Friday, December 30, 2011

"ART LESSON": oil on linen by Todd Clark. Courtesy B2 Fine Art

"Cold Fusion"

These cold paintings are hot


“HALF MOON”: Oil and encaustic by Judy Hintz Cox, currently on display at B2 Fine Art. Courtesy B2 Fine Art

Cold Fusion at B2 Fine Art is the second part of a two-part exhibition. The first part, Hot Fusion, was last summer. Hot summer, cold winter, and a few of the same artists: Scott J. Morgan, Judy Hintz Cox, Todd Clark and photographer Jeff. G. Mitchell.

All of the work is abstract in the classically modern style that epitomized American art in the 1940s and '50s. Don't look for anything radically new here, but you can expect to see fine art by fine artists who thoroughly understand the elements of painting.

Cox and Clark dominate the show with their large, exuberant paintings.

Cox is showing works in three distinct styles. There is a group of highly gestural abstractions with loosely brushed strokes on a stark white background; a series in a variation of this with slightly more controlled forms and a similar white background; and a third series that is also similar but much more highly controlled and almost minimal, with more solid shapes which formulate recognizable subject matter. There is one called "Practicing Leaving," for instance, that has a contour drawing of a penguin in it, one that has a few shapes that look like boulders stacked on a precipice, and yet another that has an animal shape and a box drawn in perspective as if hurling through space. These paintings are the least conventional works in the show. I appreciate their originality and their smart use of space and balance, but they're not as exciting as Cox's more painterly abstractions.

In terms of pure painterly energy the best of Cox's works are the ones with reddish-brown and ochre shapes on chalky white. The tenuous balance of open and closed spaces and the excitement of a variety of transparencies, drawing, dense layering and texture within closed shapes is very exciting. I'm tempted to say these are the best paintings in the show, but that would discount Clark's work, which is also excellent.

Clark is as eclectic as can be. He has mined the best of Abstract Expressionist art, stealing from the likes of Pollock, de Kooning, Mark Toby and Joan Mitchell and others. His "Solo" is like a Pollock in black and white but with brushstrokes instead of dripping. "Art Lesson" is a Joan Mitchell in tones of gray with accents in pink, blue and orange. Toby's famous "white painting" comes into play in his large painting called "Small Todd Meets Big Todd." The top two-thirds of this painting is a field of squiggles of paint in tones of gray with Toby-like white on top, and the bottom one-third is infused with some of the hottest reds and pinks I've ever seen. It's on fire!

Morgan's paintings are mostly small abstractions with organic shapes in muted colors. His one large painting, "VA" (65-inches square) is his best, due to its controlled push and pull between shapes.
Mitchell's photographs are close-ups of parts of buildings and airplanes that twist and soar through space. The forms look like they've been distorted as in a funhouse mirror, but they have not been manipulated in any way. These are strong industrial images.

Overall this is a warm and inviting show for cold winter days.

B2 Fine Art, Cold Fusion, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, until 8 p.m. Third Thursdays, through Feb. 4, 711 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.238.5065

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Foundation Award



Big deal in Tacoma

The Weekly Volcano, December 14, 2011

"Ingrained," a print on handmade paper by Jessica Spring

"Pin a Dorito on an American" by Lynn Di Nino

The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation Award is a big deal. Being nominated is an honor bestowed by one's peers, and being chosen as the award recipient is an even greater honor. The choices are made by a committee including Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride; Jeremy Mangan, recipient of last year's award; Rock Hushka of the Tacoma Art Museum; local artist Susie Russell Hall and others. It's just about the biggest award granted to local artists. As such, it's a shame that it doesn't merit a major gallery or museum showing such as what used to be given to the Neddy Award nominees. As a matter of fact, since the Neddy has taken its show away from Tacoma Art Museum in favor of a Seattle venue, maybe the Foundation Award show could replace the Neddy at TAM.

Instead, it's a window show in the Chamber of Commerce building at Pacific and 11th. Not exactly the best way to show such honored work.

The nominees this year were: Jennifer Adams, Sean Alexander, Nick Butler, Lynn Di Nino, Oliver Dorris, Kristin Giordano, Ellen Ito, Matt Johnson, Rick Lawson, Nicholas Nyland, Elise Richman, Peter Serko and this year's winner, Jessica Spring.

Spring is the founder of locally-based Springtide Press. Her piece for the Foundation Award, titled "Ingrained," is an art book created on handmade paper made from ancient Western red cedar logs and printed with poetry written by Spring. The pages hang from a display rack similar to those used by stores to display flooring.

Spring explains: "I found the original cedar shingle sales kit on antique row in Tacoma. I had seen it long before our trip to Yakima, and it came to mind pretty quickly after my idea and on a return visit I was really relieved to find it still there. I was determined to make my own paper for the piece, and had experimented a little with eastern arbor vitae. After some strange phone calls to local mills, I found Darwin. He's been working in the timber industry since he was a kid (and has less than 10 fingers to prove it). Darwin had some huge Western red cedar logs with bark - nearly two feet across. He pronounced these behemoths "adolescents" and used a huge scraping tool to peel off several sections I could load in the car. After soaking (them) I could remove the inner bark in strips, cook it for most of a day, then process in a blender. The resulting fiber made beautiful paper - some I used straight, some I mixed with abaca or recycled cotton paper - all of it dried pasted on my studio windows."

Spring wrote all the text except the W.B. Yates quote on the back of the piece. Unfortunately, in its present setting it is impossible to see all of the pages. I have seen only enough to get the impression that the text has to do with metaphors for our relationship with the forests and includes some clever word play.

Similar in content is Peter Serko's photograph "Only the Trees Remember," a beautiful, misty photo of almost invisible leafless trees and houses printed on aluminum with a strange green patina. It sweetly captures the essence of the land of the Pacific Northwest.

By contrast, Lynn Di Nino's "Pin a Dorito on an American" is a delightfully playful sculpture of five obese characters standing on the food they devour. It's like a tongue-in-cheek monument to the glories of junk food.

Also very enjoyable is Ellen Ito's take on a poster from the movie "Cool Hand Luke" printed in soft gray washes with bright red paint on a long scroll.

This show includes representative works from some of Tacoma's best artists. You owe it to yourself to see it, even if it means standing out in the rain and the cold. The window display is supposed to remain for an indefinite period of time. I was told it would be about three months.

