James C. Kennedy as Inspector Doppler. He is on stage for only a few minutes, but they are memorable minutes. According to the program, Kennedy has never before performed in the South Sound region. He is a professional actor from Los Angeles with an impressive biography. Here he interestingly plays a minor role that amounts to a cameo. Doppler is an old man who walks with a shuffle and can barely manage to climb steps, and he speaks in a monotone. Like Columbo from the old television series, he pretends to be slow-witted as a means of throwing people off guard. But his adversary in this case, Wyke, is more than a match for him.

Kennedy’s professionalism shows, but the local actors, Wilkie and Doyle, outshine him. His character is too one-dimensional and his flat delivery, while funny in small portions, would get boring if his time on stage were not so brief, whereas Wilkie and Doyle keep the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what they’re going to do next.

Set designer Blake R. York has created a rich country home with many fascinating details and Tracy Berryman has added props that augment both the mystery and comedy, helped by Gail Thomason’s special effects.

If you like whodunits with eccentric characters, a large heaping of humor and an almost endless array of surprise twists, by all means go to see “Sleuth” at Tacoma Little Theatre.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 26, actor benefit matinee Sept. 25
WHERE: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N “I” St., Tacoma
TICKETS: $15 - $24
INFORMATION: 253-272-2281,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chastity returns

Mineral’s provocative Chastity show part two

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 9, 2010
Pictured: "Virgin" by Lisa Kinoshita

The show is called Access Denied, but it should be “Access by Invitation Only” or “Access at Your Own Risk.” It’s the follow-up to Mineral’s popular chastity belt show from a year ago.

The walls are lined with artist-designed chastity belts displayed on female-form mannequins. They express 21st century takes — mostly sarcastic — on the medieval concept of guarding a woman’s chastity. The overarching theme is that a woman’s body should never again be considered the property of another person.

Is there a difference between art and craft? I think there is, and I think these items are craft. They are more akin to jewelry than to, say, painting or sculpture.  As a prime example, two of the best pieces in the show are by jewelry maker and Mineral owner Lisa Konoshita.

They may also be seen as conceptual art in that their main attraction is the idea expressed rather than the visual form. Take, for instance, Lynn Di Nino’s" Lawsuit." It is a set of lace panties displayed on a mannequin with one of those do-not-remove/care-and-laundry labels sewn to the crotch. The backside of the labels says “This is not a toy and should be kept from children.” ’Nuff said.

The works by Kinoshita mentioned above are necklaces for the lower regions of the body made of a variety of materials and displayed on wire female forms hanging on the wall. The best of these is "The Virgin," made of eggs that hang from the crotch like baubles, a pulley, cowhide, an antique hammer, electrical tape and other materials. Each of the eggs has a silver metal tip that looks like a nipple (perhaps through association due to all the emphasis on the female body). This is actually a very attractive work of art — more like sculpture than like a necklace due to its size — that probably would not have any reference to a chastity belt if it were not in this show displayed in the manner it is displayed.

Another enjoyable piece is Fred Park’s "Shy & Excited." A leather belt is rolled into a tight circle that holds as eggs in a nest four tiny, translucent white gourd shapes with lavender pearls. It is very elegant, and it is accompanied by a humorously poignant poem expressing the wearer’s shyness.

One of the more provocative pieces is Galen McCarty’s "Open for Business," which sports a cheesy plastic Jesus hanging over the crotch of a mannequin and behind lighted neon.

The Best-in-Show award selected by Sarah Traver, director of the Traver Gallery, went to "Rape of the Land" by Daichi Koya.

[Mineral, noon-5 p.m., Thursday-Saturday (hours may vary, so call first), through Oct. 9, 301 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.250.7745,]

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm hours away from finishing my latest novel. Gabi and I designed the front cover. The cover image is a painting by Penelope G. Merrell.

More info to come.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Harlequin's ‘Dr. Jekyll' a stroke of genius

Published in The News Tribune / The Olympian, Sept. 3, 2010
Pictured: the Cast of "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde," on riser, left to right:
Aaron Lamb, Mike Dooly, Caitlin Frances, Russ Holm, Helen Harvester; front: Frank Lawler, and "Nancy."

Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic horror tale “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” does not lend itself easily to play adaptation. It is too much of a simple morality play pitting good against evil. It took the great playwright Jeffrey Hatcher (“Tuesdays with Morrie,” “Murderers”) to give it the psychological depth and complexity essential to a modern literary thriller.

Hatcher’s adaptation directed by Scot Whitney for Harlequin Productions is stylishly frightening and sprinkled with macabre humor.

Including four Hydes played by four different actors – often on stage all at once to present different aspects of the same warped personality – was a stroke of genius on the part of Hatcher. Whitney choreographs the movements of these four Hydes (Mike Dooly, Caitlin Frances, Russ Holm and Frank Lawler) like a contemporary ballet. He also choreographs the movement of set pieces as if in a modern dance.

Hatcher’s other stroke of genius was to write in a love interest, not for the “good” Dr. Jekyll but for the “evil” Mr. Hyde.

The set by Jill Carter and lighting by Kate Arvin do much more than set the mood. The stage is dominated by a dark set of stadium seats that serves as a surgical observation platform and by a massive red door that is constantly wheeled about the stage.

Everything is on wheels, and everything moves in syncopation. The door becomes a dance partner to various actors, and the bleachers break apart and roll back in sections to reveal startling lighting effects.

The acting, the sets and the music are all highly stylized and abstract. Movement is constant and interwoven. There are no costume changes except for the addition of a hat and walking sticks for all four Hyde characters. And yet when Jekyll’s servant Poole (Frances) changes into Hyde, the transformation is physically convincing. Likewise, Lawler looks like three different actors as Hyde, the police inspector and the creepy surgeon Sir Danvers Carew.

Dooly and Holm, on the other hand, do not significantly change as they play their different characters. It’s hard to tell Holm’s Utterson from his Hyde, and Dooly’s Dr. Lanyon and his Mr. Hyde both have the same booming laugh.

Overall, the cast is outstanding. Aaron Lamb is Dr. Jekyll. He plays the part with intense emotion and body movements. At one point, his body and Hyde’s (Frances) practically meld into a single hybrid form as Hyde becomes Jekyll.

Dooly’s Hyde is one of the most complex characters in the play as he struggles with his love of Elizabeth (Helen Harvester) and his hatred for everyone else. His evil acts are big, bombastic and gleeful; he dances, prances and fairly sings as he commits murder, and the audience is kept in suspense whenever he is with Elizabeth as he fights with conflicting compulsions to love her or to kill her. Dooly’s stage presence as Hyde is overwhelming.

Frances totally submerges her own persona in the characters of eight very different people, from a prostitute to a student, to an old woman to an interpretation of Hyde that is like a prancing bantam rooster – all of these roles balanced by her steady role as the very formal and serious Poole.

Russ Holm in the dual role as Hyde No. 1 and Jekyll’s colleague Utterson is the Jack Nicholson of South Sound theater. Like Nicholson, he’s recognizable as a bigger-than-life character with a mischievous streak who never completely loses himself in his character but always makes his characters memorable.

Lawler displays a terrific range of acting skills in five roles including a self-aggrandizing Dr. Carew, a police inspector and yet another Hyde. He is most effective as Carew and as Hyde but believable in all of his roles.

Harvester pulls off one of the most demanding roles of all as Elizabeth, a poky charwoman with very little personality who believably falls in love with a monster.

This play is an acting and a directing tour de force.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 18Where: State Theater, 202 E. Fourth Ave., OlympiaTickets: $24-$32, rush tickets $12-$15 half an hour before curtainInformation: 360-786-0151, www.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Impersonal Portraits

Matthew M Johnson at Fulcrum

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 2, 2010
Pictured "GRCC," charcoal on paper by Matthew M Johnson, courtesty Fulcrum

Matthew Johnson’s charcoal drawings and watercolors at Fulcrum are unassuming, unpretentious and traditional in style and execution. There’s nothing to distinguish them other than 1) the unusual subject matter and 2) the skill of the drawings. Yet I was drawn to them even from outside the gallery on the sidewalk looking in. These are impactful images.

About the subject matter: they are portraits of cell phone towers. Such towers have become ubiquitous, but I suspect that most people, like me, never pay attention to them. Who studies their form, the shadows they cast or the way they relate visually to surrounding buildings, trees and sky? Apparently Johnson does.

Johnson calls these drawings impersonal portraits, anthropomorphizing the cell towers and relating them to human personalities.  “As the cell phone has integrated into my live it has led to a depersonalization of my relationships through convenience. The towers represent my connection the world. Everyone I know and everyone I have yet to meet,” Johnson wrote in a wall statement.

There are a dozen or so charcoal drawings (I didn’t count) and two small clusters of watercolors. The visual impact is due primarily to the placement of the towers on the page and the selection of how much of the surrounding environment to include — in most of the drawings very, very little, an edge of a building or a part of a tree, the objects on the page isolated in vast white spaces.

Shading of the towers is done with few graphic marks showing but rather in solid blocks of various tones of gray and black, but the shading in other areas such as the underside of a part of a water tower in a drawing called Lowes is highly energetic in dramatic contrast to the shading of the towers. His trees, and a bird’s nest nestled in one of the towers are also very energetic, which makes sense because of the differing nature of twigs and leaves and pieces of metal and wire.

One other odd thing that shows up in many of the drawings is the use of concentric circles like targets or in some instances like a sun or moon behind the towers. Gallery owner Oliver Doriss said he suspects they represent the energy emitted from the tower. Perhaps. They are odd and out-of-place abstract or symbolic images stuck onto realistic drawings. Theoretically I object to these, but when I look at the drawings they seem to be not out of place at all.  

These are very attractive drawings.

[Fulcrum Gallery, noon to 6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and by appointment, through Sept. 11, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.250.0520]