Foundation Award, Chamber of Commerce building, 11th and Pacific Ave., 24/7 for nonspecific time

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pastels by invitation

Seventy-seven artists from United States and Canada show in Tacoma


“Suspended Flora”: A pastel piece by Marcel Schwarb. Courtesy American Art Company

American Art Company is now hosting the Northwest Pastel Society's 25th Annual International Open Exhibition.

Pastels have a bad rep, often deserved, but not always. The name is associated with soft and pretty colors, and pastel as a media has long been thought of as a media of sweet grandmothers who take it up as a hobby - despite the example of Edgar Degas, who revolutionized pastel art with layered and heavily textured works as far back as 1880. That influence is still very evident in the current pastel exhibit at American Art Company. There are some marvelous landscapes and urban scenes with rich colors that are worth long and serious contemplation.

I like many of the Degas-influenced pastels, but what this show proves is that there have been no advancements in the art of pastel since about 1886. This exhibit, while beautiful in rich textures and luminous colors, is filled with trite imagery. There is not a single abstract painting in the show, although Diana Sanford's "Portals #4" is an almost-abstract street scene with a strong composition and some wonderfully muted colors. There is one painting of a skull and a hammer called "Signs of Life" by Trish Harding that verges on abstraction and Surrealism. There is also a handful of figures including one nice one of a girl playing the piano, "Playing Her Piece" by Jane Mayer, which is very lovely and has some wonderful green and yellow tones in her cast shadow. And there is a single nude, Paul Barton's "Resting Dancer," that is nicely done but rather clich├ęd. Everything else is landscape or cityscape. Or animals. And the show would have been much better if every single animal picture had been rejected.
And now for comments on a few of the best works.

Marcel Schwarb's "Suspended Flora" has the strong heavy forms and diagonals and slanted light of an Edward Hopper cityscape, but without Hopper's sense of pathos and alienation. The colors are terrific, especially the blue of the sky that shows through an opening in the top of the building in such a way as to turn negative space into a positive. And I like the way Schwarb cropped the scene and made it look like a slightly tilted camera shot.

Kari Tirrell's "Venice" is a marvel of technique. It's a scene of two gondolas in Venice seen from a bridge. The clarity and realism is amazing. The water looks like a photograph printed on slick photo paper. I've never been one to admire art for technique alone, but I do admire this painting.
Lawrence Barone's "Black River" (which is green) captured the award for "Best in Show." It is a very simple scene of a single tree on a river bank with a skrim of trees in the background. Everything is nicely harmonized and unified.

Also impressive are "Rocklyn Summer" by Ladonna Kruger and Barbara Benedetti Newton's "Spellbound" and Deborah Matlock's "Thirteen," a painting of a girl in a fencing outfit resting with sword in hand.

Northwest Pastel Society’s 25th Annual International Open Exhibition
Through Dec. 31, Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Third Thursday until 8 p.m., American Art Company, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.272.4327

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scrooged again!



Capital Playhouse trots out another seasonal favorite


Photos: from top, Michael E. Self as Ebenezer Scrooge, Nicholas Hayes as Tiny Tim with Scrooge and Geoffery Simmons as the Ghost of Christmas Presence, Tim and Scrooge, Ghost of Scrooge.  

I swore I was not going to see any more Christmas shows this year. Especially not yet another version of “A Christmas Carol,” and yet I saw “Scrooge” at Capital Playhouse. And I’m glad I did.

This production of “Scrooge” is thoroughly professional in every aspect, from the sets, lighting and costumes to the directing and the music, both by Troy Arnold Fisher, and of course the performance by the entire cast from lead actor Michael E. Self as Ebenezer Scrooge to ensemble actors such as Nicholas Main and Jake Hoff who appear as Peter Cratchit, an urchin, and undertaker and “boy with sled.” It is theatrical in the extreme, with powerful special effects and exuberant performances. Even the wigs and the fake beards and moustaches some of the men wear are outstanding in a couple of ways: they reflect the styles of the times, and they help to transform actors such as Jerod Nace and Geoffery Simmons into a multiplicity of believable and sometimes hilariously absurd characters (witness the outsized moustache Simmons sports in the opening scene). It’s a rare thing when wig designs are credited in a performance program, but Michael Costain deserves the recognition.

More on costumes, sets, etc. later, but now on to the performances.
Nace – a veteran of many shows at Capital Playhouse, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Lakewood Playhouse and others – turns in one of his finer performances in this show. He’s in fine voice on “I Hate People” and “Thank You Very Much.” He’s loveable as Tom Jenkins and switches to three other characters with ease.

Simmons, the only Equity actor in the cast, is a fabulous Ghost of Christmas Present. I haven’t seen him on a South Sound stage since his fabulous performance in “Sideshow” three years ago and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” in 2005, and it was great seeing him again. In this role he doesn’t get a chance to solo much, which is a shame, but he does get to strut his stuff with broad gestures and a marvelously booming laugh, and he imparts a brilliantly regal personality to the ghost.

Diane Lee Bozzo is great as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Her singing with Scrooge and others on the song “Happiness” is potent and lovely.

The other women in the cast – Christie Murphy, Rachelle Riehl, Erin Snodgrass and Gwen Haw – are all excellent, but the plum roles belong to the men: to Self, Simmons and Nace; to Patrick Wigren as Marley, young Scrooge and others; and to Nicholas Hayes as Tiny Tim.

Wigren, whom I took special note of in his fabulous performance as Rooster in “Annie” last year, is captivating as the ghost of Jacob Marley with his weird sideways walk while weighted down with chains, and he is convincing as the young Scrooge. My only regret is his amplified voice when playing Marley was too loud. The effect was great, but the volume was deafening. (I have been complaining for at least eight years that Capital Playhouse overdoes the volume. It’s not Wigren’s fault; it’s the fault of a theater that is too small to have the volume so loud.)

Hayes, a third grader in his first main stage performance at Capital Playhouse following performances with the company’s Kids at Play and Kids in Koncert, is charming as Tiny Tim, and his voice on the haunting “The Beautiful Day” is crystal clear.

Finally, there is Scrooge. Self is a consummate actor who brings the character to life and makes us hate his stinginess yet still enjoy his personality even before his famous transformation takes place. And his singing is really great. He has a strong voice that is deep and mellow with a hint of gravel and resonance. Self owns every scene he is in.

Now back to a few words about the designers and the tech crew. The set designed by Bruce Haasl and built by Haasl and technical director Dennis Kurtz beautifully captures the feel of mid-19th century London. The shop windows and the massive wrought iron gate and the huge clock that hovers over it are impressive. Three separate parts of the set revolve to change from street scenes to interior scenes and Scrooge’s heavy four-poster bed moves on and off stage and revolves and shakes, and there is lots of fog and dramatic lighting and sound (lighting by Matt Lawrence and sound by Tom Dakan). The costumes by Asa B. Thornton are outstanding. Marley’s costume and that of the Ghost of Christmas Present are deliciously elaborate and pretty much indescribable.

It’s a story that never gets old, and it is presented with panache and dramatic flair. I definitely recommend “Scrooge.”


When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 30, extra 2 p.m. matinee Sat., Dec. 24 (tentatively scheduled performances Dec. 26 and Dec. 28-30)
Where: Capital Playhouse: 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia
Tickets: $28-$35
More information: 360-943-2744, capitalplayhouse.com

Friday, December 2, 2011

Watch ‘Peter Pan,' at Tacoma Musical Playhouse and you will believe

Bailey Boyd is Wendy and Erica Zabelle is Peter in 
"Peter Pan" at Tacoma Musical Playhouse.

Mark Rake-Marona as Hook and John Miller as Smee.
Photos by Kat Dollarhide.

Published in The News Trivune, Dec. 2, 2011

The musical “Peter Pan” appeals to children of all ages and to adults who want to recapture the wonder of childhood, if only for a couple of hours. Tacoma Musical Playhouse caters to that targeted audience by selling Tinkerbell fairy wings and pirate hats and hooks that light up – and the kids are encouraged to light them up and shout out “I believe in fairies” to restore Tinkerbell to life when her light is dying out in the second act.

Offering “Peter Pan” as a holiday show was a wise choice on the part of TMP because it captures the spirit of the season without referencing Christmas – a nice break from an endless spate of Christmas shows.

Since Mary Martin played Peter Pan on Broadway in 1954, the part has mostly been played by women. TMP’s production is no exception, and Erika Zabelle was a good choice for the role. She has the pixie look generations of audiences have come to expect of the magical boy who never wants to grow up. She also has the grace and rhythm needed to strut and fly and crow with boyish arrogance.

In the other major role, that of Wendy, Bailey Boyd is convincing as a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, and she sings beautifully with a clear voice that is whispery on the low notes and rings out with resonance on the high notes. Boyd may not be familiar to Tacoma audiences, but she is an audience favorite in Olympia, where she has performed in many shows at Capital Playhouse. Her duets with Zabelle on “What Happens (When You’re Grown Up)” and later on “Don’t Say Goodbye,” with backup by Sarah Samuelson as Mrs. Darling, are the most powerful and beautiful songs in the show. Zabelle and Boyd harmonize as a single voice.

Kellen O’Brien as John Darling and Caleb Haalstrup as little brother Michael have the right look for their parts, but could be more exuberant. Mark Rake-Marona, a veteran of countless TMP shows, is inconsistent in the double role of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. I particularly like the way he captures Mr. Darling’s ambivalence and discomfort in the role of father and titular head of a household that is really run by the mother and the pet dog, Nana (Garrett Young), but his interpretation of Hook is somewhat lifeless until the second act when he sings “Goodbye, Peter Pan.” From that moment on he nails the role and demonstrates his versatility as a singer and actor.

Lexi Scamehorn is majestic as Tiger Lily, and I love her costume (by Janet English). Interestingly, the Indians are costumed not as American Indians but as Aztecs or Mayans. However, their singing and dancing is squarely in the American Indian mold.

I don’t know the ages of the actors playing the Lost Boys, but they look older than they should be, and they’re not all boys. The advantage to choosing older actors to play the Lost Boys is they can handle the dance moves and the complicated blocking better. And a couple of the young women playing boy roles are particularly charming.

With characters flying, Tinkerbell’s moving light and many set changes, “Peter Pan” is a technically challenging show to produce, and the TMP tech crew pulls it off well. John Chenault’s lighting is particularly effective.

The set by Will Abrahamse is not his best work. Some of the set pieces look cheap, and the parts actors have to climb on are slightly wobbly, but the painted backdrops are great. Moving great crowds of pirates and Indians and Lost Boys through these set pieces also proves to be awkward at times – too many people having to exit through too-small spaces, most notably when the pirates capture all the Indians and Lost Boys.

Not credited in the program is the actor in the crocodile suit, but I was told it is stage manager Bethany Bevier. She drew great applause every time she crawled on stage and she got to take off her crocodile head and take a bow at curtain call – a much-deserved bow because stage managers are unseen and unsung heroes of theater, appreciated by cast and crew but seldom properly acknowledged by audiences.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 18, with added matinees at 2 p.m. this Sunday and Dec. 18.
Where: Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
Tickets: $20-$27
Information: 253-565-6867, tmp.org

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fast, funny and fantastic

"Pinocchio" at Centerstage 


reviewed by Michael Dresdner

My biggest worry writing this review is that I’ll run out of superlatives. That’s because there’s not a single element of "Pinocchio" at Centerstage that isn’t exemplary. It’s a big, blustery, joyous, musical olio chock full of outstanding singing, dancing and acting, delightful characters, superb music, great direction and choreography, brilliantly creative props and sets… See what I mean? Not enough superlatives.

This production, adroitly directed by Vanessa Miller, is not a true musical or play, but a British style Panto, a traditional entertainment generally presented in mid-winter, though not Christmas themed. It combines a familiar fairy tale, in this case "Pinocchio", with song, dance, outrageous costumes, props and sets, vaudeville style acts, comedy, contemporary and local humor, and lots of audience participation. You’ll be encouraged to comment, boo, cheer, and give advice and warnings to the various characters, and a handful of children get to go onstage to help out with a comic follow-the-bouncing-ball type sing-along. The result is a non-stop rush of giddiness for both the cast and the audience.

Pinocchio (Daniel Goodman) is no less than a rubber-jointed, singing, dancing, acrobatic marvel, reminiscent of Dick Van Dyke at his best. His love object is the beautiful Princess Brittany (Sonya Meyer), who does for Ms. Spears what Tina Fey did for Sarah Palin. Meyer, who started in children’s theatre and established herself as a vocal sensation before leaving the area for college, is back and better than ever. A true triple threat, her magnificent voice is amplified by great dancing as well as acting. She’s attended by a rhymed troupe of talented BFFs named Addison, Madison, Chelsea and Kelsey (Fiona Webber, Olivia Barry, Hannah Shreaves, Celeste Barry.)

No less a triple threat talent is the Blue Fairy (Meg McLynn), another powerful vocalist and dancer who arrives on roller skates to talk to the audience at the head of the show. She later tap dances, glides on in an office chair, and generally covers the bases as an outrageous integral character cum narrator.

One of the Panto conventions is to have a female lead played by a man in drag. In this case it is Geppetta (Bob De Dea,) the female version of the famed puppet maker. His ample height is intensified by a Marge Simpson size wig, and his witty banter made the funnier by his outrageous appearance. Also traditional to Panto is a lead boy played by a female. Here it’s Lampwick (Hannah Mootz), who, like the rest of the cast, has it all together; singing, dancing, comedy and acting.

Rounding out the cast is a gaggle of other equally talented folks, often playing multiple parts. They include the delightfully evil and slightly addled Stromboli (Daniel Wood), King Frank (Sam Barber), a police officer, baker, prime minister and a governess (Jeremy Adams, Kip Brookbank, CJ Conrad, Megan Ann Jones) .

The redoubtable David Duvall, easily the best in the west, handles the superb musical direction and anchors a four piece band (with John VanZanten, Andrew Carson and Mark Malcolm) that pushes the pace, swinging effortlessly through a wealth of musical styles and sound effects, all done to perfection. Costume designer Ron Leamon, along with wig stylist Johnni Whitby, runs the gamut through an amazingly rendered puppet costume with animatronic growing nose, a stunning Princess Brittany, the outsized and outrageous Geppetta, and an over-the-top blue fairy, replete with matching blue wig and outfit enhanced by light-emitting rings and hair adornments. Sarah Sugarbaker’s clean set is further graced with stunning add-ons, like a gobbling whale by Steffon Moody, and amplified with lighting effects by Amy Silveria. I can’t name them all, but the entire production support group deserves to take a bow.

If you’ve been reading my reviews lately you might have noticed that this is the third of three praising Centerstage productions, a record that might make the wise man associate “Centerstage” with “season tickets.” Whatever artistic director Alan Bryce is doing, he ought to bottle it and send a case to the other theatres in the area. It would be, as they say in Yiddish, a real mitzvah.

In any case, don’t miss this night of mood-elevating jollity. It will be gone before you know it, and at this time of year, this is exactly what we all need.


"Pinocchio "
through Dec. 23, 2011
Centerstage


3200 SW Dash Point Road
Federal Way, WA 98003
253-661-1444

Photos:
Daniel Goodman as PINOCCHIO; Meg McLynn as THE BLUE FAIRY
Daniel Goodman as PINOCCHIO; Daniel Wood as STROMBOLI; Hannah Mootz as LAMPWICK


Bob DeDea as GEPETTA; Daniel Goodman as PINOCCHIO, Sonya Meyer as Princess Brittany
Sam Barker as KING FRANK and others
Photos by MICHELLE SMITH LEWIS

Flow gallery presents "Remix +"


Old favorites in a new gallery

The Weekly Volcano, November 30, 2011

"Winter Solstice." Collage, sumi ink and handmade papers by Andrea Erickson


You'd think a gallery that's been open only a few months would not be able to mount a show featuring favorite artists from previous shows. But Flow (formerly Mineral) has done just that with a show called Remix + featuring prints, collages and sumi painting by Mary Bottomley, Bill Colby, Fumiko Kimura, Andrea Erickson, Ellen Miffitt, Selinda Sheridan and Nola Tresslar, plus jewelry by Lisa Von Wendel.

It's a nice little show, and although I didn't pay any attention to the prices - I seldom do - I suspect a lot of these works are reasonably priced and would make for nice Christmas gifts. (I heard a rumor that Erickson is going to use her "Winter Solstice" as a Christmas card this year, so if you buy it you'll have the original of the image all your friends have on a card. Score!)

A few words about selected works from the show:

Bill Colby's "Autumn Sun" is a warm and mystical abstract landscape in a style reminiscent of Adolph Gottlieb, but softer and more delicate. The sun, concentric circles of yellow and reddish orange shrouded in a gray sky and streaked with silvery icicles, hovers over a floating oval within which is a tangle of tree limbs seen at sunset. This little print brings warmth to dreary days.

There is quiet strength and sureness of brushstroke in Erickson's "Sumi Mountain." Five soft vertical brushstrokes create craggy mountain spires on the white paper and atop these spires are evergreen trees created by very delicate strokes of the brush. Also by Erickson is "Zen Petals," a simple expression of pure energy with a single circular stroke in light gray with five red blobs of ink and black splatters, and the previously mentioned "Winter Solstice," the essence of winter captured in collage, sumi ink and handmade paper. Depending on your point of view it's a snow-covered field with a mountain range in the background and a dark sky, or a scene from high on a snowy peak looking down on a molten brown river. The coldness and brightness of the white field at the bottom is intensified because it is layered over darker and duller colors and accentuated by bright patches of red and orange. The sky or the molten river is a marbled brown color that looks like a volcanic eruption. This is a strong little painting.

Bottomley is showing works in very different styles. Her "Evening Mist" is delicate and airy, and reminds me a lot of Whistler's "Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket." A few simple strokes of ink float on a glimmering gray ground like feathers in an updraft. Bottomley's "Random Poem (Kana)" is a heavily structured collage of Japanese writing on pieces of paper with a variety of textures and colors. It is classically balanced and somber.

Similar to Bottomley's collage is Tresslar's "In the Flow." The wall labels don't list media, so I'm guessing here. It appears to be a collage of various papers with thread and little bits of glass and gold leaf. It is very dense and heavily textured with a subtle combination of red, purple and gold colors.

Finally, what may be the strongest piece in the show - actually two pieces hung together as one - is (are) Tresslar's "Know Thyself I" and "Know Thyself II." These are simple abstract painted collages on convex-curved panels with simple shapes, strong, dark colors and speckles of sparkling gold.

These are but a few of the many nice works on display. It's a small show, but with a lot to see. Stop by for the next Third Thursday Art Walk.
Remix +

Through Jan. 5, Third Thursdays and by appointment
Flow, 301 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma
253.255.4675

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The good, the sad, and the ugly.


"Oliver" at Lakewood Playhouse



reviewed by Michael Dresdner

With outstanding production values and a big, energetic cast, “Oliver” at Lakewood Playhouse equips itself very nicely, all in all. Thanks in large part to an upbeat treatment by director/choreographer Casi Wilkerson, the musical manages to be a more lighthearted experience than you might expect. After all, it is a dark and depressing story, replete with hunger, homeless children, orphans, kidnapping, arrests, and four deaths, two of them killings.

Based on Dickens’ story “Oliver Twist,” it’s the tale of a thirteen year old boy sold by a cruel orphanage operator to an undertaker, then adopted by a gang of young pickpockets led by the avuncular Fagin. Oliver eventually gets arrested and ends up in the care of a rich man who we later discover is actually… Never mind. Go see it if you don’t already know the happy ending.

I’ve commented before about musicals with casts chosen for their singing ability in spite of weak acting chops. This one, if anything, is just the opposite with excellent actors whose singing prowess pales by comparison. That, and a few casting weaknesses, were the flaws in an otherwise well executed production.  

Fortunately, weak lead vocals were, with few exceptions, less of a problem than you might imagine. The rousing and popular “Food, glorious food,” “Oom-Pah-Pah” and “Consider Yourself” are ensemble numbers. Thanks to musical direction by Deborah Armstrong Evans, choreography by Wilkerson, and a wonderful support cast laced with better vocalists than most of the leads, these pieces were all delightful. That’s no small feat, as the logistics of such production numbers can be daunting.

Most of leads were strong actors playing slightly exaggerated characters drawn with broad strokes. Luckily, their various lead songs and duets were mostly rough hewn numbers that came off just fine without operatic voices behind them.

Mr. Bumble (Jeffery T. Weaver) and Widow Corner (Jen Aylsworth) as the orphanage adults pulled off a blustery, bawdy duet that was just perfectly shy of over the top. Ditto for the undertaker couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry (Alexander Smith and Kaelyn Langer). Smith, who later neatly morphs into the old, stooped Mr. Brownlow, was, as he always is, hysterical, endearing and a joy to watch. Langer adroitly matched him in talent, character and style, which I assure you is nothing to sneeze at.

Fagin was played by veteran Steve Tarry, who turned in yet another excellent performance, something we’ve come to expect from him lately. Bill Sykes (John Munn) was the quintessential dark and dangerous villain, underplayed just enough to be even more menacing. Paired with lover Nancy (Deya Ozburn), their scenes, culminating with his murdering her onstage, were the most intense of the evening.

What was arguably the best overall performance, though, and certainly the most surprising for a young actor, was by Coleman Hagerman playing The Artful Dodger. Another surprise tucked away in the ensemble was Bianca Ponnekanti, a young woman with enough ├ęclat to have caught my eye repeatedly while otherwise buried in large production numbers.

The titular lead, played by Mason Lahd, was sadly weak, if only by comparison to the rest of the adult cast. Such a role, like that of Annie in “that other” orphan musical, cries out for a singer and actor with talents well beyond his apparent age. Mason may get there, but at least the night I saw him, he was not there yet.

The other disappointment was “As Long As He Needs Me,” easily the most famous song that came out of “Oliver.” Like a rose growing amidst a garbage heap, this hauntingly beautiful torch song provides a welcome counterpoint to an otherwise dark setting. It wants a Susan Boyle treatment, delivered with a soaring, sweet, powerful voice. Instead, whether by actor’s or director’s choice, it was done with more angst and less heart wrenching beauty than I would have liked.

As for the production support, it was excellent across the board. The set by Blake York was one of the best and cleverest of a long line of remarkable Lakewood sets, expertly painted by a team led by James Venturini. The costumes, in spite of the enormous cast, were universally superb, thanks to Diane Runkel. Nic Olsen’s lighting design not only worked beautifully, but contained some subtle delights, like a gobo that made Fagin’s chair, with him in it, look like he was perpetually behind prison bars.

On the whole, though it has its less than perfect moments, it is a musical worthy of your time and attention, and one of those classics that everyone should see at least once.

“Oliver”
Nov. 25 through Dec. 23, 2011
Lakewood Playhouse  www.lakewoodplayhouse.org

Photos by Dean Lapin 
Top photo: Nancy (Deya Ozburn) on the right, The Artful Dodger (Coleman Hagerman) on the left
Center photo: Fagin (Steve Tarry) in the chair, Nancy (Deya Ozburn) standing
Bottom photo: Mr. Bumble (Jeffery T. Weaver) on the right and Widow Corner (Jen Aylsworth) on the left.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The final Stardust

Alicia Mendez as Bonnie Kent kisses NYPD Police Officer Owen Duvall (Michael Lengel) as Kate Gallagher (Alison Monda), Ginger Hart (Megan Tyrrell) and Charlie (Christian Doyle) watch.
Matt Posner as W.C. Fields, Christian Doyle as Charlie, 
and Megan Tyrrell as Mae West.

 From left, Alison Monda, Matt Posner, 
Alicia Mendez and Ryan Holmberg as Lt. Joey Malloy.

Coffee with Charlie (Christian Doyle) 
and IRS Agent Hobson Bierce (Scott C. Brown)

 Jack Steiner as Jimmy Sutton, second from left, 
with the cast of "Stardust Serenade."

Harlequin Production’s “Stardust Serenade” is the 17th and final show in a holiday tradition of rollicking 1940s-style musicals written by Harlowe Reed and directed by Linda Whitney -- all set either on Christmas Eve or within days of Christmas and all but one set in the Stardust Club in Manhattan during World War II. This is the seventh show in the series I have reviewed, and it is the most innovative and entertaining of those. Credit that to clever writing by Whitney (Harlowe Reed is her pen name for this series), to a great cast, lush and swinging music, and to an inspired and magical Charlie Chaplin impersonation by Christian Doyle. It is Doyle’s character and his running battle with IRS agent Hobson Bierce (Scott C. Brown) that makes this show so entertainingly different from others in the series.

In a risky move that paid off handsomely, Whitney chose for two of the major characters dramatic actors who have never before performed in a musical: Ryan Holmberg, who was outstanding in Harlequin’s recent “The Love List,” is the romantic lead, Army Air Corps Lt. Joey Malloy; and Brown, who played notable roles in “Sins of the Mother,” “End Days” and “The Last Swartz,” is Agent Bierce. Holmberg nicely underplays Lt. Malloy whose love for bargirl Bonnie Kent (Alicia Mendez) is very touching, and as a singer and dancer he holds his own with the much more experienced musical performers in the show. 

Brown plays the uptight but likeable tax man as a kind of swaggering bully with a big heart, and as a foil to Charlie Chaplin’s playful antics he does pratfalls and double takes with skill and excellent timing. (How many times have we seen people “accidentally” bump butts, and we see it coming a mile away? But Brown and Alison Monda make it look truly comical.)

Doyle’s character Charlie is never specifically identified as Chaplin, but his dress and makeup emulate Chaplin’s Little Tramp character, and as a silent film character he does the entire play in pantomime. And what inspired pantomime it is! There is a drawn-out scene with Brown in which Charlie keeps stealing the tax man’s briefcase and making him fall that is so funny I was crying with laughter. Brown and Doyle have magnificent timing in this that brings to mind great comic actors such as Chaplin and Buster Keaton, not to mention pratfall masters such as Dick Van Dyke and Chevy Chase. 

Another skit that brought tears of laughter to my eyes was when Doyle imitated every instrument in the band on his violin, a skit that should be played on television and go viral on YouTube.

It is just before Christmas, 1942. The people who run the Stardust Club are going to throw a party for Lt. Malloy. The entertainers at the club plan on impersonating a host of celebrity guests -- Mae West (Megan Tyrrell), W.C. Fields (Matt Posner), Marlene Dietrich and Lena Horne (Monda), Judy Garland dressed as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” (Mendez), John Wayne (Brown), Edith Piaf (Mendez), and Errol Flynn (Posner) – all of whom either serenade Malloy or perform stand-up comedy routines. And Errol Flynn and Charlie Chaplin have a swashbuckling sword and cane fight.

Just before the party is scheduled to start the IRS agent shows up with the intention of closing the club and charging the owner with tax evasion. 

Posner plays club owner Harry Hamilton, and Alison Monda plays Harry’s assistant, Kate Gallagher. Posner and Monda are two of the best musical theater performers ever to grace South Sound stages. Together and separately they have wowed audiences at Tacoma Musical Theater, Centerstage in Federal Way and Harlequin in shows such as “Summer in the Sixties,” “Sixties Kicks,” “I’m Into Something Good,” “Rent,” “Hello Dolly” and countless others. They are both brilliant singers and actors who give every performance their all, and Posner is a natural dancer who obviously feels the rhythm and lights up the stage with his moves.

The other two women in the cast -- Mendez and Tyrrell -- are strong singers. Mendez does a beautiful version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and Tyrrell does a great Mae West impersonation and sings beautifully on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” which holds special meaning for her because when she was a little girl she saw her mother, Jana Tyrrell, perform the same song in the first show in the Stardust series.

Other entertainers in the club are Michael Lengel as police officer Owen Duvall, and 14-year-old Jack Steiner as Jimmy Sutton. Lengel is a crooner with a soft and engaging voice, and Steiner holds his own on stage with the more seasoned performers, plus he’s a great dancer.

Hit songs in the show include “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Stormy Weather” (a knockout performance by Monda impersonating Lena Horne), “Over the Rainbow ” a surprise rendition of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and a big song-and-dance number on “I’ve Got Rhythm” with the whole cast led by Steiner.

Music is provided by Harlequin’s regular house band, with some of the South Sound’s leading jazz and rock musicians led by Bruce Whitney. Band members are: Keith Anderson on drums, Dan Blunck on sax, Andy Omdahl on trumpet, Daven Tillinghast on guitar, and Whitney as Nikolai Feodorov on piano and clarinet. 
If you want to make your holidays bright, go see “Stardust Serenade.”

WHEN: Thursdays through Saturdays, 8p.m., Sundays 2 p.m. through Dec. 31
WHERE: State Theater, 202 E. 4th Ave., Olympia
TICKETS: prices vary, call for details
INFORMATION: 360-786-0151; http://www.harlequinproductions.org/

For more about this show see Thurston Talk.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Hybrids and Colorbandz™ The artist currently known as Troy Gua




The Weekly Volcano, November 22, 2011

Troy Gua's work is worth the drive to Joe’s Bar in Seattle.

Head north to Seattle or go to the Internet to see Troy Gua. You'll be glad you did.

I was impressed when I first discovered Gua's work in a show at Fulcrum Gallery back in January of 2010. But there should have been a little voice in my head whispering, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

The Fulcrum show featured two extremely different types of work: a haunting memorial to war dead and portraits of historical and pop culture icons in which two or more faces were overlapped, such as Elton John and John Wayne, Martin Luther King and the King of rock ‘n' roll, or the King of Pop and King Tut.

With this show I started to get intrigued by Gua ... even friended him on Facebook. Then I mentioned him in the Volcano's Best of Tacoma issue as one of the "best Seattle artists who sometimes goes slumming in Tacoma."

And then I started seeing posts of paintings Gua called ColorbandzTM, which were minimalist abstract paintings that he called portraits. For example: "Portrait of Ernie and Bert as Colorbandz" and "Portrait of Lady Gaga as ColorbandzTM." They were purely abstract paintings in bands of various colors.

It would be a stretch of think of the ColorbandzTM in anything other than purely formal terms. Why call them portraits? There are no visible heads or eyes or hair, nothing to relate them to any person living or dead, and yet Gua's friends on Facebook started trying to guess whose portraits he was posting, and some of them seemed to be able to figure it out based on the number of bands or the particular colors and combinations. In some very personal and enigmatic way, Gua was distilling the essence of known personalities into beautiful bands of color.

Getting more and more intrigued, I began to see humorous and profound works such as the "Pissing Contest," which consisted of sculptural forms that, like the ColorbandzTM, appear to be formal and abstract but carried more profound meaning, reflecting Andres Serrano's infamous "Piss Christ" and pitting giant egos against one another in a royal battle. And then Gua wrapped a house in clear plastic in a kind of homage to Christo. In a statement about the project he says that Christo always denies any meaning beyond the purely aesthetic, but that his own work does have greater meanings. You just have to ferret those meanings out.

Gua's art is both conceptual and formally aesthetic. It is filled with humor (except when it is deadly serious such as in the war memorial show at Fulcrum) and with art world references. It is smart and skillfully executed. I urge readers to check out his website at troygua.com.

Gua's pop hybrid images are currently showing at Joe Bar, 810 E. Roy St. in Seattle. He will also in a couple of group shows in December: a video works show at Interstitial Theatre in Seattle and ‘Matryoshka' at Ghost Gallery. And in January Gua will have a show at SOIL Gallery.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gathering'


John Miller and Friends at Museum of Glass


“QUATRO HOMBRES AZUL”: A work of blown, painted and hot-sculpted glass by John Miller and Therman Statom Photo courtesy MOG
This exhibition of collaborative work by John Miller and a dozen or so friends is cute and well crafted. Some of the pieces - all giant goblets - are beautiful, most are inventive, and a lot of them are funny. The exhibit, Gathering: John Miller and Friends, combines traditional glass art with a wide variety of art genres such as Pop Art and Color Field painting and Surrealism.

The sheer size is impressive. I'm told most of the pieces are around four to five feet tall, which is an astounding feat for glass blowing. But for all it has going for it, I have a hard time thinking of this show as serious art.

Nevertheless. Does art have to be serious? Can't it just be fun? It's also hard to take seriously the work of artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Red Grooms and Jeff Koons, yet they're all respected artists. So let's give a little respect to Miller and his friends.

Each piece in the show is a goblet. Miller created a few on his own, perhaps with a team of hot shop helpers. But most were done in collaboration with other artists, many of whom are already familiar to Museum of Glass patrons. Martin Blank, for instance, who did the huge outdoor installation "Fluent Steps" in the plaza pool. And Rik Allen and the brothers Jamex and Einar de la Torre and Paul Stankard, who has his own solo show, The Beauty Beyond Nature, which just opened in another of the museum's gallery.

In most of the pieces traditional goblets sit on top of stems that are glass sculptural forms that can range from abstract to figures to hamburgers and rocket ships. The wall labels do not explain it, but it seems obvious from looking at them that Miller did the vessel parts and the other artists did the stems. In most of the pieces the primary visual device is the contrast between the two parts, but in some, such as "Quiver Cup," done in collaboration with Blank, and "Quartro Hombres Azul" by Therman Statom and Miller, the art is in the beautiful blending of contrasting styles.

Statom's piece is a simple, classical goblet with surface drawing in a roughly expressionistic style with soft colors and expressive line work. It looks like pastel, but it's obviously not. This is a truly beautiful piece and perhaps my favorite in the whole show.

The piece done with Blank features a contrast between a minimalist goblet in clear glass and maximalist crinkled, bubbled, twisted, translucent stem by Blank that is clearly similar in style to the forms in his "Fluent Steps."

Rik Allen has shown his blown glass space ships in other MOG shows. They look like a 1950s idea of what the space ships of the future might look like. Think Jules Verne and Lost in Space. The forms are bulky with a darkly metallic, opaque surface. In this one a blue goblet sits on top of the rocket, and the coloring and surface quality the goblet matches that of the rocket ship.

Another favorite is "Cupping Elegant" with Ross Richmond. It is a smoothly sensual figure with a single arm and hand not connected at the shoulder but extended outward from the side of the figure's chest. Very strange yet lovely in a dark red color that is almost black.

This is a fun show, and you can see it and the new Paul Stankard show in a single visit. What a bonus!
[Museum of Glass, Gathering: John Miller and Friends at Museum of Glass, through June 10, 2012, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, $5-$12, 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, 866.4MUSEUM]

Rebirth of a city

Howard Ben Tre’s “Water Forest,” 
photographed by Peter Serko

Peter Serko documents how art has helped build Tacoma

Cover story in the Weekly Volcano, November 16, 2011
Peter Serko's photography exhibition at the Museum of Glass artistically documents the brief history of the museum since 2006. It also shows different aspects of the building, and of the adjacent Chihuly Bridge of Glass, taken during different times of day throughout the seasons. Plus there's a video montage featuring pictures by other local photographers.

While putting the exhibition together, Serko discovered some interesting facts about the museum.

"Former Tacoma mayor Karen Vialle told me how controversial the purchase of the land where MOG sits was and how it subsequently led to her reelection defeat," Serko says. "I discovered that at various stages many different groups and individuals came forward to put all the pieces together, often with great difficulty and considerable controversy." Among those people was Dayton Knipher, a longtime local artist who at the time was known by the name Karen Knipher.

Vialle, now running for the Tacoma School Board, says that while supporting the Museum of Glass may not have single-handedly caused her defeat when seeking reelection as Tacoma's mayor in 1993, but it was certainly a major contributing factor.

Burlington Northern owned the land the museum sits on, and Vialle recalls purchasing the land for the museum was very controversial.

"People thought it was a waste of money," Vialle says. "The crime rate was really high at the time and people thought the money should be spent on hiring law enforcement, but the money used to purchase the land was capital bond funds that could not be used to hire police."

Vialle says she spearheaded the move to purchase the land "and would do it again."

"History has proven it was a wise thing to do," she says. "Any city that has a beautiful waterfront like that, it's a real asset."

Vialle says the museum has been "a great tourism draw for the city."

Locating MOG on that waterfront property also contributed to the renovation of the old Albert Mills building, which houses the very successful William Traver Gallery. New apartment complexes and retail outlets on the other side of MOG have also contributed to the city.

"A major thrust during my term was the impact of the arts on the economy," she says. "We saw arts as a major form of economic development."

As further evidence, Vialle points to the renovated Theater District.

Serko says he hopes his show will prove to be an acknowledgement that art really has changed the city, and that the people, such as Vialle and Knipher, who stuck their necks out were right. He hopes the exhibit will show that "this has been a wonderful thing for Tacoma. The Museum District has changed Tacoma for the good and in time I am certain it will be a thriving area for artists of all levels."

A stroll along Dock Street, through the Theater District or along the section of Pacific Avenue that's home to Tacoma Art Museum, the University of Washington Tacoma, Washington State History Museum and Union Station should be enough to convince any skeptic that the arts are vital, not only to economic development but to the very life of the city.

Knipher recalls that directly prior to MOG's opening (1998-2002 particularly), "There was a lot of focus on bringing folks back downtown and there was a grassroots effort on the part of a lot of people to make that happen."

She was part of that effort. Knipher was also secretary of The Tacoma Architectural Foundation, which focused efforts on saving historic buildings. "One of the strategies to revitalize downtown Tacoma was to use art," she recalls.

One of The Tacoma Architectural Foundation first projects on this front was bringing in artist Iole Alessandrini to create a light installation called "Winter, Season of Light."  Knipher points out that the installation "was an amazing and miraculous success" and it ultimately inspired the renovation of that whole part of town.

"Truth be known, it was both art and historic preservation that truly turned things around," Knipher says.

Serko says that while researching for his show he got to look at lots of old images of Tacoma and realized how important art has been to the changes in the area. Hopefully the evidence of all this development will convince those with their hands on the money that the arts are vital to the economic health of the city.

Serko's exhibition at MOG is called Transformation: Art Changes a City. It runs through Jan. 8.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Represent South Sound



Maybe South Sound artists just aren’t good enough for the Tacoma Art Museum. In many ways TAM is a wonderful institution, and I’ve been overjoyed at the many wonderful shows they’ve brought to Tacoma throughout the years. But wouldn’t you think that once in a while they could represent South Sound?

The only time TAM shows works by contemporary regional artists is during their every-other-year biennial, which is always heavy on Seattle and Portland artists. It’s easy to say that those are bigger cities with more vibrant art markets and therefore more deserving artists. It’s easy, but it just ain’t so. We have plenty of outstanding artists in Tacoma and Olympia whose work is every bit as good as the best in those bigger cities, but they are seldom given a chance to show their stuff. A local artist recently told me that most Tacoma artists no longer even bother to enter the Northwest Biennial because they know they haven’t a chance of being selected.

Here’s what I wrote in my 2007 review of the 8th Northwest Biennial:

I think it’s a wonderful show featuring an all-star lineup of the best contemporary artists in the Pacific Northwest. It’s just not what I think a regional juried show should be -- the key word being juried.

If it were an invitational, well that would be a horse I could saddle up and ride with pleasure. But I had always been led to believe a regional juried exhibition was an opportunity for and an introduction to emerging artists in the area.

Traditionally this show has been an opportunity for little known but deserving artists to rise to the next level. But this show features artists such as Michael Spafford, Juan Alonzo, Chris Bruch, Joe Feddersen and Robert Yoder. We’re talking well established artists including Neddy Award winners and artists whose work is owned by the museum. Spafford is a Northwest icon.
 
Almost 900 artists sent in their $20 entry fee in hopes of getting their moment in the spotlight, and most of them never had a chance. Curator and co-juror Rock Hushka said, “The goal of the biennial is to revisit accomplished bodies of work. We wanted to offer the opportunity to explore the powerful images that have shaped contemporary dialogues about the region’s art.” I don’t believe that many, if any, of the artists who entered the competition had any idea that was the goal of the exhibition. Had they known, most of them would not have entered.

In my 2009 review of the 9th annual I was a little more succinct. I wrote, “…there’s too much photography, and it would be nice if there were at least one South Sound artist in the show.”

And now we get the announcement of the selections for the 10th annual biennial, which is slated to open Jan. 21. There are 10 artists from Portland, six from Seattle, and only one from Tacoma. Juliette Ricci. The only other South Sound artist is Jeremy Mangan from Fife. Congratulations to Ricci and Mangan.

To Rock Hushka, curator, and Stephanie Stebich, director: Isn’t it about time that TAM represents South Sound artists? Please, you’ve got to do better by us. I’m just about ready to call on area artists to occupy TAM.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Nothing Like a Local Soap Opera


Jeri and Kate (Samantha Camp and Betzy Miller) get nasty with the dead guy (Demetrick Louis) in Perky's Coffee House (top). From left: Customer, Bert (Mick Flaaen), Jeri, Linda (Aya Hashiguchi), and Kate. Photos by Jason Ganwich.

Dukesbay Productions’ Java Tacoma: Episode 38

“Java Tacoma: Episode 38” is a laughable light confection live soap opera set in Tacoma replete with local digs. You may have seen Episode 37, but if you didn’t it doesn’t matter. In the tradition of all good TV drama they start off with a recap of the last installment. The audience is informed that in the previous episode Jeri accidentally put her dead husband’s ashes in the coffee at Perky’s Coffee House and it turned out to be the best coffee anyone had ever tasted. Bert and Linda are going to have to close the coffee house. In this episode we find out that they’re not going out of business after all; they’re just moving to dreaded Federal Way, where children are born without souls.

That’s the premise. It’s a simple and ludicrous story with imaginative plot twists and loaded with double entendre and other word play, well written by local playwright Curtis B. Swanson and nicely directed by Randy Clark.

The cast is outstanding. Betzy Miller plays Kate, a crazy, outspoken local character who is convinced that she drives men wild with her sexual allure. Samantha Camp plays Jeri, a real estate agent who easily matches Kate in the appeal department. With sly facial expressions and posture she manages to make the simple act of giving out her business cards seem like an indecent proposal – with the running joke “I buy and sell. I go both ways.” The coffee house owners, Bert and Linda, are played by Mick Flaaen and Aya Hashiguchi. They serve as the (somewhat) straight characters (i.e., second bananas) off of whom the comics bounce their jokes. But they break out of their roles for one briefly insane scene when they appear as a Latin lover and an Asian woman. This strange interlude is totally out of context and seems to be not real but perhaps Jeri’s hallucination. It borders on offensive ethnic stereotyping but is more of a jab at the stereotypes than at the characters. Furthermore, the jabs at Asian women are softened because Hashiguchi is Japanese.

The final cast member, Demetrick Louis, plays an unnamed customer and a dead man. The previous sentence is not true, but it is necessary in order to describe Louis’s acting without giving away a major element in the story. As the dead man he does ‘nothing’ hilariously and we cannot but admire his ability to remain motionless without bursting into laughter as Kate and Jeri try out their sexual allure on him. As the mysterious customer he makes wild statements with astounding deadpan dramatic flair.

Kudos to Allan Loucks, composer of the original theme song and original score.

Subtitled “Friends, Neighbors and Siblings,” “Java Tacoma: Episode 38” is a one-act play that runs just about an hour and is over far too soon. It’s pure, inspired silliness, that does not aspire to anything greater than light fun, and while it may be a little too far out for some people, I found it totally enjoyable.

Tickets are $15, and that includes your choice of coffee (decaf or regular), tea and an assortment of baked goods. If I had the time and didn’t have to commute from Olympia, I’d go back to see Episode 38 again, and I hope there will be an Episode 39.

JAVA TACOMA: Episode 38
"Friends, Neighbors and Siblings"
November 4,5, 11,12, 18,19,2011 
Trinity Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall
1619 6th Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98405
Show starts at 7:30pm.


For reservations: By phone (253) 267-0869,  By email: info@dukesbay.org
Reservations are recommended. Tickets payable at the door, cash or checks only.